Sexy Tony Bennett wows crowd at AmericasMart private performance

By Tomi Morris Johnson tomij@wingcomltd.com

©2004 WingcomLtd. All Rights Reserved. 

April 16, 2004, Atlanta, GA…Flying to the moon and back is a romantic possibility if you are a Tony Bennett aficionado.  Even people who may not know his early hits turn euphoric when Bennett, who is smooth and robust, sings onstage. A contemporary of the rat pack - Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Joey Bishop - as well as Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, Bennett croons his way into your heart.

“Bennett’s magic is…his ability to convey a sense of joy…and utter satisfaction.”   --The New York Times

Appearing in Atlanta’s AmericasMart Atrium as part of the Spring Show, Bennett’s traditional, pop/jazz, lyrical performance showcased his unequaled clarity, color, motion, phrasing and grace. He sang the songs he sings best: of loving and longing. Impeccably dressed, fit, trim and tanned, Bennett looked like a million dollars. His gracious mood and acknowledgement of other onstage musicians defined his ability to be the charismatic gentleman.

The event also featured a jam session with legendary jazz saxophonist, flutist, composer, and arranger Jimmy Heath who Bennett rated as a giant in the business. Bennett and Heath were born the same year.

“I’ve been singing for 50 years,” Bennett told the audience, and then laughingly added, “I’ve really been singing 60 years. If possible, I would like to continue singing another 60 years. When I was young, I had so many hits, I was the Brittany Spears of my generation.” Bennett began his recording career in 1951 with the Arthur Hammerstein tune “Because of You.”

Bennett is described by Sony Records as a singer “known to the world for his golden voice” which has won 12 Grammy Awards.  His AtlantasMart repertoire included “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” and “I’m Stepping Out With my Baby.” 

Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto in Astoria (Queens), NY on August 3, 1926, Bennett was the son of an immigrant Italian grocer and seamstress. He had two siblings. His father died when Bennett was 10, and his mother raised her kids alone during the Depression.  Bennett studied commercial art in high school and began his musical career as a singing waiter. Often suffering from severe stage fright, Bennett claims to have been “discovered” by Bob Hope.

 “One thing that's true of this singer is that his voice has only improved with age,” said Yahoo biography writer Bill Holdship.  Featured in a Good Housekeeping article in 1995 entitled, “He keeps coming back, like a song,” Bennett’s popularity, like good music, is not in jeopardy of fading.

Bennett was twice married and twice divorced. The final song of the evening was dedicated to his late friend Frank Sinatra.  “Frank told me to sing this song,” he said, “and when Frank told you to do something, you did it!”

Heath, along with his brothers and fellow musicians Percy and Albert "Tootie" Heath, hails from Philadelphia, where he began his music career just out of high school in the late 1940s as an alto saxophonist. He earned the nickname "Little Bird" from his idol, Charlie "Bird" Parker, and in 1946 Heath formed a big band that included jazz icons Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Benny Golson, Chet Baker and Ray Charles.  His most famous composition is "Gingerbread Boy."

     

People at the event were in a festive mood, and strangers acted like old friends. AmericasMart Buyer Charlotte Kanning of Hicks Clothing Company, Thomasville, GA posed for a photo op.  “With a man like Tony Bennett, you want more than an autograph,” Kanning said.

“Your singing was beautiful,” I told Bennett after the show as I sneaked a light touch. Moving away from Bennett, I found a penny lying heads up, signifying luck and good fortune – an ending to an evening of possibilities.

     

 

Bennett sang of love, life and happiness and memorialized the great composers of his day.

The Tony Bennett crowd includes people of all ages and cultures.

Tomi Johnson gets autograph and quick touch of Bennett.

 

The information in this article is the opinion of the author and, therefore, should not be construed as libelous.