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That old Matt magic

Toronto crooner Matt Dusk reinvents classics, gives new shape to jazz stylings with original works

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What: Whistler Music and Arts Festival

Who: Matt Dusk

When: Saturday, Aug. 12, 6 p.m.

Where: Whistler Village Square

Admission: Free

His satiny baritone voice harkens back to the days when greats like Frank Sinatra ruled the airwaves, Audrey Hepburn graced the silver screen and suits and ties were the toast of the town.

Wrap up all of the romance, sophistication and style of the bygone era into a 27-year-old tall, dark and handsome talent from Toronto and you’ve got Canada’s hottest crooning sensation: Matt Dusk, who brings cool classic and original jazz stylings to the Whistler Music and Arts Festival mainstage Saturday, Aug. 12 at 6 p.m. in Whistler Village Square.

"There is a lot of romanticism surrounding going out for a night on the town," he said of adopting the 1930s/40s style of dress and music. "Jazz music lends itself to the cocktail hour, and cocktails lead to other things. For me there is nothing better than a romantic evening with music."

Dusk’s discovery of style and sophistication, and its influence on the ladies, was what first inspired his crooner career ambitions.

He studied music at an early age at St. Michael’s Choir School in Toronto. But it wasn’t until he began tuning into a jazz radio station at 12 years old while doing his homework – and then discovering jazz karaoke discs, which led to a school performance in his late teens – that things really got rolling for Dusk.

"I performed a bunch of standards at an all-girls school and the girls went crazy," he recounts, laughing.

Even then the future York University jazz music student knew the power of a crisp collar shirt, shiny tie and fitted suit. Now, instead of a Goodwill-scavenged white suit with bright red shirt, the musician dons an Armani or his own custom-made suits. And things just keep getting better and better – the sentiments of his newest album, Back in Town .

"The whole inspiration behind Back in Town was to create an album to express emotionally where I am at in my life right now," he said. "Everything is on a high note."

A high note that included his first Decca Records album, Two Shots, going gold. The album also includes the hit single Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad, written by U2’s Bono and The Edge. He toured North America and Europe with the Back in Town album this year. The Juno Award nominated singer’s track Swing is also featured on the soundtrack of the First Daughter movie, starring Katie Holmes.

The high note also includes plenty of romance, with fresh takes on classics such as On the Street Where You Live and As Time Goes By on Back in Town , all built on a big band sound.

Musical minds and generations unite on the album with arrangers such as Sammy Nestico, who arranged for the Count Basie Orchestra, coming on board to produce the album. It was recorded in the fabled Capitol Studio in Studio A in Los Angeles, where greats such as Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald recorded.

"It’s important to create an original sound for each artist," he said of his classic and original lineup. "The beautiful thing about jazz is that there is no definite version. Jazz never has to have one specific take on something."

While brass, finger poppin’ jazz and powerful swinging beats dominate the big band classics, Dusk keeps lyrical phrasing at the forefront of his music.

"I was taught singing jazz music should be a conversation between two people," he said. "I try to make the way I sing accessible to everybody. From Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald and Michael Buble to Jamie Cullum and myself, that is why this is so popular, because everyone can relate to it."

Check out Dusk’s music at www.myspace.com/mattdusk.

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