Tony Bennett and Bill Evans ” The Tony Bennett / Bill Evans Album”

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Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#457 in the Series) is Tony Bennett and Bill Evans, The Tony Bennett /Bill Evans Album

I think it’s fair to say that Tony Bennett has had a damn fine career, what with the estimated 50 million (!) records sold, the thousands of stellar concert performances and the small matter of 15 Grammy awards. And that’s just scratching the surface , there’s Emmys, humanitarian awards, you name it, Tony’s done it. He also happens to be a damn fine painter in his spare time. It’s enough to make you sick ! Even with all of this however, there’s one thing in his career that stands as an artistic high point, indeed a defining and influential triumph : the album he made with Bill Evans in 1975.

Think you know Tony’s work ? Well, we all do don’t we, all the classic hits which have become staples over the years: “I Left My Heart In San Francisco”, “The Good Life”, “Rags To Riches”….. a good few more as well. Then of course there was the mini-comeback when he was suddenly cool again following his wonderful slot on MTV’s “Unplugged” series. Dig a little deeper however, if you’re so inclined, and you’ll soon find out about this little gem……………….

Sometime in the early 70’s the idea was mooted that Tony could maybe get together with the renowned jazz pianist Bill Evans. It took a while to organize and decide upon exactly which format they would record in but eventually it all got worked out and they decided to do a duet album , just the two of them with no other instruments involved. What a masterstroke!

Now I have to confess , jazz isn’t really my thing. I like some of it (the more famous and popular ones ) but it’s not a genre I’ve taken much time to get into. So I’m completely unfamiliar with anything else Bill Evans ever recorded except Miles Davis’ “Kind Of Blue” album. However, a swift bit of research (and the evidence of my own ears) tells me that Mr. Evans work on here is considered by those who do know about these things to be pretty outstanding and it’s his complete absorption in the music which goes a long way to making this release such a joy. This is not just some run of the mill effort with the pianist “plinking” away in the background , there just to provide a framework for the vocals, no way. It’s much more (and much better) than that. Evans was simply too good, too passionate about his craft, to take such a back seat and Bennett knew that, it’s why he so wanted to work with him. He’s completely tuned into these songs and he delivers definitive renditions of each. His work here is full of special moments and I’d like to just pick one out here : On Track 2 “The Touch Of Your Lips” at around about the 2 minute mark, Bill just kind of launches off into his own little universe, it sounds very little like the song he’s actually playing and he goes on for over a minute before Tony comes back in, it’s amazing and quite wonderful.

And then of course we come to the main reason for being here atBill Evans - Tony Bennett all, Tony Bennett and that wonderful voice of his and I’m afraid it’s, yet again, going to be a case of superlatives galore. As far as I’m concerned the man just never sang better at any time in his career than he did on this album. By the time of this recording Tony had been singing professionally for almost 30 years, always learning what his voice could do, always exploring it’s possibilities, and it certainly shows. When he went into the studio for this one he had the experience, the wisdom, the power and the range. His voice was at its peak and he made sure to put it to great effect.

He had to really. The very “nakedness” of the session meant that he had to deliver. Deciding to record in stripped-down style with just the one piano left the singer completely exposed with no string quartet, no double-bass and no guitar to obscure any mistakes, no room for error. What you hear, clearly (it’s a great job by producer Helen Keane), is the voice of a man who is a master of his craft.

Everyone involved with the album enjoyed it so much and were so pleased with the outcome that they promptly went back into the studio a year later for a sequel : “Together Again”, also a good effort but not quite at the same level.

This first album is well worth tracking down and I would like to point out that it has most recently been reissued on a 2CD set called The Complete Tony Bennett / Bill Evans Recordings on which you get both albums plus alternate takes, what more could you want ? Oh yes , it also includes an 18 page booklet with a superb essay by Will Friedwald which is essential reading for both long term fans and newcomers, he really knows his stuff.

Finally , in the aforementioned booklet , there’s a lovely little anecdote at the end : Bill Evans passed away just 4 years after this recording and a couple of months before he died he phoned Tony up, they had a brief chat and just as he was about to hang up he told Tony : “Forget about everything else. Just concentrate on truth and beauty , that’s all ” Well , they’d certainly done just that when they recorded this album together, it’s a work of real depth and joy which will resonate forever……

— Stephen Dalrymple, Glasgow, Scotland

Track listing

  1. “Young and Foolish” (Albert Hague, Arnold B. Horwitt) – 3:55
  2. “The Touch of Your Lips” (Ray Noble) – 3:57
  3. “Some Other Time” (Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, Adolph Green) – 4:44
  4. “When in Rome” (Cy Coleman, Carolyn Leigh) – 2:56
  5. “We’ll Be Together Again” (Carl T. Fischer, Frankie Laine) – 4:39
  6. “My Foolish Heart” (Ned Washington, Victor Young) – 4:50
  7. “Waltz for Debby” (Bill Evans, Gene Lees) – 4:06
  8. “But Beautiful” (Johnny Burke, Jimmy Van Heusen) – 3:37
  9. “Days of Wine and Roses” (Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer) – 2:21

Personnel

  • Tony Bennett – vocals
  • Bill Evans – piano

Links

Give it a listen below…

BONUS VIDEO: The duo on The Tonight Show with Johnny..

Posted by Stephen Dalrymple
I was so much older then , i'm younger than that now.........


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