It’s been a while since we visited Ray’s Corner.
As our regular readers know, Ray’s Corner is the apartment with the loud music, and the place where the martinis are made of gin with the vermouth bottle held about a foot away.
Ray is my dad. He’s 83. He likes his tunes more upbeat than downbeat, as I do. His taste in male singers from his time runs more to Dean Martin and Al Martino than to Frank Sinatra.
Dad never has been a big Tony Bennett guy, but that’s changing. A while back, I gave him a CD from a series called “Artist’s Choice.” It was a collection of Bennett’s favorite songs performed by others. Dad dug it.
Tonight, we have something else Dad might dig.
In the mid-’70s, Bennett teamed up with jazz pianist Bill Evans to record two albums. It’s just Bennett’s voice and Evans’ piano, the songs chosen by them, the arrangements worked out by them.
When those albums came out, Dad was in no position to buy them even if he did dig them. Then as now, the economy was bad. Money was tight, especially with three teenage boys.
Those albums have long been regarded as among the best of Bennett’s career. They’ve been remastered and re-released by Fantasy Records. “The Complete Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Recordings” is spare, yet elegant and graceful. It’s perfect for a quiet evening at Ray’s Corner.
“When In Rome” and “Lucky To Be Me,” Tony Bennett and Bill Evans, from “The Complete Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Recordings,” 2009.
“When In Rome” comes from “The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album,” released in 1975. Written in 1963 by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh, its full title is “When In Rome (I Do As the Romans Do).” Coleman and Leigh were among Bennett’s favorite songwriters. It’s perhaps the most light-hearted cut.
“Lucky To Be Me” comes from “Together Again,” released in 1976. It’s from the 1944 Broadway musical “On The Town,” with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Adolph Green and Betty Comden. On this cut, Bennett and Evans “examine the melancholy underside of (this) traditionally peppy, lucky, and happy showtune,” according to the Will Friedwald essay that accompanies the new release.
The new release also features two unreleased tracks and 25 alternate takes. Here’s one of the latter.
“Some Other Time (alternate take 7),” Tony Bennett and Bill Evans, from “The Complete Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Recordings,” 2009.
This one also is from “On The Town,” with music by Bernstein and lyrics by Green and Comden. It was one of Evans’ favorite songs.