For Tony Bennett, 88, the Point of Art Is to Convey "Truth and Beauty"

Larry Busacca
Tony Bennett

No, Lady Gaga will not perform with Tony Bennett at Mesa Arts Center.

There's long been talk of a collaboration CD between the two, and it seems that come September, the two finally will release Cheek to Cheek, an album that finds the unlikely collaborators crooning jazz standards, backed by consummate jazz professionals. If the two singles that have trickled into the world so far, "Anything Goes" and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," reveal anything, it's that Gaga is a fantastic jazz singer, and Bennett, at 88 years young, still has some powerful vocal performances left in him.

See also: Tony Bennett Praises Phoenix's Musical Instrument Museum, Disses NYC Museums

Bennett is of a dying breed, the pure jazz singer, a relic of jazz's golden age. The New York native has a treasure trove of memories and experiences, the friend of greats like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Frank Sinatra. The prime of his career included a series of recordings with legendary pianist Bill Evans, and in his twilight years, Bennett has steadily released a series of duet albums, on which he collaborated with modern music's stars, from Amy Winehouse to John Mayer to Sheryl Crow. When a singer as celebrated and accomplished as Bennett continues at his age, there can only be one motivation: burning, unquenchable passion for performance.

Editor's note: A little inside baseball here, apologies: I normally don't conduct interviews via email. There are two main reasons for this. One, is journalistic: Email interviews offer little chance for follow-up, so if an artist touches on something interesting, it's impossible to get them to expound on it. The second is practical -- most people's writing styles, even if they are supremely talented musicians, just aren't that interesting, at least not interesting enough to read for 1,200-plus words. We've made an exception for Tony Bennett here. Why? He's Tony Bennett. At 88, he can do whatever he wants.

Bennett shared some of his accumulated wisdom during a brief email interview in preview of his upcoming show at Mesa Arts Center. And yes, we never got to press him as to whether her prefers singing in front of big bands or backed by a small combo, or his assertion that he only conveys truth and beauty in art, rather than addressing life's harsh, uncomfortable realities. But oh well. The master jazz singer offered up the following responses to Up on the Sun's questions. Enjoy.

Up on the Sun: What performance stands out for you more? The first time you sang at Carnegie Hall, or the first time you sang at the Metropolitan Opera?

Tony Bennett: That is a very tough question and I think it might just be impossible to answer, but I have to say that being on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera and being introduced to the stage by President [Bill] Clinton was truly an unforgettable evening.

Four years ago when you were in Phoenix, you had a lot of kind words to say about the Musical Instrument Museum. How much of that appreciation was pumping up the home crowd, and how much was a genuine appreciation of the museum?

I was very impressed with the museum and I had attended an event held in Steinway Hall to announce the establishment of the museum years before it opened, so it was a thrill to finally see the project come to fruition.

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