After the success of his first Duets album, music legend Tony Bennett once again shares the mic with music’s brightest stars.
At a moment when the world of popular music grows more fragmented with every iTunes download, Tony Bennett is doing his part to keep the big tent aloft. “When I started working with Tony more than 30 years ago, his mission was to destroy the generation gap,” says Bennett’s son Danny, who has managed his father’s career since the late 1970s. “He’s really ?antidemographics — the whole notion that if you’re of a certain age or in a certain group, then you listen to a certain kind of music.” Adds Bennett’s frequent producer, Phil Ramone: “This is a guy who’s always trying to make the best music and introduce the best songs of any year. Nobody says, ‘I don’t want to go see Tony Bennett.’ ”
The singer’s latest salvo in his fight against type is Duets II (RPM/Columbia, $13), a set of star-studded collaborations in stores this month featuring such spectrum-spanning heavyweights as Lady Gaga, Willie Nelson, Andrea Bocelli and Carrie Underwood. A sequel to 2006’s Grammy-winning Duets: An American Classic, the new disc was born, says Ramone with a laugh, as a result of “so many artists saying after the last one, ‘How come I didn’t get a call?’ ” (Partners on the original included Stevie Wonder and Celine Dion, as well as K.D. Lang, who reprises her role on Duets II.) “Plus,” Ramone adds, “Tony turning 85 this year just made it seem like a great time to celebrate.”
In addition to the album — which was recorded live in the studio, an experience Ramone says shocked many of the younger artists — Danny Bennett is preparing a documentary that he calls “a first-person look at Tony’s 60-year career within the context of this project.” All the recording sessions in Los Angeles, Nashville, New York and London were filmed, as was a trip the elder Bennett took to his family’s hometown of Reggio Calabria, Italy. “We’ve got him walking through the city talking about his father standing on a mountaintop, singing,” Danny says. “Then Tony breaks out into ‘O Sole Mio.’ You can’t get that anywhere else.”