Tony Bennett And Diana Krall On Reincarnating Gershwin Classics: 'It Never Goes Out Of Style'

Sep 15, 2018

Every piece of music produced is a roll of dice for success, but sometimes, the stars just align. The music of George and Ira Gershwin, two of the greatest American songwriters of all time, have been given new life once again by two of the greatest jazz artists of all time, Diana Krall and Tony Bennett. The pair's new album Love Is Here to Stay, out now, supplies an even dozen duets accompanied by the Bill Charlap trio.

NPR's Scott Simon spoke with Bennett and Krall about reincarnating these Gershwin classics like "Fascinating Rhythm" (Bennett's debut recording) and the thrill of performing them live even after so many years onstage.

Scott Simon: What makes the music of George and Ira Gershwin so distinctive? You've been been singing Gershwin all your life.

Tony Bennett: Well it never goes out of style, because it's so classical.

Diana Krall: That's right. And there are timeless stories about love and saying goodbye. All of those things are sort of in our Love Is Here to Stay.

Tony, how do you improvise with someone like Diana Krall?

Bennett: Oh it's easy. She's so talented that you just go with where she's at, and it all works out.

Is it that instinctive when the two of you work together, or do you say you take this line, I'll take that line?

Bennett: No, it's very spontaneous.

Krall: Very spontaneous. We recorded this live in the studio, so together. We didn't go in and do a bunch of fixes. We just sang together. That's why I'm laughing. You can hear me going, "I got rhythm," and then I'm looking at Tony as a laughing because of all the joy.

Tony, what do you feel when you sing?

Bennett: I love it. I love to communicate.

Krall: Tony and I work very intuitively. You said, "I like to communicate," and that in itself is a big statement. The way you communicate, the depth of feeling is always present, and the swing, the feel of swing. [snaps fingers] You can't really explain that, can you?

Bennett: It's natural.

Krall: It's natural. That's right.

We were on stage at The Rainbow Room. It's a joy to watch people. They just started to clap. The whole crowd just roared when you sang "Fascinating Rhythm," and it's something that goes right to [the heart.]

Right at the solar plexus, the heart. I mean people are hearing these great songs because of you.

Bennett: Well, that's nice to know.

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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "'S WONDERFUL")

TONY BENNETT: (Singing) It's wonderful. It's marvelous.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Every piece of music produced as a roll of dice for success. But a new release seems to have all the right elements The music of George and Ira Gershwin, two of the greatest American songwriters of all time, given voice by two of the greatest jazz artists of all time, Diana Krall and Tony Bennett.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "'S WONDERFUL")

DIANA KRALL: (Singing) You've made my life so glamorous. You can't blame me for feeling amorous.

BENNETT: (Singing) Oh, it's wonderful.

SIMON: Their album of an even dozen duets is "Love Is Here To Stay." Bill Charlap and his trio will accompany them, and we're in the studio with Diana Krall and Tony Bennett. Thanks so much for being with us, Tony.

BENNETT: Thank you.

SIMON: And Diana Krall, thanks so much.

KRALL: Thank you.

SIMON: What makes the music of George and Ira Gershwin so distinctive? You've been singing Gershwin all your life.

BENNETT: Well, it never goes out of style because it's so classical.

KRALL: That's right. And there are timeless stories that are about love and saying goodbye. All those things are sort of in our "Love Is Here To Stay".

SIMON: I want to hear a little more music. This is "I Got Rhythm".

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I GOT RHYTHM")

KRALL: (Singing) I've got rhythm. I've got music. I've got my man, who could ask for anything more? I got daisies in green pastures. I've got my man, who could ask for anything more?

BENNETT: (Singing) Old man trouble, I don't mind him. You won't find him around my door. I've got starlight. I've got sweet dreams. I've got my gal, who could ask for anything more? Who could ask for anything more?

SIMON: Wow. Tony, how do you improvise with someone like Diana Krall?

BENNETT: Oh, it's easy. You know, she's so talented that you just go with where she's at, and it all works out.

SIMON: Is it that instinctive when the two of you work together, or do you say you take this line, I'll take that line?

BENNETT: No, it's right very spontaneous.

KRALL: Very spontaneous. And you can hear me - like, we recorded this live in the studio, so together. And we didn't go in and do a bunch of fixes. We just sang together. That's why I'm laughing. You can hear me going (singing) I got rhythm.

And then I'm looking at Tony, and I start laughing because all the joy.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I GOT RHYTHM")

BENNETT: (Singing) Who could ask for - ask for anything more?

SIMON: Tony, what do you feel when you sing?

BENNETT: I love it. I love to communicate.

KRALL: Tony and I work very intuitively. And it's not always something - this music that we sing - you said, I like to communicate. And that in itself is a big statement. The way you communicate - the depth of feeling is always present. And the swing - the feel swings.

(SOUNDBITE OF FINGERS SNAPPING)

KRALL: ...Always have to feel (vocalizing)...

BENNETT: (Laughter).

KRALL: ...You can't really explain that, can you?

(SOUNDBITE OF TONY BENNETT AND DIANA KRALL SONG, "FASCINATING RHYTHM")

BENNETT: It's natural.

KRALL: It's natural. That's right.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FASCINATING RHYTHM")

BENNETT: (Singing) Fascinating rhythm, you've got me on the go. Fascinating rhythm, I'm all a quiver.

SIMON: You're still performing, Tony.

BENNETT: Oh, I love it.

SIMON: Yeah.

KRALL: We were on stage at The Rainbow Room. It's a joy to watch people. They just started to clap. The whole crowd just roared when you sang, like, "Fascinating Rhythm," and it's something that goes right to here.

SIMON: Right at the solar plexus, the heart. I mean, people are hearing these great songs because of you.

BENNETT: Well, that's nice to know.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THEY CAN'T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME")

KRALL: (Singing) The way you wear your hat, the way you sip your tea, the memory of all that - no, no, they can't take that away from me.

BENNETT: Singing) The way your smile just beams, the way you sing off-key, the way you haunt my dreams - no, no, they can't take that away from me.

SIMON: Diana Krall, Tony Bennett - their new album of duets, "Love Is Here To Stay". Thanks so much for being with us both of you.

BENNETT: Thank you.

KRALL: Thank you for having us. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THEY CAN'T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME")

KRALL: (Singing) But I'll always, always keep the memory of.

BENNETT: (Singing) The way you hold your knife. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.