'S wonderful, 's marvelous that Tony Bennett should still belong to us. From the jazz singer's fellow World War II vets to Gen X hipsters, everyone now grants this 76-year-old institution tender goodwill for his openhearted musical conviction. "C'mon, listen," his hushed phrasings seem to suggest. "This one is beautiful."
Even so, where Frank Sinatra turned "English into American and American into song," as Robert Christgau put it, Sinatra's favorite vocalist sometimes turned song into operetta or contemporary Broadway. This disposition toward classical decorum and drama has occasionally made Bennett a bit of a ham in recent years -- which is why we initially winced when we saw that his new tribute to Louis Armstrong, It's a Wonderful World, was cut with k.d. lang. But the legend becomes her; Ms. High Drama hasn't sounded this down-to-earth in years. As for Bennett, well . . . c'mon, listen.