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August 22, 2013

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Tony Bennett to make China debut in Shanghai

Singers in their 80s who have flourishing careers are rare, but 87-year-old Tony Bennett is an exception.

The legendary singer of classic pop-jazz will give his first performance in China as part of Shanghai Jazz Week on September 19 and 20 at the “intimate” 800-seat theater at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.

The Shanghai shows are his only stop in China.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to perform and visit China for the very first time. At the age of 87, it is a real treat to have been asked,” Bennett said in an e-mail interview with Shanghai Daily.

“I’ve studied Chinese art for many years as I’m a painter as well as a singer. I look forward to enjoying that part of the culture in person as well as everything else China and Shanghai have to offer,” he says.

Bennett is considered one of the greatest performers of all time, no other American performer has recorded for so long and, many people say, at such a high level of excellence as Bennett.

Bennett says the China concerts will be highlight of his musical career in which he has always stressed quality and favored the popular standards from the 1920s, 30s and 40s.

“It was a golden age of songwriter with master craftsmen such as The Gershwins, Duke Ellington, and Cole Porter writing songs at a very high level,” Bennett says. “So these are the songs that I perform in concert and I find that audiences all over the world just love them.”

The New York-born Italian-American singer has made numerous platinum and gold albums. He started singing at an early age and his big break came when legendary comedian Bob Hope noticed him working in trendy Greenwich Village.

“He liked my singing so much that after the show he came back to see me in my dressing room, saying, ‘Come on kid, you’re going to come to the Paramount and sing with me’,” Bennett recalls.

Hope said he didn’t care for Bennett’s stage name, Joe Bari, and asked for his real name. “I told him, ‘My name is Anthony Dominick Benedetto’ and he said, ‘We’ll call you Tony Bennett.’ And that’s how it happened. A new Americanized name — the start of a wonderful career and a glorious adventure that has continued for over 60 years.”

Bennett started off with a string of hit singles in the early 1950s and that was just the beginning.

He immortalized top 40 favorites such as “Wanna Be Around,” “The Good Life,” “Who Can I Turn To?” and his signature song, ”I Left My Heart In San Francisco,” recorded just over 50 years ago.

Bennett has received 17 Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year in 1995 for his “MTV Unplugged” CD that introduced him to a whole new generation. He also received the Grammy Lifetime Award.

As one of a handful of artists to make albums that regularly hit the charts from the 1950s through today, Bennett has introduced many songs into the Great American Songbook.

“I think my secret of such a long stage life is ‘good music.’ I started out recording with the premise that I wanted to create a ‘hit catalog,’ not just have ‘hit songs’ that would be big for a few weeks and then instantly forgotten,” Bennett says.

“I always want to present songs that respect the intelligence of the audience, not just novelty songs that are silly. Good music lasts forever,” he says.

Around 1975, Bennett decided to leave his long-time record label Columbia and concentrate on painting.

During that time he made two of his very best albums, independent records made with late great jazz pianist Bill Evans. The “Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album” was released in 1975 and their second album, “Together Again,” was released in 1977.

“So it was a very creative time for me. I started out as a singing waiter in my hometown in Astoria Queens and I told myself back then that even if I never made it as a recording artist, I would be happy to just be a singing waiter,” he says.

Bennett’s next plan is to release “The Classics,” a new compilation of 20 recordings this month. He says each is his take on “a song that sounds like it was written yesterday even though it may have been written 500 years ago or 50 years ago.”

“The Classics” has already been released in Malaysia and features a bonus track of a duet with Bennett and Leehom Wang.

Date: September 19-20, 8pm

Address: 1200 Expo Ave, Pudong



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