Well, Valentine’s Day is less than one month away, and chances are some of you might be looking for the perfect accompaniment for that moment when you turn the lights down low, pour your favorite vino and share amorous thoughts with your better half. If so, Concord Music Group has one such offering for your hi-fi. Isn’t It Romantic? is a new 15-track offering due on February 7, drawing on Tony Bennett’s recordings for the Improv and Fantasy labels, originally released between 1975 and 1977.
Bennett founded Improv Records in 1975 with the determination of an industry veteran ready to make a statement of creative freedom. He had concluded a long tenure at Columbia Records and a two-album deal for MGM when Improv was born, and although the label only released some ten albums in its short lifetime, its music resonated with the full power of what we now call The Great American Songbook. A glance at some of the songwriters represented on Isn’t It Romantic? proves this: Leonard Bernstein, Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter.
More than one-third of the tracks originated on The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album, the first collaboration between Bennett and the jazz pianist, known for his sensitive work as a pioneer of the modal jazz style. Bennett and Evans made for incredibly sympathetic partners, and their work together is mood music of the highest order. Three tracks come from their 1977 follow-up, Together Again, recorded for Improv.
Though nothing is present from the freewheeling Tony Bennett/The McPartlands and Friends Make Magnificent Music, each one of Bennett’s other Improv albums is represented. From the original Sings 10 Rodgers and Hart Songs comes three cuts including “Isn’t It Romantic?,” written by the team for the 1932 motion picture Love Me Tonight. Its “sequel” (from the same 1973 recording sessions with the Ruby Braff-George Barnes Quartet) Sings More Great Rodgers and Hart has yielded “My Romance,” from the 1935 musical Jumbo. Finally, 1975’s Life is Beautiful has been culled for both its title track (gifted to Bennett by its songwriter, Fred Astaire!) and Herman Hupfeld’s “As Time Goes By,” introduced in the 1931 Broadway musical Everybody’s Welcome but immortalized on the silver screen in 1942’s Casablanca.
Hit the jump for more, including the full track listing and pre-order link!
This relatively brief period of Bennett’s still-thriving career has been anthologized numerous times, including on 2004’s The Complete Improv Recordings (Concord CCD4-2255), a cornerstone of any music library, and 2006’s Tony Bennett Sings for Lovers. There's nothing new for completists, but if you’re looking for a succinct sampler of the period, each of the fifteen tracks here is beyond reproach. Isn't It Romantic? arrives on February 7. This is classic, classy singing at its finest.
Tony Bennett, Isn’t It Romantic? (Concord, 2012)
- Make Someone Happy
- Isn’t It Romantic?
- As Time Goes By
- My Foolish Heart
- I Could Write a Book
- Days of Wine and Roses
- Dream Dancing
- The Touch of Your Lips
- But Beautiful
- Young and Foolish
- We’ll Be Together Again
- My Romance
- Lucky To Be Me
- Life Is Beautiful
Tracks 1, 7 & 14 from Tony Bennett and Bill Evans: Together Again, Improv LP 7117, 1977
Tracks 2, 5 & 9 from Tony Bennett Sings 10 Rodgers & Hart Songs, Improv LP 7113, 1976
Tracks 3 & 15 from Life is Beautiful, Improv LP 7112, 1975
Tracks 4, 6, 8, 10-12 from The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album, Fantasy F-9489, 1975
Track 13 from Tony Bennett Sings More Great Rodgers & Hart, Improv LP 7120, 1977