In the prime of his career at 89 years old, Tony Bennett has made numerous TV appearances and has sang and performed around the world. On top of that, he’s released a number of chart-topping singles and albums. Last Thursday night on November 12th at NJPAC, singing better than ever, Bennett performed selections from his latest album, The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern, as well as a handful of his timeless hits including “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and “The Way You Look Tonight”. His performance is the headliner of this year’s 4th Annual James Moody Jazz Festival, which dubbed the Northeast’s greatest gathering of fans and musicians of every kind.
During his six-decade career Bennett has managed to bridge the gap between pop and jazz through his commitment to the Great American Songbook – the defining jazz songs of the 1920’s that set the standards Broadway, musical theatre and Hollywood classical film. These songs, written by the likes of Cole Porter and Jerome Kern, strike a chord in any music lover’s soul like no other genre can. Their musical merit and brilliance have stayed intact throughout decades of interpretation, and somehow hearing them once more on Bennett’s new record, the songs are as fresh and exciting as ever. With a simple four-piece band, Bennett’s show was a minimalist redux of his big band jazz era, and their crisp and clear rendering of songs paired with Bennett’s timeless tenor was an upgrade of old popular jazz for a new generation. Bennett’s final tune, “Fly Me to the Moon”, was sung without a microphone. This poignant gesture of putting the microphone down, alarming at first, made the entire show deeply personal, and allowed you to experience the music the way Bennett does. This is truly what jazz music is all about—breaking the rules and calling the music your own.