[Dixielandjazz] "Tony Bennett: An American Classic"

Steven Holzer slholzer at iquest.net
Fri Nov 24 12:18:44 PST 2006

I tuned in for this, then saw the American Music Awards immediately 
after. Talk about going from the sublime to the ridiculous... Chris 
Botti's bit was a pleasant surprise. He had a tone and sensitivity that 
reminded me of Chet Baker at his peak. I'll certainly have to look for 
more of his work. Bennett has still got it as far as ballad singing 
goes. I regret to say that I have never thought of him as a great jazz 
singer, although that is what he has always aspired to be. (Who would 
have thought that I would ever agree with Mitch Miller on anything?) For 
those with an open mind, check out Elton John's turn with Tony onstage 
at the Sahara. He was good doing Bennett's material! Sorry to say that 
Christina Aguilera was not, no matter how good she might have looked. 
Still, it was better than anything I saw on the AMA. Also, the producers 
oft he Bennett show deserve kudos for recruiting and presenting an 
excellent dance troupe, creatively and yet tastefully choreographed. 
Once again, the contrast to the AMA show and the penchant for 
nouveau-slut stylings was unavoidable.

Steve Holzer

Steve Barbone wrote:

>If you like tuneful music, it might be a good idea to tune in to this
>special tonight. On NBC TV at 8 PM till 9 PM here in the Eastern USA. Check
>you listings elsewhere. It is an 80th Birthday celebration and includes duet
>appearances by Stevie Wonder, Diana Krall, Chris Botti, Barbra Streisand,
>Christine Aguilera, Elton John and k.d. Lang.
>Note that his latest CD, released on August 3 (his birthday) has sold over 1
>million copies to date. Not bad for an old gaffer, in a CD market which all
>the talking heads say is dead.
>Note also the last paragraph below. :-) VBG.
>Steve Barbone
>In the Spotlight, a Lifetime of Song
>NY TIMES - By STEPHEN HOLDEN - November 21, 2006
>In the semidarkness of a cavernous old theater, a spotlight settles on the
>solitary figure of Tony Bennett on the stage singing ³Smile,² the wistful
>ballad from the Charlie Chaplin film ³Modern Times.² Out of the shadows a
>second figure emerges. Slowly strolling toward him, recognizable by her
>voice even before the light hits her face, Barbra Streisand materializes.
>This tableau of noir nostalgia is the moody opening number of ³Tony Bennett:
>An American Classic,² a one-hour all-star variety special that will be shown
>tonight on NBC. Directed by Rob Marshall, who was nominated for an Oscar for
>³Chicago,² the show is an ambitious attempt to resuscitate the variety-show
>format that entranced the director when he was a boy growing up in Wisconsin
>and used to watch the old Judy Garland and Perry Como shows.
>Like the movie ³Chicago,² this impressionistic career retrospective is
>filled with sinuous, post-Bob-Fosse-style choreography (by Mr. Marshall and
>his collaborator John DeLuca), which lends a kinetic kick to the heady
>show-business atmosphere. The flashiest sequences are set in an imaginary
>Las Vegas lounge in which Mr. Bennett and various singing partners are
>surrounded by swirling dancers.
>Performing ³Just in Time,² with Michael Bublé, Mr. Bennett makes like Frank
>Sinatra to Mr. Buble¹s Dean Martin. During ³Rags to Riches² with Elton John,
>the singers are smothered in pink-feathered fans waved by leggy showgirls.
>The show¹s musical high point may be Mr. Bennett¹s friendly competition with
>Stevie Wonder as they goad each other to take ³For Once in My Life² to
>higher altitudes. The production numbers, Mr. Marshall said, were rehearsed
>before the singers were brought in at the end.
>³Tony Bennett: An American Classic² was taped at the Los Angeles Theater, a
>grand old movie palace built in 1931 but seldom used nowadays. On its stage
>Mr. Marshall and his team built more than half a dozen sets evoking
>different sites in the singer¹s career. Billy Crystal, Bruce Willis,
>Catherine Zeta-Jones and Robert De Niro sketch Mr. Bennett¹s musical odyssey
>from the jazz clubs of 52nd Street to Carnegie Hall (where Mr. Bennett
>reignited his stalled his career in 1962 with a marathon concert) to MTV.
>The special is the latest salvo in the multimedia blitz surrounding Mr.
>Bennett¹s 80th birthday, orchestrated by Mr. Bennett¹s son, Danny. It began
>in September ‹ Mr. Bennett¹s 80th birthday was Aug. 3 ‹ when Columbia
>Records released ³Tony Bennett: Duets/An American Classic,² an all-star
>collection of his hits done as duets with everyone from the Dixie Chicks
>(³Lullaby of Broadway²) to Bono (³I Wanna Be Around²). To date it has sold
>more than a million copies.
>Unlike its prototype, ³Frank Sinatra/Duets,² in which the Chairman of the
>Board reprised his hits with some of the same singers who joined Mr.
>Bennett, these duets were all recorded with both performers in the same
>studio at the same time.
>For the television special, filmed over seven weeks beginning in March, Mr.
>Bennett teamed with many of his vocal partners from the album to sing new
>versions. In addition to Mr. John, Mr. Bublé and Mr. Wonder, they include
>Diana Krall (³The Best Is Yet to Come²); the Colombian singer Juanes (³The
>Shadow of Your Smile²); John Legend (³Sing You Sinners²); K. D. Lang
>(³Because of You²), whom Mr. Bennett likens to Ms. Garland; and the jazz
>pianist Bill Charlap (³I Left My Heart in San Francisco²). Bono, Billy Joel
>and Sting are among the stars who couldn¹t appear in the special because
>they were on tour.
>The only singer not on the album who appears in the show is Christina
>Aguilera (³Steppin¹ Out With My Baby²), whom Mr. Bennett compares to Ethel
>Merman and Ginger Rogers.
>In the intensity of its show business ambience, ³An American Classic² is
>similar to ³Chicago.² But Mr. Marshall pointed out that where ³Chicago²
>evoked a 1920s atmosphere, the special aims for a 1940s feel. Although it
>was shot in high-definition video, he approached the project as if it were a
>film, and the production numbers were completed in many takes.
>³Tony can¹t lip-sync and never sings anything the same way twice, so it had
>to be done live,² Mr. Marshall emphasized.
>No one could be more amazed at his late resurgence than Mr. Bennett, who has
>left it to his son to reconstruct his legend by organizing these all-star
>projects. (For the duets album, each singer was given four songs from which
>to choose one.) 
>Like many pop singers of his generation, Mr. Bennett remembers when the
>ascendance of rock rudely ousted them from the limelight.
>³Everybody my age can¹t help but have an attitude about how much better it
>was in the old days,² he said in an interview at his apartment overlooking
>Central Park. ³What I¹ve learned from this is the professionalism of the
>people more than 10 years younger than I am. They knocked out any attitude I
>might have had.² 
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