Tony Bennett’s enormous range and impact on popular singing styles are honored on his joyous 90th birthday tribute. This collection features songs by vocalists like Michael Bublé, who channels the master by merging a smooth tone with bluesy feeling on "The Good Life," and Diana Krall, whose swinging but easygoing vibe on "I've Got the World on a String" rings old-school Bennett. Tony himself takes the stage, turning in an emphatic performance with Billy Joel before steering toward more familiar tunes on a closing mini-set.
Much of Possessed is a collaboration with Tony Kushner (the Pulitzer- and Tony-winning playwright of Angels in America). He contributes lyrics to two songs, and the second half of the album was designed as a musical score for his play A Dybbuk: Between Two Worlds (an adaptation of Jewish folk tales by S. An-ski). The marriage of artistic sensibilities is perfect. The Klezmatics' ethos is at once deeply traditional and deeply progressive. Their music is a lively engagement with Jewishness itself, inflecting Eastern European klezmer music with other genres so seamlessly that it seems misleading even to name the other influences (classical, Dixieland, bebop, Middle Eastern folk, modern rock…). Their song catalog includes religious traditionals, but it also includes original Hebraic odes to marijuana and homosexuality. All of which is very much in line with Kushner's endless quest to sort out his own disparate influences as a gay, Jewish, democratic-socialist, Louisiana-born, New York-adopted artiste.
On the road to becoming a first-class operator of the B3 Hammond organ, Columbus, OH, native Tony Monaco has had to overcome roadblocks. The major one was a polio-like debilitating disease which forced him to change from accordion to organ. Another was the demands of a family business followed by the return of the disease. Undeterred, Monaco has made two albums with his trio, Burnin' Grooves being the second. He's joined on six tracks by his organ-playing peer, Joey DeFrancesco, who sits in on the piano.