Personnel: Ralph Sharon (piano); Billy Exiner (drums).
Audio Mixer: Michael H. Brauer.
Liner Note Author: Robert Sullivan .
Recording information: Congo Room, Sahara Hotel, Las Vegas, NV (04/08/1964).
Photographers: Don Hunstein; Ernst Haas.
After a successful singing career in the 1950s, Tony Bennett, like many of the jazz-based crooners of his era, had a bit of a commercial falloff with the advent of rock & roll in the early '60s. Bennett, for his part, moved even closer to jazz in his stage shows, and then had a resurgence in popularity when his signature song, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," became a big pop hit in 1962. It was Bennett at his best, working to the pop side of jazz, and as the '60s progressed, Bennett became firmly established as an iconic singer and entertainer. This set, which preserves his first-ever headlining appearance in Las Vegas in 1964, was recorded for a possible live album, but then shelved by Columbia Records until it appeared on disc in 2011 as part of The Complete Collection, which featured all 63 of Bennett's albums, three DVDs, six volumes of Bennett's non-album singles, two discs of rarities, and this show from the Sahara. This is the concert's first stand-alone release, and it is the same as the disc included in the Columbia box. The concert itself was an important one for Bennett, and he opened it and closed it with overture and finale versions of one of his admittedly lesser songs, "The Moment of Truth." If the truth is in the singing, then Bennett obviously triumphs, but taken simply on its own, this set is no different in quality than the many other fine live albums Bennett has done throughout his career, and its importance is more historical and archival than artistically essential. But this is Tony Bennett, and at 30 songs, it's a generous, warm, and riveting show from an American icon at the very commercial peak of his career. ~ Steve Leggett