A Swingin' Christmas
Columbia Records, 2008
REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/24/2008
You know, between Tony Bennett and Joe Paterno, I have some hope that I will still be capable of kicking some ass when I'm eighty-two.
Bennett, whom I consider America's greatest living crooner, has reinvented his own stardom over the last ten or so years, and continues his career with this year's release, A Swingin' Christmas. And it is just that: a good-time, richly orchestrated, fun piece of holiday music. If you're looking for a Christmas album that you can play for both your emo cousin and your grandmother, you need look no farther.
Bennett's voice is still slick, sure, and elegant; he may be over eighty, but you can't tell from his singing. If anything, I think he's gotten better over the years: smoother, more precise, and more polished. Phil Ramone's production is impeccable, and the Count Basie Orchestra is...well...they're the Count Basie Orchestra, darn it, and do you need to really ask? These cats have been doing this for a while, and they may be the best in existence.
The song choices are heavily weighted towards the traditional, which is about what I expected. "I'll Be Home For Christmas," "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," and "Christmas Time Is Here" (better known, perhaps, as the Charlie Brown Christmas Song) all check in. My favorites have to be a couple of lesser-known tracks; Bennett does a bang-up job on Sammy Cahn's "The Christmas Waltz," and there is a brilliant version of "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm" done as a duet with his daughter Antonia (herself an aspiring jazz singer). If I have an argument with the song selection at all, it's the inclusion of the chestnut "My Favorite Things," which I still insist is 1) not a Christmas song and 2) lame.
All in all, though, I hope I have half this much class when I'm sixty, much less over eighty. Tony Bennett is an American treasure, and A Swingin' Christmas is a darned good time.