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Tony Bennett sings bilingual duets with Marc Anthony, Vicentico

October 16, 2012|By Reed Johnson
  • Tony Bennett performs at the Exploring the Arts gala in October in New York City.
Tony Bennett performs at the Exploring the Arts gala in October in New York… (Larry Busacca / Getty Images…)

Is there a musician left in the world who Tony Bennett hasn't collaborated with?

At at an age when most artists are busy dictating their memoirs, the 86-year-old singer continues to flourish by partnering with younger colleagues, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, k.d. lang and whippersnappers like Elvis Costello (born 1954).

Now Bennett is expanding his repetoire again by venturing into Spanish-language and bilingual pop. His third album of duets, "Viva Duets," which will be released Oct. 22, teams Bennett with A-list Latin artists such as Christina Aguilera, Gloria Estefan and Marc Anthony. Those names should be familiar even to most English-speaking listeners.

But, characteristically, Bennett follows some less-expected pathways into Latin pop. On "Viva Duets" he also shares tracks with Spanish pop-rocker Miguel Bosé, Mexican regional music legend Vicente Fernandez, the Dominican singer-songwriter-producer Juan Luis Guerra and the chart-topping bachata king Romeo Santos.

The album's first single is a charming tag-team serenade by Bennett and Vicentico, frontman of the progressive-rock-ska Argentine band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. The duo trade verses of "Cold, Cold Heart," a tune made famous by Hank Williams, and the languid jazz arrangement evokes the impression of a worldly-wise older man in dialogue with his younger self, creating an emotional bridge that spans the language gap.

Bilingual duets albums -- like English-only duets albums before them -- are in danger of becoming another marketing fad. Here's one that, judging by the evidence, prizes sincerity and cultural sensitivity over mere novelty.

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