Tony Bennett will mark his 80th Birthday on August 3 this year, launching the beginning of a multi-tiered celebration honoring this milestone. RPM Records/Columbia Records will release a new recording, TONY BENNETT: DUETS/An American Classic, which will be in-stores internationally on September 26. Recorded live in the studio, the CD features Tony performing duets of his best loved songs with many of the top names in music: Bono, Michael Buble, Elvis Costello, Dixie Chicks, Juanes, Billy Joel, Diana Krall, k.d. lang, John Legend, Paul McCartney, George Michael, Sting, Barbra Streisand, James Taylor and Stevie Wonder. Instrumental musical guests on the album include trumpeter Chris Botti and violinist Pinchas Zukerman.
An American Classic was recorded in three cities earlier this year: Capitol Studios in Los Angeles; Bennett Studios in Englewood, NJ and Abbey Road Studios in London. Producer Phil Ramone supervised the live sessions in which each guest artist performed side by side with Bennett. Tony's touring quartet provided the accompaniment for the recording sessions with additional orchestrations added with musical arrangements by Jorge Calandrelli. Bennett's sons are involved in the project: Danny Bennett, who is the singer's manager, is the recording's Executive Producer and Dae Bennett is the audio engineer.
For many of the guest artists, the "live" approach to the sessions was a new and thrilling experience. Despite the existence of technology that allows artists to record duets without being together physically, it was essential to Bennett's recording style that each artist perform and record directly with Tony.
"I was on the road all last year and there is nothing like that live dynamic, so working live in the studio with Tony has been a great experience," commented John Legend, who received the "Best New Artist" Grammy Award the night before recording his duet with Tony. "I would like to try that for my own recordings."
The CD's 18 songs, each selected by Bennett, are integral elements from Tony's hit catalog such as "I Wanna Be Around" (with Bono), "Because of You" (with k.d. lang), "The Shadow of Your Smile" (with Juanes), "Cold, Cold, Heart (with Tim McGraw) and "Rags to Riches" (with Elton John). Also featured are some of Bennett's personal favorites including "Smile" (with Barbra Streisand), "Sing You Sinners" (with John Legend), "The Very Thought of You" (with Paul McCartney) and "Are You Havin' Any Fun?" (with Elvis Costello).
Appropriately, the recording's only vocal solo showcases Bennett performing his signature song, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," accompanied only by Bill Charlap on piano. "Each duet artist brought their own soul and sensibility to their song performance and it was a wonderful gift for my birthday to be able to record with these talented musicians," commented Bennett.
TONY BENNETT: DUETS/An American Classic is part of an overall campaign in honor of Bennett's 80th birthday. Sponsored by Target, the first event will be a star-studded party to be held on August 3 in New York City. That same date will see the release of the CD's first single to a variety of radio formats. Extensive multi-media corporate sponsored campaigns with Target and Yahoo! will be implemented for the CD launch. Target will offer added value items, including an edition of the album including several additional duets as well as a "making of" DVD. Darrell Tucker, vice president of merchandising for Target stated, "The Target Corporation is honored to partner with Tony Bennett on the occasion of his 80th birthday and this exceptional 'Duets' CD project. He is an entertainer of singular artistry and a person of impeccable integrity. We are thrilled to have this opportunity to be a part of the celebration."
Later this fall, a prime-time network special, also sponsored by Target, featuring Tony and special guest artists will be aired. Legacy Recordings is slated to release a limited-edition boxed set collection as well as reissues of Tony Bennett titles previously unavailable on CD throughout the fall of 2006 and into 2007 along with the complete digitization of Bennett's entire catalog. A documentary on Tony's life and career, executive produced by Clint Eastwood, is in the works for 2007, as is an art book of Tony's original paintings.
Tony Bennett, who first joined Columbia Records in 1950, has been signed to the label longer than any other recording artist in its history. With over 50 million records sold worldwide, more than 100 recordings to his credit and thirteen Grammy Awards, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a Grammy Album of the Year Award, Bennett's career is unparalleled in the industry.
"Tony Bennett never fails to bring a rare and special artistry to his music while showing an incredible generosity of spirit toward the world and his fans," said Steve Barnett, Chairman, Columbia Records. "It's an honor and a privilege to wish Tony a very happy 80th birthday and to thank him for giving us the gift of so much magic and so much music over the years."
Track Listing for TONY BENNETT: DUETS/An American Classic:
Boulevard Of Broken Dreams /STING
Smile/BARBRA STREISAND WITH PINCHAS
Put On A Happy Face/JAMES TAYLOR
The Shadow Of Your Smile/JUANES
Rags To Riches/ELTON JOHN
The Very Thought Of You/PAUL MCCARTNEY
Lullaby Of Broadway/DIXIE CHICKS
Cold, Cold Heart/TIM MCGRAW
The Best Is Yet To Come/DIANA KRALL
For Once In My Life/STEVIE WONDER
Are You Havin' Any Fun?/ELVIS COSTELLO
Because Of You/K.D. LANG WITH CHRIS BOTTI (Trumpet)
Just In Time/MICHAEL BUBLE
Sing You Sinners/JOHN LEGEND
The Good Life/BILLY JOEL
I Wanna Be Around/BONO
How Do Keep The Music Playing/GEORGE MICHAEL
I Left My Heart In San Francisco/TONY BENNETT WITH BILL CHARLAP (Piano)