Reprinted from yesterday's late editions

Composer Alec Wilder has characterized Tony Bennett as having "a quality that lets you in." Maintaining that kind of intimacy isn't easy, especially on a wide stage, with a 32-piece orchestra and in front of a large audience.

As he demonstrated Wednesday night at Wolf Trap, Bennett is one of our best popular singers because he makes every selection his own. Even "For Once in My Life" and "Who Can I Turn To," duds in most hands, became singular musical experiences. The delicate arrangements were of no small help.

And how many of our major pop talents would devote an important part of an evening to Duke Ellington tunes? There were five of them - "Makin' That Love Scene," "Just a Lucky So-and-So," "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "Sophisticated Lady" and "It Don't Mean a Thing" - each done in its entirety. "Lady, sung only with piano backing, was exquisite.

Bennett's craftmanship goes beyond superb vocal control and careful choice of material. He also is a skilled actor who can communicate a song's story. This was especially evident in an unusual medley of "Autumn Leaves," and "When the World Was Young."

The orchestra was expertly led by veteran pianist-arranger Torrie Zito. Also noteworthywas the rhythm secion work of bassist John Giuffrida and drummer Danny D'Imperior as well as some nice solos by local saxophonist Richard Reiter.