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Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek

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When Tony Bennett released Duets II in 2011, the lion’s share of praise focused on his teaming with the late Amy Winehouse on “Body and Soul.” But the album’s true highpoint was Bennett’s joyous romp across “The Lady Is a Tramp” alongside Lady Gaga. So it comes as no surprise that this album-length pairing is so delightful. Indeed, this is the best disc Bennett has delivered since A Wonderful World, his 2002 partnership with another decades-younger vocalist, k.d. lang.

Gaga is a revelation. Her trademark pyrotechnics reduced from boil to simmer, she emerges as an inspired pop-jazz stylist, suggesting a commingling of Natalie Cole sass and Nancy Wilson sophistication. Her and Bennett’s mutual respect and shared lightheartedness are palpable throughout, recalling the tremendous joie de vivre of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney’s joint sessions.

The album’s 11 tracks (15 on the deluxe edition, well worth the extra dough) focus exclusively on sturdy standards. The majority are duets, extending from the ethereal charm of “Nature Boy” and velvety glow of “But Beautiful” to the rollicking fun of “Anything Goes” and marvelous effervescence of “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.” For their solo turns, Gaga proves an estimably dramatic balladeer on “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” and “Lush Life,” while Bennett, now 88 but sounding more vibrant and engaged than he has in years, appropriately toasts his 28-year-old collaborator with “Sophisticated Lady” and, added to the deluxe assortment, the May-December anthem “Don’t Wait Too Long.”

Originally Published