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Bennett kicks off season

It’s only a day after the Summer Solstice, and Teddy Bookman leading her organization, The Friends of The Arts, has already begun to heat up the summer months with some of the most scintillating eclectic and star-studded musical artistry this side of the Milky Way. Igniting the annual Summer Festival in meteoric fashion at the historic Planting Fields Arboretum and Estate tucked snugly in the heart of Old Brookville, was the, “stylishly sophisticated and elegant current purveyor of American popular songs,” Tony Bennett.

In a fashion befitting royalty of the art form, Anthony D. Benedetto, at the youngish age of 76, enraptured and mesmerized the capacity crowd of mixed generation fans (approx. 1,800 in the reserved tent area and 1,800 or more on the palatial and manicured great lawn) with his energy and his uninhibited, honest and fresh upbeat delivery of some of America’s most memorable tunes.

Bennett, never a stylist to be pigeonholed as a “Jazz singer,” nor noted by his fans and music critics as an improviser, delivered the goods with poignantly memorable and stylish tunes one might classify as an eclectic serving of ballads, traditional pop and jazz. He was accompanied by an outstanding ensemble of talented musicians, who showcased their chops on several solos, during some of Bennett’s amazing repertoire of 18 songs. Especially noteworthy was Grey Sargent who delivered some wicked hot licks on electric guitar, and Clayton Cameron who captured the imagination of the audience with a solo reminiscent of, according to Bennett, “the late great drum wizard, Gene Krupa.” Never missing a beat, his arms and sticks moved almost too fast to be seen. Accompanying them seamlessly were the very talented Paul Langosh on acoustic double bass, and Lee Musica on the eighty-eights.

At times talking to the audience as one would talk comfortably to a good old friend, Bennett, often a kidder, moved about the stage in his stylish iridescent shark skin blue suit, with red breast pocket handkerchief, and spoke jokingly of his earlier years, when he had so many hits he was considered the Brittney Spears of his day.

In between an American songbook replete with magical crowd favorites like, “The Best Is Yet To Come,” his signature “I Left My Heart In San Francisco,” Judy Garland’s “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and the up-tempo Duke Ellington classic “It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing,” Bennett brought the applauding and appreciative crowd to their feet several times.

When he delivered the Irving Berlin tune written for Fred Astaire, “Stepping Out With My Baby,” and Ira Gershwin’s, “Georgia,” sweet memories filled the air of a time long gone in the great days of Hollywood, but beautifully revisited because of Bennett’s immense talent — a true music man for all seasons.

The concert series holds great promise to entertain and enthrall future audiences. On July 6th, The Neville Brothers New Orleans–based R&B quartet, keeps the summer heat sizzling. More Louisiana spice à la Cajun Creole rhythms will fill the house as the legendary Buckwheat Zydeco accompanied by his wife Mary Ledet bring the second week of July to a close on the 13th. Lucinda Williams, graces the stage on July 20 and finishing out July on the 27th will be the, “California Rock/Dixie-inflected boogie/rockabilly” sounds of the first rate seven-member musical ensemble known as Little Feat. There are too many to list, but for a complete schedule call The Friends Of The Arts at 516-922-0061, or go online to www.friendsof, for information concerning this series and the Washington Mutual Jazz Festival that will run alternate weekends under the great tent.

Norm Harris, can be reached for Jazz’n Blues information in the tri-state area at, or by calling 347-3606 .

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