Tony Bennett stood on the stage of the Fox Theatre and asked that the public-address system be turned off. With no microphone to magnify him, he proceeded to belt out a song with such power and force that he could be heard clearly in the very last row of the enormous room. But this was no simple show of lung capacity. Bennett sang this song with all the subtlety and skill he brought to everything he sang that night or, for that matter, throughout his career.
That was twelve years ago, when Bennett was a mere strapping lad of 66. He may try a repeat performance when he returns here now that he's 78, but even if he doesn't, there should be no reason for disappointment. Bennett's recording career began in 1950, when popular music was dominated by smooth-voiced singers culling material from what has been called "The Great American Songbook." Unlike most of his contemporaries, however, Bennett brought a jazz touch to his vocals that made him capable of sustaining a career long after the public's taste had changed.
Bennett has a relaxed, easy-swinging approach, though he likes to attack the rhythm with hard punctuations now and again. He always remains faithful to the melodies of the songs he sings, but he applies to them all the nuance he's learned from jazz trumpeters and saxophonists. Bennett's most recent album, 2002's A Wonderful World (a collaboration with k.d. lang), was just another in a long line of excellent contributions from this masterful legend.