The Best of the Improv Recordings

by: Tony Bennett

Improv was a label started by Tony Bennett and businessman Bill Hassett. Bennett was fed up with the suits at Columbia Records, who were trying to make him sing rock & roll. When his contract expired at the beginning of the 1970s, he and Hassett formed a label to help him realize his aesthetic ambitions, and Improv was born. Bennett recorded five albums for the label between 1973 and 1977 before it went bankrupt. These recordings may not have sold well -- due largely to distribution problems -- but all of them were critically acclaimed. On these sides, Bennett is in awesome company throughout, with talent ranging from Bill Evans and Earl Hines to Ruby Braff to Marian McPartland to Buddy Tate and Charlie Byrd. Selections come from the original albums Tony Bennett Sings 10 Rodgers & Hart Songs, Tony Bennett Sings More Great Rodgers & Hart, Tony Bennett and Bill Evans Together Again (this was the follow-up to the Fantasy set entitled The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album, and is easily the better of the two), Life Is Beautiful, and Tony Bennett with the McPartlands and Friends Make Magnificent Music. Although collectors will opt for the completist box set (The Complete Improv Recordings), this is a good summation of a restlessly original artist during the biggest gamble of his professional career. ~ Thom Jurek

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