Tony Bennett – The Essential Tony Bennett
(Columbia/Legacy – 2002)
by Matt Robinson
Tony Bennett ends nearly every performance asking the musical question, “How do you keep the music playing?” After nearly five decades in the industry, the more important question seems to be how do you capture the music on a two-disc set? And yet that it what Tony’s appreciative label has tried to do. From a Grammy-winning live take on “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got That Swing)” to Bennett’s signature “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” this latest collection offers a career-spanning selection of Bennett’s greatest and most beloved hits, as well as lesser known numbers like the encouraging “Sing you Sinners,” the touchingly romantic “I Do Not Know a Day I Did Not Love You” and the previously unreleased “Rules of the Road” (and who would know better than Tony?)
Through the thoughtful and triumphant “For Once in My Life” and the experimental changes at the end of “Mood Indigo,” the album also demonstrates Bennett’s range, both emotionally and vocally. What it demonstrates most fully, however, is the personal care Bennett takes with every song. Deferring to the lyrics and also to his bandmates (who include a modern day Gene Krupa named Clayton Cameron and contemporary crooner kd lang), Bennett lets the words come first, acting as a conduit and conductor in a way that lets the messages ring true and clear. Though not every Bennett hit is here (“Love Story” for example), the double disc set does an impressive job at keeping the music playing and at paying tribute to one of its staunchest supporters.
© 2002 M. S. Robinson, ARR