Album Reviews

Tony Bennett: In His Prime at 85

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Tony Bennett, that beloved singer with a quietly jazzy, masculine vigor, is in his prime at 85. He’s become the oldest living artist ever on the Billboard Hot 100 after his Duets II CD debuted at #87, then zoomed to #1. Santa’s already working overtime as Bennett fans worldwide demand Duets II plus David Evanier’s classy new Bennett biography, All The Things You Are (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), written in easy, everyday language that fits like custom tailoring.

Showbiz tales of combustible emotions and Mafia deals flirt with our sense of danger and our desire to behave. But Evanier (Roman Candle: The Life Of Bobby Darin) reveals Bennett’s character through his values. For instance, his deeply personal mission – using music to fight racism and war – has included marching for Civil Rights with Dr. King and giving free, surprise performances in small Manhattan bars after 9/11 to comfort his city. Another charming story tells how Bennett’s father liked to sing on the mountainside above his Italian village. Bennett’s recovery from addiction is also discussed, making his “Body And Soul” duet with Amy Winehouse (her final recording) even more poignant.

In late September, Morrison Hotel Gallery in Manhattan unveiled Tony Bennett: Portrait of An Artist, a two week exhibit of photographs by Josh Cheuse and Kelsey Bennett (the singer’s granddaughter) depicting Tony among his legendary Duets II partners, including KD Lang, Willie Nelson and Winehouse. At the opening, Tony was relaxed, tirelessly shaking hands. “Amy grew up listening to my grandfather’s music, so singing with him had a lot of personal meaning for her,” commented Kelsey. “The reverence and appreciation they shared for each other was completely apparent and that was so incredible to witness.” Three recent Kelsey Bennett photos, framed together, portrayed Tony singing on his late father’s mountainside in Italy, his face lit with joy, as vital as ever.

—Annie Dinerman

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