Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Some other time

My good friend Doug Harned often tells me whenever we get around to the subject that he doesn't care much for Tony Bennett.

"He's not that good," Doug says. "The only reason he's thought of so highly now is because he outlived everybody else."

That's better than what a co-worker says. She flat out calls Bennett a "musical whore."


Well, I'm a little easier on the guy. I saw him singing "When Joanna Loved Me" on the Johnny Carson "Tonight Show" years ago and was hooked. By the time he got around to doing the MTV Unplugged album, I was a full-blown fan.

But today I heard him singing Duke Ellington's "Solitude," a live track from some concert back there in the mists of time. Man, is this good stuff or what?

In my solitude, you haunt me...

There is an erudite intelligence to these so-called standards that doesn't exist in popular music anymore. Course, one could argue that popular music, in its purest sense, disappeared years ago. Come on, you can't really name one Britney Spears song, can you?

(Oops. I did it again.)

I remember Billie Holiday's version of "Solitude" and think that Bennett does a pretty good job of holding his own. Nobody's as good as Billie (maybe Sinatra), but the fact that you can listen to Bennett's version and actually accept the cover for what it is says something. (It's on a collection called "Tony Bennett/Jazz" in case you're curious.)

I downloaded an album on iTunes back of this that features Bennett on vocals and the great Bill Evans on piano. It's a mighty fine album, even if iTunes screwed me out of three or four tracks due to some electronic glitch.

My favorite tune is "Some Other Time," mainly because Evans kicks off the piano lead in eerily similar fashion to his classic performance on Miles Davis's "Flamenco Sketches." In all fairness to Bennett, his voice is wistful on this track, weary, as if he's reached the end of the road and just wants to sit awhile.

His pipes and Evans's piano are a lethal combination. Don't listen to that album if you've got a touch of the blues, though.

It's a rainy day today, alas, and I can't take the sad songs for long when it gets like this. Back to work.

Oh, well, we'll catch up some other time...

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