Tony Bennett is an interesting blend of vocal talent and showmanship, a well-tempered entertainer with a not so perfect voice. You have to learn how to appreciate the value of a permanent vocal strain and a sound out of vaudeville. For me, it was a long learning process, but I've come to appreciate and enjoy the total Bennett experience. He's had two careers, a fifteen-year affair with the Greatest Generation, and a now thirty-year reinvention with new artists, music, and audiences following a lull during the rock and roll era. Bennett has also been in the forefront of introducing current generations to the Great American Songbook. Back in 2011 he made an album entitled Duets II. It featured the jazz master singing in tandem with a host of well-known voices from a wide range of musical genres. The album was an instant hit even with the critics and it topped the charts on its debut. By their very nature albums of this type heighten creativity and versatility. And old-timers like Bennett can feel the chemistry at work as well as see the potentials and opportunities emerging from the unexpected. He turns 89 today. After more than sixty years on stage, he still draws huge audiences to his full concert schedule of tunes from jazz, to Broadway, to the Great American Songbook. So best wishes to the man for a happy birthday and many years to come in the spotlight.
As he sings at just about every opportunity, the best is yet to come, and indeed it has in his latest release in September 2014, Cheek to Cheek, a collection of old standards with none other than Lady Gaga. She does have an exceptional voice and some would say a hint of jazz in her music, but to me neither element comes center stage through all the industrial artpop electroganza and its pure sensory overload. Bennett had the skill and experience to see beyond the noise. In fact, he thinks she has one of the finest jazz voices on today's music scene. Jazz critics and fans agree as they have awarded the album high acclaim and record sales. The reception was so good that Bennett and Gaga announced earlier this year they are working on a second album this time devoted to the music of Cole Porter.
For a taste of what's causing the excitement among vocal jazz fans, here is a cut from Cheek to Cheek:
If you like what you hear, buy the music and help keep jazz, swing, and the Great American Songbook, each American musical invention, alive and well.