Tony Bennett might be the most active 86-year-old you know.
The iconic singer has enjoyed an enviable career spanning 60 years (and counting), and lately he’s become renowned for his many duets and collaborative endeavors. And now Bennett’s set to release an introspective documentary that’ll shed light on his many artistic ambitions.
Conceived and produced by his son Danny Bennett, The Zen of Bennett tales a closer look into Tony’s life as he turned 85, as well as his continued presence in show business via the countless number of contemporary artists he’s worked with in recent years. The movie will hit screens in New York tomorrow and other select theaters Nov. 2, but you can enjoy an exclusive sneak peek right now exclusively below. Then read on to find out about Bennett’s wish-list duets, his unique chemistry with Lady Gaga, and the tragedy of Amy Winehouse.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Which duets brought about an unexpected chemistry for you? Were there any artists that lead you to discover new aspects about yourself as a musician?
TONY BENNETT: Working with Lady Gaga was so wonderful — we had a great time in the studio together and we just kept going since it was so much fun. She was so prepared and completely confident and yet she was spontaneous during the entire session — ad-libbing lines so brilliantly. I had first met her at a benefit event in New York City at which we were both performing and in rehearsal I heard her singing with just piano and I was completely impressed with her voice — so it was not a surprise when she showed up in the studio and sang so beautifully.
Are there any artists that you’ve wanted to work with but haven’t had the chance to yet?
I always wanted to work with Louis Armstrong. Although we performed on the same stage together we never sang together. And Louis taught us all how to sing — you listen to his recordings and you learn something new every time about how to communicate a song.”
You’ve obviously played the role of mentor in many of your recent duets, but what are some things that you’ve learned from your partners over the years?
I learned that a lot of the younger artists are very talented and are true professionals. Each one of them came to the recording studio completely prepared, they knew all the material and you could tell they have had excellent training. Although many of them were not used to recording live — which is how I always record with the band in the studio — they truly embraced the concept and for many of them, they went back and recorded their own albums that way.
Did the process of putting together The Zen of Bennett bring back any memories of working with Amy Winehouse?
Very much so — it was so powerful to see the entire scene of the recording session with Amy on film, and I was glad that the session was captured because I think it shows what a true original artist she was, and what a genius she was as a vocalist. You can’t watch that scene and not know by the end of it what an truly extraordinary talent Amy was. I still miss her.
Bennett will be in New York tomorrow night to introduce the film at the IFC Center.