The Washington Post Sunday - - MUSIC -

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga ben­e­fited from the im­pri­matur of Tony Ben­nett, who has ba­si­cally fash­ioned his own cot­tage in­dus­try from record­ing songs with pop artists who fancy them­selves jazz vo­cal­ists, if only for one track. In­deed, that’s how his re­la­tion­ship with Gaga be­gan; they recorded “The Lady Is s Tramp” to­gether for Ben­nett’s “Duets II” al­bum. But he took a shine to Gaga and they be­came close friends. An­nie Lei­bovitz even shot Ben­nett sketch­ing a nude Gaga for the Jan­uary 2012 is­sue of Van­ity Fair. (The sketch later sold on eBay for $30,000.)

They teased fans with sur­prise ap­pear­ances at theMon­treal Jazz Fes­ti­val and the Frank Si­na­tra School of the Arts be­fore re­leas­ing their joint al­bum “Cheek to Cheek” in Septem­ber of 2014. Their “Great Amer­i­can Song­book” con­cert, taped at New York’s Lin­coln Cen­ter, aired on the PBS se­ries “Great Per­for­mances” in Oc­to­ber. The pop­u­lar­ity of “Cheek to Cheek” made Ben­nett, now 88, the old­est act to reach No. 1 on the Bill­board chart.

“It’s a test of mu­si­cian­ship, be­cause when you sing these old songs, you in­vite com­par­i­son with peo­ple who sang them in the past,” Gioia said. “So if Lady Gaga sings a stan­dard, she’s im­me­di­ately com­pared to Frank Si­na­tra or Bil­lie Hol­i­day or Ella Fitzger­ald, and that brings with it great risk. It brings with it tremen­dous risk. I com­mend Lady Gaga for tak­ing on that risk and I also praise her for pulling it off. I think she shows con­sid­er­able tal­ent as a jazz singer. I don’t think many pop megas­tars of her gen­er­a­tion could with­stand the scru­tiny of singing these songs live in con­cert, with­out Auto-Tune, shar­ing a stage with Tony Ben­nett and pull it off. Quite ex­tra­or­di­nary.”

Bob Dy­lan

Dy­lan’s 36th al­bum, “Shad­ows in the Night,” earned the grudg­ing re­spect of un­re­pen­tant jazz snob Ge­off Dwyer, au­thor of “But Beau­ti­ful: A Book About Jazz.”

“For me, jazz is so much kind of in­stru­men­tal mu­sic, and then there’s this thing called jazz vo­cal, which to me, is al­ready a kind of pop mu­sic,” Dwyer said. “And I know there’s all sorts of peo­ple that would cry out and com­plain about that and say, ‘oooh, Bil­lie Hol­i­day, Ella Fitzger­ald,’ or what­ever, but… that was as much pop mu­sic as it was jazz. It’s al­ready get­ting to­ward pop once you have a voice in it.”

But Dwyer’s endorsement wasn’t just rooted in “Shad­ows in the Night” alone. It was mostly be­cause Dy­lan had long es­tab­lished his chops as a skilled im­pro­vi­sa­tion­al­ist be­fore he ever thought about re­leas­ing an al­bum of Frank Si­na­tra songs. Just lis­ten to his many dif­fer­ent it­er­a­tions of “Tan­gled Up In Blue” or the nearly 12-minute med­i­ta­tion that takes place on “Sad Eyed Lady of the Low­lands.”

“The­myth, if not the re­al­ity of jazz, is that you could go and hear the same per­son many nights run­ning and it would be dif­fer­ent ev­ery time,” Dwyer said. “I think it tends to be in a jazz style, a lot of this stuff, rather than be­ing in­her­ently jazz with that in­her­ent core of it be­ing im­pro­vised.”

Queen Lat­i­fah/Dana Owens

Those who re­mem­ber that Queen Lat­i­fah be­gan her en­ter­tain­ment ca­reer as a rap­per will al­ways as­so­ciate her with 1993’s “U.N.I.T.Y.” And while Lat­i­fah was re­cently nom­i­nated for an Emmy for her per­for­mance as the em­press of the blues in “Bessie,” a pro­ject she’d been nurs­ing for 20 years, her in­ter­est in jazz and the blues didn’t come at the end of her ca­reer. If any­thing, her Os­car-nom­i­nated turn play­ingMa­maMor­ton in the 2002 movie-mu­si­cal “Chicago,” or the 2004 re­lease of “The Dana Owens Al­bum” (which, ti­tled af­ter her birth name, re­ceived a Grammy nod for best jazz vo­cal al­bum) likely boosted Lat­i­fah’s cred­i­bil­ity for “Bessie.”


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