Bennett considered Count Basie and Duke Ellington the two greatest bandleaders he ever heard, and with the great Milt Hinton on bass and Basie regular Joe Newman on trumpet, he swings effortlessly and joyfully on this Ellington jazz standard. Bennett had something close to respect for great jazz musicians, which may be why he never claimed to be part of that tradition. “I’m not a jazz singer,” he often said. “I’m a singer who likes jazz.”

Between 1951 and 1963, Bennett released 19 songs that reached the Top 20 of the Billboard Singles chart. Then the Beatles came along and the hits stopped. Columbia Records honcho Clive Davis pushed Bennett to cover modern pop hits, and on the day he started a new record a new record that included Beatles and Stevie Wonder songs, Bennett vomited, Davis recalled. The singer was a trouper, however; the “woo!” he interjects in the middle of George Harrison’s “Something” is almost convincing.

Bennett had an affinity for pianists: Art Tatum was an enduring influence, he had a long partnership with Ralph Sharon, and he made one of his best albums with Bill Evans. Although he was not a master of urban boredom on the level of Sinatra, Bennett does wring the whole bittersweet rut out of this song, written by Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green for the musical “On the Town”, by singing in parallel with Evans’ lyrical, sensible piano.

For much of the ’70s, the toll of drugs, divorce, tax problems and depression wore Bennett down. Then his son Danny took over as his manager and made a comeback to Columbia Records. Perhaps more significantly, Bennett reunited with Sharon and recorded his acclaimed comeback with just piano, bass, drums and an orchestra. His voice was rougher now, but especially in his version of Irving Berlin’s “I Got Lost in Her Arms,” ​​he adjusted by infusing his lower register with shrewd understatement.

Bennett loved the Great American Songbook, but eventually a prolific singer runs out of pre-rock standards and needs to find slightly younger material. So Bennett was delighted when, in a restaurant one night, he heard the piano-barre de resistance Charles DeForest perform a song he had written, “When the Bells Toll for Me.” It became a concert highlight for Bennett, thanks to its climactic high notes, and when he sang it at the Grammys in 1991, he received a standing ovation.

Biographically, Bennett could not have less in common with Cole Porter, a Midwesterner born to great privilege. But Porter’s dizzying use of double and triple rhymes was perfect for Bennett’s rubato gimmick, so his second album with Lady Gaga was a Porter-only affair, released five years after Bennett received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. And let’s be honest, it’s a kick to hear a 95-year-old maestro sing, “Some, they might go for cocaine.”

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