Tony Bennett: 'The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album'

The cover of The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album

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[MUSIC]

A.B. SPELLMAN, National Endowment for the Arts: Well, that's a baritone and a piano, but its not Schubert. It's The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album. Murray Horwitz, why is this in our NPR Basic Jazz Record Library?

MURRAY HORWITZ, American Film Institute: Well A.B, you're right to mention Schubert, because the answer is this is the American art song tradition at its finest. It's not just Bill Evans accompanying Tony Bennett, but it's a full collaboration, a series of jazz duets. Both men are masters, they know exactly what they want to do with each song, and they make a splendid interpretation every time. It's one of those records when you can truly say it doesn't get any better than this.

[MUSIC]

HORWITZ: Ok, true confessions time. Sometimes I find Bill Evans a little syrupy, but on this record, tempered by Tony Bennett, he really shines. Accompanying a vocalist alone sets off his solos and it adds a whole other dimension to his playing. He's got to do two things in every piece — accompany and solo — and with Bill Evans, more is more. He expands his expression to both jobs.

[MUSIC]

HORWITZ: You know, it's very hard for any singer, especially a lower voiced male to be this naked, singing with just a piano. But Tony Bennett, with his raspy voice and his insecure pitch... Tony Bennett is in complete control of his performance, the dynamics, the phrasing, the diction, and the expressiveness.

[MUSIC]

HORWITZ: Both of these men are, to use an old phrase, song stylists. There's a virility to these performances and it's a beautiful surprising repertoire — no Gershwin, no Ellington, no blues. They're mostly songs associated with great female singers: Mabel Mercer and Billie Holiday, as well as Bill Evans' own "Waltz For Debby" with Gene Lees' lyrics.

[MUSIC]

SPELLMAN: So, for your NPR Basic Jazz Record Library we're recommending The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album. It's on the Fantasy Label. For NPR Jazz, I'm A.B. Spellman.

HORWITZ: And I'm Murray Horwitz.

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