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Although I’ve lost count of the number of CDs released this year that have paid tribute to Duke Ellington on his 100th anniversary, I find this one to be especially noteworthy. Tony Bennett is not a “jazz singer” by definition, but there is no question that throughout his career he has been heavily influenced by the genre. His recordings with Count Basie, Bill Evans, Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie, among others, display his love for the music and the great songs it has produced. The 73-year-old Bennett is in fine voice on this warm collection of standards (It Don’t Mean A Thing, Sophisticated Lady), rarities (Azure, Day Dream) and some Ellington classics vocalists rarely tackle (Caravan). Bennett is backed by The Ralph Sharon Quartet, a big band and a lush string orchestra, with guest stars Wynton Marsalis (trumpet) and Al Grey (trombone) adding additional lustre to this intimate, classy affair. You’ll love it madly! (####)