Tony Bennett’s return to Austin – with daughter Antonia, an accomplished jazz vocalist – comes 63 years after his first No. 1 hit. You don’t enjoy such career longevity without serious chops and a few tricks to keep you going. Check Sony Legacy’s The Classics, curated by the singer himself and due Jan. 28, for proof of the former.
Credit the bel canto technique that keeps him belting out hits at age 87 for the latter, plus his wife Susan and painting, which Duke Ellington encouraged him to pursue. “Don’t do one thing, do two,” advised Duke, and your art and music will feed each other. Bennett elaborated by email.
Tony Bennett: The relationship between painting and performing is really a yin/yang scenario. When I’m performing, it’s a very gregarious undertaking in front of an audience and you have to connect with them. But when I paint, it’s just me and my canvas, and it’s very introspective.
The beauty of doing two creative activities is you can always stay in a creative zone. If I feel a bit burned out from singing, then I paint; and if I need to stop painting, then I sing. Either way, I’m always doing something creative.
Austin Chronicle: With a song that you haven’t sung before, do you “sketch it out” like you would a painting?
TB: There are similarities with music and art as it’s always a balance between what to leave out and what to leave in. With a song, I usually find a lyric that I can connect to and hopefully communicate what the songwriter had in mind as well. All art is communication.
AC: You’ve sung with just about everyone. Is there anyone, past or present, you especially like to listen to?
TB: I have to say that I would have loved to have had the opportunity to perform with Louis Armstrong. We were on the same bill one night for a private event, but we did not sing together, so that would have been a thrill for me if we had. Louis taught us all how to sing.– Robert Faires