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Thursday, July 23, 2009
Tony Bennett Surprises Jazz in July Crowd Last Night at 92Y

Tony Bennett surprises the crowd by taking the stage last night at Jazz in July / Photo Credit: Cory Weaver

Last night, Bill Charlap pulled off one of the biggest surprises in Jazz in July history – a totally unannounced and unexpected appearance by the legendary Tony Bennett who sang the concert’s two closing numbers in his first-ever appearance at the 92nd Street Y.

The concert was the second night of the Jazz in July summer festival, and it was a sold-out presentation of A Helluva Town: New York Jazz.

The show opened with A Helluva Town from On The Town by Bernstein and Comden and Green, featuring Bill Charlap, trumpet Byron Stripling, guitar Bucky Pizzarelli, bass Jay Leonhart and drums Lewis Nash. The second half featured Gershwin – as Charlap said, “You can’t have a concert about New York without some Gershwin – and the band played I got Rhythm. Charlap also pointed out that it wasn’t “I’ve got Rhythm,” but “I got Rhythm.” Ah, New Yawk-speak.

imageAnd then for the finale, all the musicians came out on stage for Broadway by Billy Bird, Teddy McRae, and Henri Woode. The instrumentalists were passing the tune around, when suddenly, totally without warning, out from the wings strode Tony Bennett. It took several seconds for the audience to recognize him, and even then the ovation was restrained. Bennett began to sing and everyone definitely believed what they were hearing. The air instantly electrified. 

Singer and band jammed back and forth, from player to vocalist to player, bringing this jubilant musical salute to the Great White Way – and the evening’s musical love song to New York City—to a bigger and bigger climax. When they finally finished with a flourish, the audience let out a roar and rose to their feet.

But Bill and Tony weren’t done with them yet.  With Bill accompanying him, Tony immediately launched into the familiar opening lines of I Happen to Like New York. He was just teasing the audience, though, and smoothly segued into Rodgers & Hart’s I’ll Take Manhattan. It was a perfect rendition, as only Tony Bennett can give. Bill Charlap joined him on piano, and they were accompanied by bass Jay Leonhart and drums Lewis Nash. Then as Tony came to the end, the rest of the band joined in for a glorious, New York finish, and the entire cast came out for a bow in front of a cheering standing ovation.

Only in New York Kids. Only at the 92nd Street Y. And we have one more photo after the jump! 

Tony Bennett surprises the crowd by taking the stage last night at Jazz in July / Photo Credit: Cory Weaver

Upcoming Jazz in July concerts include: Piano Jam: With Respect to Oscar on Jul 23, The Gerry Mulligan Songbook on Jul 27, It’s Jazz, Charlie Brown: The Music of Vince Guaraldi on Jul 28 and the Saxophone Summit on Jul 28.


  • Jazz Piano at 92Y Series Subscription
  • 92Y Podcast: Pianist Bill Charlap, Artistic Director of Jazz in July Summer Festival

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