Oct. 26 2011 12:00 AM

His chart-topping ‘Duets II’ CD includes teamings with Lady Gaga, John Mayer and the late Amy Winehouse


There was a surprising scene last week at the Wharton
Center. A group of five young women — probably in their late teens or
early 20s — were oggling a framed poster of a singer just outside the
entrance of the venue.

“Do you have his new CD yet?” one asked her friends.
“It’s so great!” another chirped. “I can’t wait to see him. Did you get
tickets already?”

If the face on the poster had belonged to Justin
Timberlake or Justin Bieber or Eminem, there wouldn’t have been
anything startling about the situation.

But the man who had the ladies all excited was none other
than Tony Bennett, a performer old enough to be the grandfather of any
of them. 

Bennett has been entertaining audiences for more than
half a century, and he’s still on the road. He’ll return to the Wharton
Center Friday.

In an interview with Canada’s National Post newspaper
last week, writer Mike Doherty noted, "At 85, he’s fit as a
Stradivarius, his singing voice still strong enough to fill a concert
hall without amplification.

"His new album, ’Duets II,’ on which he collaborates with
17 younger stars, is his first-ever chart-topping effort in the U.S.,
out of 73 releases dating back 60 years.”

"Duets II" includes teamings with John Mayer, Amy Winehouse and even Lady Gaga, who won over Bennett.

"What I couldn’t believe is this highly intellectual
artist — she’s different every night," he told The National. "I’ve
never seen anybody that creative in the performing arts. She sings as
good as Ella Fitzgerald, or anybody that I ever heard.”

He was also wowed by the late Winehouse, in what turned out to be her last recording session.

“‘She felt a camaraderie with me, and realized, ‘This guy
knows what I’m doing.’ And she put a couple of Dinah Washington licks
on the record.”

Tony Bennett

8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28

Great Cobb Hall

Wharton Center,

East Lansing