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Tony Bennett Says TV Special Is Just That

Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

Tony Bennett has been spending the year celebrating his 80th birthday — which actually took place on Aug. 3.

He was designated a Jazz Master by the National Endowment For the Arts. One of his paintings was accepted into the Smithsonian Institute of Art. He released a star-studded “Duets” album in September, and next month he’ll receive the Bill board magazine Century Award.

And, Bennett notes, he’s been “getting birthday cakes every day.”

The festivities hit the small screen Tuesday, when NBC airs “Tony Bennett: An American Classic,” an outgrowth of the “Duets” album project that was directed by Academy Awards-winner Rob Marshall (“Chicago,” “Memoirs of a Geisha”) and, according to Bennett, is unlike any TV program he’s ever done.

“It’s different than anything that’s ever been on TV, period,” Bennett says. “That’s what I love about it — it’s original. It’s a fi lm for television. It’s never been done before.”

The “film,” of course, is based on songs that Bennett performs with Barbra Streisand, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Christina Aguilera, Diana Krall and others from the “Duets” album, along with tributes by Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bruce Willis, John Travolta and Robert DeNiro. The hourlong show brings together highly conceptual numbers, including several Las Vegas-style songand-dance productions.

The show was fi lmed during a monthlong shoot at the Los Angeles Theater.

“There’s a different set for each artist,” Bennett says. “It’s (set in) all the different places I’ve played — like Carnegie Hall with Stevie Wonder, and Michael Bublé and John Legend at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas. ... It’s so spectacular, you won’t believe it.”

The show is ultimately designed to tell Bennett’s story — but without any dialogue from the singer himself. That will come next year, when a Clint Eastwood-produced biography, narrated by George Clooney, is released.

“I can’t tell you how fortunate I feel about all this,” Bennett says. “I got the best performers in the world, even with the director like Rob Marshall and then Clint Eastwood and George Clooney and these wonderful artists that are on the record and in the show ...

“It’s really wonderful. I’m just over the moon with what’s going on.”

"Tony Bennett: An American Classic" airs at 8 p.m. Tuesday (November 21st) on NBC, WDIV-TV (Channel 4) in Detroit. For information visit www.nbc.com.

Web Site: www.nbc.com

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