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As if a new album ("Viva Duets"), book ("Life Is a Gift: The Zen of Bennett") and a movie also titled "The Zen of Bennett" aren't enough, Tony Bennett already has his next project in motion -- a jazz album with Lady Gaga.
Bennett, who recorded "The Lady is a Tramp" for his 2011 "Duets II" album, tells Billboard that Gaga's father, Joseph Germanotta, called him on his daughter's behalf while she was on tour in Australia.
"He said she told him that 'I want to do a jazz album with Tony Bennett, a jazz album,' " Bennett recalls. "So that will be the next album after ('Viva Duets')."
The two will be working with arranger/orchestrator Marion Evans, though Bennett says that the song list is "secret." Studio plans are still being determined.
"It's going to really reaffirm that she's one of the best jazz singers that anyone's ever heard," Bennett adds. The set will also let the ageless Bennett immerse himself once again in his very favorite musical genre.
"I'm a great lover of jazz, which is strictly an American art form that was invented out of the churches of New Orleans, and then it became elongated into improvised jazz," he explains. "I'm an entertainer, but I have a great affection for the great jazz artists that commit their life to just playing what they feel and being honest with what they're doing. It's a spectacular music that the world loves. We just finished three and a half months of touring all over Europe and we did quite a few big jazz festivals, and the people internationally just love American jazz and they show up and they walk away swooning over what they just heard."
With the Gaga collaboration in the offing, Bennett is busy promoting the just-released "Viva Duets" -- which pairs him with Latin singers such as Marc Anthony, Gloria Estefan, Christina Aguilera, Ricardo Arjona and more -- as well as the two "Zen" projects. The film, Bennett says, was the brainchild of his son and manager Danny Bennett; directed by Unjoo Moon, it will be released theatrically on Oct. 24 and will also be available on Netflix on Nov. 12. And as the titles suggest, both it and the book mix biographical details with the singer's "philosophy and how I feel about life."
Doing those, he says, "just reaffirmed how I feel about the power of nature and...everything I've felt about my life. I've been very successful wtih the fact that from 1950 to now the audiences have never let me down and they reaffirm that they love what I do, and that creates a tremendous contentment for me. When I can make people feel that good, I walk away saying, 'Wow...' It's just the art of giving; when you give you get and you don't take. You just get from giving."
The "Life is a Gift" book, which also includes images of some of Bennett's paintings, will be published Nov. 20. He has several dates booked in the U.S. through the end of the year including a Dec. 18 Haitian benefit in Grand Rapids, Mich., organized by author Mitch Albom, who wrote the foreword for "Life is a Gift."
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