If any one artist has been to vocal jazz what Johnny Cash was to country music, it’s Tony Bennett. Like Cash, Bennett’s multigenerational appeal has something to do with marketing but everything to do with unshakable charisma. Unlike Cash, whose musical gifts failed him as his health did, the 80-year-old New Yorker still swings and croons with ageless verve. If you want proof, look no further than Duets: An American Classic, where the singer collaborates gorgeously with Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Sting, Paul McCartney and longtime foil k.d. lang, among many others.
We asked Bill Charlap, one of Bennett’s most trusted pianists this side of Bill Evans and Ralph Sharon, to chat with this American original for JazzTimes. Their dialogue is genuinely insightful, surpassing the typical musician-to-musician interview by a country mile.