As he continues to light up the world as the biggest and brightest carrier of the Great American Songbook torch, Tony Bennett also continues to bridge the past to the future through his song and accompanist selections. On his own tribute to the great centenarian Duke Ellington, Bennett does not so much look back at Ellington’s masterworks as look them over with his own fresh and bright-eyed perspective.
Bennett recruits the help of his son Danny (with whom he formed the RPM label); his long-time partner, arranger and pianist Ralph Sharon; his own wunderkind drummer Clayton Cameron; and guests like grand old man Al Grey, Julliard 1st violinist Joel Smirnoff and new generation legend Wynton Marsalis. In this company, Bennett keeps his standards up in the realm of American standards. With strains of "A Train" rolling throughout the album, Bennett rolls from the gentle whisper of "Azure" to the explosive swing of "It Don’t Mean A Thing" (which features bassist Paul Langosch expressively supporting guitarist Gray Sargent’s scatty shots and one of Cameron’s always different yet always amazing solo sprees).
Though he must reach for a few notes (most notably on the quavering finish to "Mood Indigo," the 73-year-old Bennett is wise enough to know when to let his band take some time. Grey’s muted horn laments through "She’s Got It Bad," Smirnoff makes "Sophisticated Lady" all the more so, while Marsalis has the road pretty much to himself on "Chelsea Bridge." Even so, it is Mr. Bennett who shines the brightest on this album, taking each song into his heart and letting it go with all the color and brilliance of his famous paintings. A true artist – perhaps the last of his kind – Bennett is a treasure to be savored and, in paying tribute to another legend, he gives us a two-fold gift to last another 100 years.