Tony Bennett

Life Is Beautiful

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Recorded for his own Improv label, Tony Bennett's Life Is Beautiful appeared the same year as his impressive jazz collaboration with Bill Evans, and represents a return to full orchestration after the quiet majesty of The Tony Bennett Bill Evans Album. Anchored by the Torrie Zito Trio but also including frequent strings and brass, Bennett makes ten intriguing selections for his material; while the composers are hardly unfamiliar names (including Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hart, Kurt Weill, and even Fred Astaire), many of Bennett's choices are fresh ones, reflecting his 25 years of investigation into the American songbook. Ellington's obscure "Reflections" is the best, given a sweetly remembered, world-weary, yet majestic performance by the incomparable Bennett. Berlin's enraptured "I Used to Be Color Blind" and Porter's swinging "Experiment" are also great versions of rare songs by top-drawer composers. Bennett's voice, however, isn't always in top condition here; he strains for a few notes, and several times attempts to power through lines that would've been improved by clever phrasing. [A 2003 reissue by Concord added a song recorded at the same time, a 12-minute "Cole Porter Medley" smoothly performed by Bennett and just as smoothly transitioned by Torrie Zito.]

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