Magazine article Newsweek

The Fella from Astoria: Timeless and Tireless, Tony Bennett Takes His Melodies Everywhere: On the Road, to Fans Old and New

Magazine article Newsweek

The Fella from Astoria: Timeless and Tireless, Tony Bennett Takes His Melodies Everywhere: On the Road, to Fans Old and New

Article excerpt

Byline: Lorraine Ali

Tony Bennett is one of the few singers around who still show up for work in a suit and tie. Always the cool professional, he dropped into a recent recording session for his new album "Playin' With My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues" spot on time, popped a catered strawberry into his mouth and formally addressed his band: "Hey, guys, what's up?" Pulling a stool in front of the mike, Bennett began snapping his fingers and announced, "Let's roll." And with that the 75-year-old cut a swinging track with guitarist B. B. King in less than 20 minutes.

After 50 years in the business, Bennett doesn't need to try, but lucky for us, he still does. Rather than live off his catalog of 90-plus albums, he returned to the scene in 1986 with "The Art of Excellence," and later charmed a whole new generation of fans with his 1994 Grammy-winning album of the year, "MTV Unplugged." Now he's back with a smooth and entertaining CD of spruced-up blues standards that finds him harmonizing with some unlikely suspects.

"Man, they really showed up," says Bennett of performances by Ray Charles, Bonnie Raitt and Sheryl Crow. "The whole secret is to find that contrast--where you definitely know it's Tony Bennett with B. B. King or Stevie Wonder, but they still work together," continues Bennett, relaxing on the couch with lapdog Boo in his Manhattan apartment.

Bennett loves to mix things up off record as well. He tours 200 days out of the year, referring to his pad as a "mailing address," and paints in his free time. …

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