In Person!

Tony Bennett & Count Basie and His Orchestra

In Person!

The title of Tony Bennett’s 1959 release In Person! is somewhat misleading; this is a studio re-creation of a live set that didn't make it to tape properly. It hardly matters, though, because Bennett and collaborator Count Basie turn in superlative performances that lack nothing in vibrancy or onstage magic. By turns melancholy, reflective, and celebratory, Bennett reaffirms his rare ability to claim even familiar songs as his own, whether offering a delicately poetic lyric (“Lost in the Stars,” “When I Fall in Love”) or joyously swinging his way over exuberant horns (“Old Man River,” “Taking a Chance on Love”). “Pennies from Heaven” is a particularly choice number, filled with nuanced emotion and smile-inducing dynamics. Basie leads the players with a confident but not overbearing hand, giving longtime Bennett accompanist Ralph Sharon room to add tasty piano accents against an insistent, cleanly rendered beat. The result is elegant yet always vigorous, filled with inspired sidelights like the jazzy dabs in “Lullaby of Broadway” and the raspy vocal embellishments in “Firefly.”

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