Tony Bennett and Diana Krall Join Forces to Celebrate the Gershwins With ‘Love Is Here to Stay” (ALBUM REVIEW)

Two weeks ahead of the 120th anniversary of George Gershwin’s birthday, Tony Bennett and Diana Krall come together for their first full album project to honor the music of the Gershwins with Love Is Here to Stay. Tony Bennett, incredibly, is still singing at the young age of 92.  He and Krall have been friends for over 20 years, have toured together and recorded duets for two of Bennett’s albums but not a full-length album until now.  Obviously, stature doesn’t get much bigger as both are multiple Grammy winners, platinum album sellers and consistently top charting artists.

Krall is just singing here, not playing piano. The Grammy award-winning Bill Charlap Trio deliver the clean, crisp support for the two vocalists who deliver a master class in phrasing and effortless command of the material. Bill Charlap is the pianist, with Peter Washington on bass and Kenny Washington on drums. These are all duet tracks, among them: “Love Is Here to Stay,” “S’Wonderful,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” “But Not for Me,” “Fascinating Rhythm,” “My One and Only” and “I’ve Got a Crush on You.” The latter two were never recorded by either artist and “Fascinating Rhythm” was Tony Bennett’s first physical recording, under his then stage name, Joe Bari.

Given the familiarity of these tunes, many of which are in The Great American Songbook, we’ll offer anecdotal information on them. “S’Wonderful” is associated with Fred Astaire from the 1927 musical Funny Face. Krall has sung it on both her Look of Love and Live in Paris albums and Bennett once, dating back to 1977 – Tony Bennett with the McPartlands and Friends Make Magnificent Music. My One and Only” also stems from Funny Face and is considered by many to be one of the greatest of the brothers’ songs. “But Not for Me,” dates to the 1930 musical Girl Crazy and has become the archetypical example of a ‘torch song,’ and went on to become a jazz standard associated with Ella Fitzgerald and Chet Baker

Nice Work If You Can Get It,” has of course, long been a colloquial expression. The Gershwins wrote it for Fred Astaire to sing in the 1937 musical A Damsel in Distress. Bennett recorded it on his 1994 tribute to Astaire, Steppin’ Out. “Love Is Here to Stay” is associated with Frank Sinatra who sang it on his 1956 Songs for Swingin’ Lovers. It’s generally thought that it was the last song that George Gershwin finished in his lifetime. It appears on three of Bennett’s albums. I Got Rhythm,” another of the most famous Gershwin tunes, was originally written for Ethel Merman to sing in Girl Crazy but like many of the Gershwin songs, was quickly adopted by jazz musicians from Sidney Bechet and Louis Armstrong up to the beboppers Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.  Bennett recorded it on 2005’s Here’s to the Ladies.

Somebody Loves Me” was one of the last Gershwin songs written before George and Ira became a partnership. Lyrics are from Ballard MacDonald and Buddy DeSylva. Neither Bennett or Krall recorded it prior to this session. “Do It Again” is another Gershwin tune with lyrics from DeSylva and, as such, is usually left off Gershwin songbook albums. Krall recorded it on 1999’s When I Look In Your Eyes. “I’ve Got a Crush on You” was originally written as an up-temp foxtrot but has transformed over the years to be a sentimental ballad, as it’s interpreted here.  “Fascinating Rhythm” was written for Fred And Adele Astaire, first appearing in the 1924 musical Lady, Be Good.  In addition to it being Bennett’s first recording, he also sang it on his 1959 album with Count Basie and for his 1963 Carnegie Hall concert album.  “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” is another written for Fred Astaire who sang it to Ginger Rogers in the 1937 musical Shall We Dance? This might be Bennett’s most often recorded song, appearing on at least four of his albums. Krall sang it on her 1997 Love Scenes. “Who Cares” comes from one of Gershwin’s most successful shows, the Pulitzer Prize-winning political satire Of Thee I Sing from 1931. Astaire didn’t sing it in a show but with the Benny Goodman Orchestra in 1940. Bennett included it on his Astaire tribute, Steppin’ Out.

Again, never have these classic songs sounded better than with these two icons of popular music. Thankfully, they included some unexpected Gershwin tunes here. Even though they won’t be touring, you can expect to see Bennett and Krall perform on national television – The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Good Morning America and Live with Kelly and Ryan. Love Is Here to Stay will be released on CD, Vinyl, digital and streaming platforms.

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