During his six decades of professional life, Tony Bennett has proved himself to be a vocalist with tremendous dedication to popular song. Appropriately, his volume in the Starbucks/Columbia Artist's Choice series finds him choosing selections from that canon, all of them given distinctive, definitive readings by most of the great vocalists of the 20th century -- including Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Louis Armstrong, and Mel Torm‚. At least ten of these performances are carved into the bedrock of popular music, and even if fans of vocal jazz in general or Bennett specifically find it hard to purchase a disc including some of these chestnuts ("Over the Rainbow," "Sentimental Journey," "Straighten Up and Fly Right," "One for My Baby [And One More for the Road]," "Mack the Knife"), Bennett has words of wisdom regarding all of them in the liner notes. The more obscure choices are even more intriguing; Bennett calls Bing Crosby's "I Love You Samantha" (from High Society) "the best performance ever done by a popular singer." He also includes a rousing version of Duke Ellington's "Take the 'A' Train" from a 1952 date at Birdland and a piece by Ravel from the Juilliard String Quartet, and closes out with Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Gospel Choir performing "I Want to Ride That Glory Train." ~ John Bush
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