The Zen of Tony Bennett
Tony Bennet plays the Opera House in Boston on Valentine’s Day.
Tony Bennett has achieved something that many pop stars are unlikely to equal: a major label career — the same label at that: Columbia — spanning 60 years. It’s unimaginable nowadays and even Bennett is surprised.
“I absolutely cannot believe I had my first hit with Columbia in 1951,” the pop jazz singer tells Metro. “I still love what I do and I think it’s an honor to entertain people. That’s what keeps me going.”
Frank Sinatra famously gave Bennett a leg-up by name checking him as a personal favorite. But, before that, Bennett counts his teacher Mimi Speer as setting him up for success.
“She told me not to listen to other singers as influences because you then end up just sounding like one of the chorus,” says the Astoria native. “Instead, she encouraged me to listen to jazz musicians I admired and learn a vocal style from the way they played their instruments. I always loved the honey tones of Stan Getz’s saxophone playing and the way Art Tatum presented his songs on the piano so dramatically. I crafted a style based on both of these jazz musicians.”
Ultimately, it is perhaps Bennett’s philosophy and foresight that forged his path, as revealed in the documentary “The Zen of Bennett” and autobiography “Life is a Gift.”
“I started out always wanting to achieve a hit catalog and not just have hit songs,” he says. “It forced me to stick to my guns, even when I was just a young pup at the record label and had to fight to record only high quality pop songs, and avoid novelty tunes that would hit it big for a few weeks and then be instantly forgotten.”
All the things he is
Bennett’s tour includes shows on and around Valentine’s Day. Will he switch around his repertoire to be more romantic?
“Since I work with jazz musicians we are always changing things every day,” says Bennett. Any favorite smoochy songs? “One of my all time favorite romantic songs is ‘All The Things You Are.’ It’s a beautiful song.”