Music Tony Bennett at Mohegan Sun: ‘Every day is a gift,’ he says at 92
Many of us left our hearts in Tony Bennett’s songs over the years, which is why the 19 Grammy Award-winning performer keeps making music that reaches so many. At 92, he will once again play the huge Mohegan Sun Arena Thursday, Oct. 4.
Meanwhile, the new collaborative album by Bennett and Diana Krall on Verve Records/Columbia Records is out and doing well. There will also be a PBS “Great Performances” special on same Nov. 24.
Here’s a new email Q&A with Bennett:
Q. Tony, for folks who haven’t seen you in recent-era gigs at the CT casinos or Hartford’s Bushnell, what size band do you bring and what might be on the set list at Mohegan Sun? (I could listen to ‘Left My Heart in San Fran’ every day for life and I’d be happy.)
A. It means a lot to me that you said that as my whole premise as a performer is to make people happy and I often get asked if I get tired of singing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” but I know how much the public loves the song so its always a pleasure to sing it. For some time now I have been touring with a magnificent trio of jazz musicians who are such masters at their craft that they make every show different and since they are so adept I can change a tempo or sing a different song and make that decision right on stage and they don’t miss a beat.
Q. The new album with Diana Krall ... How did you decide to do that and how do you think it came out?
We just found out that we are No. 1 on the Billboard jazz charts so that is always a thrill! Diana and I met about 20 years ago and we toured together around the world and then stayed in touch through the years — she recorded several duets on my albums and finally we got around to getting into the studio and making this album celebrating the music of the Gershwins. It was such a comfortable and spontaneous process in the studio with Diana as she is a jazz singer and we had the Bill Charlap Trio in the room with us so we worked out arrangements as we recorded each track. It’s very much like a musical conversation and I couldn’t be happier with how it came out.
Q. The book “Tony Bennett: On Stage and in the Studio” (followup to a 2007 book) is also coming out soon, I’m told. I assume you were interviewed extensively by Dick Golden or did you write any chapters? Why will music fans find it interesting?
A. Dick Golden, who is a exceptional jazz historian, has really been interviewing me for decades — we speak every week over the phone and talk about music and life and philosophy so he was the perfect choice to write the copy for this book. I love it because its like jazz itself — each page is different and the themes move in and out of the chapters and reconnect again. The publisher also put together so many photos and letters and interesting artifacts as the images for the book form everyone to Sinatra to Keith Richards to Lady Gaga. So it has something to offer for everyone.
Q. Such an epic career, especially doing jazz music in addition to other types of music. ... Do you look back with any regrets or would you take the same basic path in career and music choices?
A. I don’t look back at all as I found that dwelling on the past prevents you from living life fully each day and I truly love life and every day is a gift. I have made many mistakes over the years — as everyone does — and I find that in the end you learn more about what you do wrong — and then correct — than getting it right the first time. I have been fortunate enough to have been able to make a living doing the two things I love most — singing and painting — so I honestly feel like I have never worked a day in my life.
Q. Not many folks can fill a theater these days who also fought in World War II. Did going to war leave you with any emotional wounds that maybe manifested during the dry years of your career in the late ’60s and ’70s or was it just that the media and music biz had changed so much?
A. Being a soldier in World War II made me a lifelong pacifist.
Q. Are you pessimistic about American democracy right now?
A. I am never pessimistic about America as it’s still the greatest experiment on Earth, with people from all cultures and countries and religions living together and I think that premise will always prevail.
Q. As for civic/charitable work, how is the (Bennett-run) Frank Sinatra School of Arts going ... and is this idea expanding?
Thank you for asking, as my wife Susan and I are thrilled with how our very first school, Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, has turned out when we established Exploring the Arts to support arts education in public high schools. We actually celebrate our 20th anniversary next year and we partner now with close to 40 schools in NYC and Los Angeles and are hoping to keep expanding. Our ultimate dream is to be able to support schools in every state in the country. We find that if students — especially at the high school level when so many kids either drop out or don’t go on to college — that if you offer a strong and supportive arts program it benefits young people in everything they do. The arts is what brings us together as humans and enables us to communicate despite differences we may have — and it teaches young people how to respect other people’s voices and visions. So we want to keep supporting and expanding our mission.
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