Tony Bennett & Count Basie: Swingin’ Together

A terrific reissue partners Bennett's career-defining In Person! with another Basie collaboration, Basie/Bennett

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If you had to cite one album that justified Tony Bennett’s place in the pantheon of jazz singers, In Person!, forming the first 12 tracks here, would be it. His vocals on this collection of well-known gems show his relaxed style, on uptempo numbers and on the slower ballads, partnered by the Basie band.

Whether it’s belting out the lyrics on Taking A Chance or the sensitive and emotional edge of When I Fall In Love, Solitude or There Will Never Be Another You, his delivery is balanced by the powerful but easy swing of Basie. The orchestral fills fit the vocals like a dream – forcefully and driven, or subtly and responsive, but all appropriate. Check the taxi honks and city sounds during Lullaby Of Broadway, on which the trumpet section goes to town.

The length of the numbers (each one short and to the point – no messing about) preclude solos from members of the band, but it’s good to hear Bennett’s long-term associate Ralph Sharon providing piano embellishments on Without A Song and Firefly, plus Candido’s rapid quickfire conga on Fascinatin’ Rhythm and Ol’ Man River.

The mix of material is continued on tracks 13-24, the album Basie/Bennett, on which opportunity is given to soloing. Basie himself is at the piano for Life Is A Song and Jeepers Creepers; Frank Foster’s tenor leaps into Plenty Of Money; Joe Newman on Chicago; Al Grey’s growling trombone on Are You Havin’ Any Fun; Thad Jones rounds off a wonderfully textured rendition of Coward’s satirically observed Poor Little Rich Girl, perfectly delivered by Bennett. The singer also excels on I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face and Growing Pains, Frank Wess’ flute adding poignancy to the latter.

The CD is curiously completed by the strongly orchestrated The Way You Look Tonight (from Long Ago & Far Away album) and Bennett’s signature I Left My Heart In San Francisco (from the 1962 album of the same name). Something more in keeping would have been more suitable perhaps. A minor quibble though, taking nothing away from a terrific reissue.

Discography
[In Person!] Just In Time; When I Fall In Love; Taking A Chance On Love; Without A Song; Fascinatin’ Rhythm; Solitude; Pennies From Heaven; Lost In The Stars; Firefly; There Will Never Be Another You; Lullaby Of Broadway; Ol’ Man River; [Basie/Bennett] Life Is A Song; With Plenty Of Money And You; Jeepers Creepers; Are You Havin’ Any Fun; Anything Goes; Strike Up The Band; Chicago; I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face; Poor Little Rich Girl; Growing Pains; I Guess I’ll Have To Change My Plans; After Supper; [bonus tracks] The Way You Look Tonight; I Left My Heart In San Francisco (72.11)
Collectively: Bennett (v) with Thad Jones, Wendell Culley, Snooky Young, Joe Newman (t); Henry Coker, Benny Powell, Al Grey (tb); Marshall Royal (as, cl); Frank Wess (as, ts, f); Billy Mitchell, Frank Foster (ts); Charlie Fowlkes (bar); Ralph Sharon (p); Freddie Green (g); Eddie Jones (b); Sonny Payne (d); Candido Camero (cga); Count Basie (cond, p on tracks 13 & 15). New York, 22 & 30 December 1958, 3 & 5 January 1959. Except track 25 – with Frank De Vol & Orchestra, Los Angeles, 7 April 1958 – and track 26 with Marty Manning Orchestra, NY, January 1962.
20th Century Masterworks 170038

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