SYRACUSE Sunday’s concert celebrated the work of the late, great melody man Jimmy Van Heusen, but it also heralded the talents of two young vocalists who share the composer’s Syracuse roots and fully appreciate his musical genius. In fact, the shimmering vocals turned in by Nick Ziobro and Marissa Mulder stand as a welcome assurance that the future of American pop music in in good hands.
A crowd of more than 300 filled the Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel Ballroom at 5 p.m. Sunday, March 10, for the Van Heusen 100th Birthday Bash presented by CNY Jazz Central.
Van Heusen – who was born Chester Babcock on Jan. 26, 1913, and grew up in the Valley section of Syracuse – wrote more than 800 tunes while winning four Academy Awards and an Emmy.
On Sunday at the Sheraton, the 16-year-old Ziobro demonstrated his qualifications as the reigning Youth Ambassador of the Great American Songbook by vocalizing three of Van Heusen’s best-known numbers. The Fayetteville-Manlius High School junior delivered a haunting “Here’s That Rainy Day,” followed by a dreamy “Nancy (with the Laughing Face)” and finished with a rousing “(Love is) The Tender Trap.”
Ziobro’s voice sparkled like fine crystal on the slow songs before ringing like a bell on his devil-may-care closer.
Smartly attired in a black suit, black tie and well-starched white shirt, Ziobro mostly kept his hands in his pockets on the two ballads, but swung like a hipster on “Tender Trap,” snapping his fingers and complementing the song’s story with hand gestures.
As Ziobro’s short set concluded, master of ceremonies Eric Cohen from WAER-FM commented, “That’s an old soul in a young body right there!” When Cohen handed the teenager a $500 check as a scholarship gift from Brook Babcock, Van Heusen’s grand-nephew, Ziobro showed a touch of class by immediately donating it to the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative.