Music: Tony Bennett still going strong at 90

Ravinia Festival was jammed inside the pavilion and out on the lawn last Saturday, but with Tony Bennett caressing the “mic” backed by his outstanding jazz/pop quartet, the atmosphere was nightclub intimate.

Tony Bennett at Ravinia Festival. Also in photo are pianist Mike Renzi and drummer Howard Jones. Photo by Russell Jenkins for Ravinia
Tony Bennett at Ravinia Festival. Also in photo are pianist Mike Renzi and drummer Howard Jones. Photo by Russell Jenkins for Ravinia

The quartet of jazz pianist Mike Renzi, drummer Howard Jones, guitarist Gray Sargent and bassist Marshall Wood set the nightclub mood before Bennett came on stage.

Sinatra’s voice recording introduced Bennett with “…the greatest singer in the world…”

Then, from “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and  “How Do You Keep the Music Playing” to “Sing You Sinners” and “Steppin’ Out with My Baby,” Bennett moved from quiet contemplation to lively jazz with such formidable tone and breath control that it was hard to believe this legendary singer had turned 90, Aug. 3 (2016).

When some lights came on and it appeared the program was over, Bennett who was still going strong, asked if the crowd wanted to hear songs from his new album. The album, “The Silver Lining: Songs of Jerome Kern,” won a 2015 Grammy Award.

His “I’m Old Fashioned” from the album garnered nods of approval and understanding. However, Bennett’s interpretation of “The Way You Look Tonight” from the album drew tumultuous applause. And it prompted another “more?” question followed by more favorites until he did his signature “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” about 75 minutes after the concert started. The program ended with the band seguing into “Chicago” that had everyone singing.

The program ended with Tony Bennett receiving a birthday cake. Photo by Russell Jenkins for Ravinia
The program ended with Tony Bennett receiving a birthday cake. Photo by Russell Jenkins for Ravinia

The concert was heralded as a birthday salute and Ravinia Festival delivered a cake on stage at the end of the program.

Yet it was the long, standing ovation when Bennett came on stage, the standing ovations when at the end of two sets he asked “more?” and the one at the concert’s end, that sent the message: fans considered the evening a wonderful gift and wanted to say thank you.

“I love Chicago,” Bennett said.

Details: Ravinia Festival, 418 Sheridan Road, Highland Park, IL 60035. For concert schedule information and tickets call 847-266-5100 and visit Ravinia.

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