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Archive for October 11th, 2013

Review: Tony Bennett, “Live at the Sahara: Las Vegas 1964”

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Tony Bennett - Live at the SaharaIt’s been a busy week for Tony Bennett, one of the few artists today for whom “legendary” truly applies.  Bennett, 87, supported the release of Live at the Sahara: Las Vegas, 1964 as well as the digital release of his entire Columbia Records catalogue with a “digital day” for the books.  Bennett engaged in a HuffPost Live Chat, took questions on Twitter via the hashtag #AskTony, shared videos on Facebook, and even participated in a reddit AMA.  Here’s to the next 87, Tony!

Though named for one of the driest places on earth, the Sahara was where Tony Bennett made quite a splash in his first-ever Las Vegas headlining performance on April 8, 1964.  Standing on the northern end of the Strip, the Sahara was a true remnant of Rat Pack style until it closed its doors for the final time in 2011, 59 years old and fated to become a trendy Beverly Hills-style resort.  That same year, Tony Bennett turned 85 years young, showing far more resilience and longevity than the Sahara.  To celebrate, Columbia Records, RPM and Legacy Recordings issued the career-spanning Complete Collection box set, and among its bonus material was the first-ever release of Live at the Sahara: Las Vegas 1964.  Now, almost two years after that initial release, this vintage live album recorded by Columbia’s Frank Laico is available for the first time as a stand-alone purchase…and it’s one helluva swingin’ affair.

Though 1964 is destined to be remembered as the Year of the British Invasion, Bennett was at the top of his game (a position he hasn’t ceded at all in the ensuing almost-50 years!) plucking songs from the Hollywood, Broadway and pop songbooks in an era when it was still possible for an adult vocalist to create standards.  In ’64 alone, the busy Bennett released three studio albums on Columbia, immortalizing such songs as “When Joanna Loved Me,” “The Rules of the Road,” and “Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me).”

Accompanied by longtime musical director Ralph Sharon and his trio (with Billy Exiner on drums and Hal Gaylord on bass) as well as Louis Basil’s orchestra at The Sahara’s Congo Room, Bennett delivered a diverse set drawing in large part on his albums released in 1963 and 1964.  One of the major pleasures of Live at the Sahara is hearing Bennett tackle less-familiar material in a live setting.  Although his signature songs “I Wanna Be Around” and “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” occupied places of honor in 1964, as they do at his concerts today, the set is filled with treats you might not be so likely to hear in 2013.  Among them is Tex Satterwhite and Frank Scott’s “The Moment of Truth” (from 1963’s This is All I Ask LP) which opens the show in a brassy one-two punch with Steve Allen’s scene-setting  “This Could Be the Start of Something Big.”  More often than not over the course of the performance, though, Bennett made the 1,000-capacity showroom feel like a small jazz club.

There’s more Tony after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 11, 2013 at 09:48

Posted in News, Reissues, Reviews, Tony Bennett

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