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Antonia Bennett: Embrace Me

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Physically, flare-haired Antonia Bennett, the third of Tony’s four children, bears a striking resemblance to her iconic dad. There are notable similarities musically as well. Antonia, a Berklee grad who recently celebrated her 40th birthday and is now three albums into a solo career, has served regularly as papa’s opening act for over a decade. Clearly, all those years of watching one of the best in the business from the wings has paid off.

The younger Bennett’s phrasing owes a distinct debt to Billie Holiday. Tony has long cited Lady Day as a major influence. Antonia’s light, bright sense of swing closely mirrors his. She shares his penchant for the Great American Songbook, and likely learned most if not all of the 10 standards gathered here from him. As a storyteller, though, she’s not quite in his league (few are), her emotional prowess comparatively pallid, her sense of shaping a dramatic arc less acute.

Still, accompanied by the latest incarnation of pianist Jon Davis’ trio-Rafael Barata on drums, Paul Nowinski on bass-she navigates Davis’ sparkling arrangements with class, style and tremendous warmth. And she adds plenty of enticing touches. There’s a subtle hint of sin in her “Teach Me Tonight”; on “But Not for Me” she strikes the tricky balance between wistfulness and self-pity; her “Embraceable You” is affectively cuddly; and “Nice Work If You Can Get It” is delightfully floated above a gentle bossa beat.

Originally Published