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The Complete Improv Recordings

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Album Review

For those new to the music of Tony Bennett, Improv was a label started by Tony Bennett and businessman Bill Hassett. Bennett was fed up with the suits at Columbia Records, who were trying to make him sing rock & roll. When his contract expired at the beginning of the 1970s, he and Hassett formed a label to help him realize his aesthetic ambitions, and Improv was born. Bennett recorded five albums for the label between 1975 and 1977 before it went bankrupt. These recordings may not have sold well — due largely to distribution problems — but all of them were critically acclaimed. On these sides, Bennett is in awesome company throughout, with talent ranging from Bill Evans and Earl Hines to Ruby Braff to Marian McPartland to Buddy Tate and Charlie Byrd. The albums included here are Tony Bennett Sings 10 Rodgers and Hart Songs, Tony Bennett Sings More Great Rodgers & Hart, Tony Bennett and Bill Evans Together Again (this was the follow-up to the Fantasy set entitled The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album and is easily the better of the two), Life Is Beautiful, and Tony Bennett With the McPartlands and Friends Make Magnificent Music. While the original albums have been issued on CD before, complete sessions have never been available until now. Along with the original LPs are unissued alternate takes, 45s, and even an unreleased tune finished for a particular session but never used. In addition, the album with the McPartlands is here on compact disc for the first time. It should also be noted that this box finally completes the two different Tony Bennett and Bill Evans Together Again CD issues that were released on Rhino and Concord with different material. Collectors will find the box irresistible as much for its fine, if simple, presentation as for the material itself. The liner essay by jazz writer Will Friewald is not only informative about the period and the label, but is exhaustive in its discussion of the recording sessions. This is a reasonably priced multi-disc collection that offers an intimate, up-close view of a restlessly original artist during the biggest gamble of his professional career.

Customer Reviews

Happy Birthday, Mr. Bennett!

This collection of tunes is a magical collection of some of his most sensitive songs, mixed in with versions of his hits. Recorded when his career was at a low ebb, these songs explain what happened to Mr. Bennett between the "San Francisco" years and the late 80s, early 90s when he made his glorious comeback thanks to the efforts of his son Danny. If you own the Bill Evans albums or the Live at Carnegie Hall recordings, these are a wonderful addition to your Tony Bennett playlist. Check out "I Used to Be Color Blind," "Dream Dancing" and "Lost in the Stars" -- preferably while toasting Mr. Bennett on his 80th birthday. To the good life!

A Treasure Trove of Tony Bennett

I heard this marvelous Tony Bennett singing on SeriusXM this moring and just saw "Cole Porter Medley" trailing off on the display as the set ended. I searched for that phrase in the itunes store and found the Tony Bennett Improv recordings. Wow! Thanks SeriusXM for shining a light on these hidden away treasures. The set is a bargain and the singing and arrangements are pure joy. Tony at his best surrounded by some of the biggest names ever in Jazz and the American Songbook! Luckily it's not vinyl or I would quickly wear it out listening.


Born: August 3, 1926 in New York, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Tony Bennett's career has enjoyed three distinct phases, each of them very successful. In the early '50s, he scored a series of major hits that made him one of the most popular recording artists of the time. In the early '60s, he mounted a comeback as more of an adult-album seller. And from the mid-'80s on, he achieved renewed popularity with generations of listeners who hadn't been born when he first appeared. This, however, defines Bennett more in terms of marketing than music. He would probably...
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