He continues to endear himself to audiences worldwide.
Adrian Edwards 2010-05-12
Tony Bennett claims to have invented the phrase “the great American songbook” – and it’s a claim no one has disputed, as there is no doubt that he continues to be an unflinching champion of the genre. One might question the presence of Antonio Carlos, from Rio de Janiero (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars), or Ray Noble, born in Brighton, in an American songbook (The Very Thought of You); yet both composers have been embraced by the American public as artists of their own.
Audiences familiar with Bennett’s concerts will appreciate this album’s intelligent sequencing, moving from intimate ballads to extrovert swingers. As his voice has mellowed, his insight into a lyric has, if anything, sharpened, whilst his musical knowhow remains peerless. He takes a lower option on a high note at the end of the phrase “tearing my fear apart” from The Way You Look Tonight, and now favours sparser accompaniments, pared back to the minimum on several occasions, such as on A Foggy Day.
The earliest of these recordings comes from the 1960s when Bennett’s voice was a powerful and flexible instrument. Opener Begin the Beguine, Don’t Get Around Much Anymore and The Lady’s in Love With You, where Bennett works up a storm with a smart lyric by Frank Loesser (“If there’s a gleam in her eye / when she straightens your tie / that means the lady’s in love with you”), are projected with great panache against gleaming big band arrangements. By contrast Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars, from one of Bennett’s most memorable albums I Wanna Be Around, offers a tender response, beginning with a wordless melisma floated across a flute obbligato. Equally beguiling is the warmth he brings to Ain’t Misbehavin’ and his duet with trumpeter Bobby Hackett on The Very Though of You.
Live performances are exemplary, with Bennett’s technique assured throughout – a highlight is this version of Anything Goes, recorded at New York’s Carnegie Hall. There’s some fabulous piano playing from his excellent accompanists in You Go to My Head, Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered and Steppin’ Out With My Baby – on the latter, phrases from other songs are scattered around in the introduction. Bennett’s warm and enthusiastic introduction of k.d. lang for their duet, Moonglow, is, like the man himself, a great testament to his art as a singer who continues to endear himself to audiences worldwide.