"ASTORIA: PORTRAIT of an Artist" stylishly commemorates Tony Bennett's 40th anniversary in show biz by gathering together some select songs (and songwriters) and more than a few memories. Conjuring the latter are not only tunes that Bennett has previously recorded -- a reflective reprise of his first hit "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and an affecting, pared-down reading of "Speak Low" -- but also several enduring pop classics, among them Jerome Kern's "The Folks Who Live on the Hill," and Johnny Green's "Body and Soul."
While Bennett's trademark fondness for dramatic flourishes and finales sometimes get the best of him -- on the Kern tune, for example -- it's a minor distraction on an album otherwise distinguished by sensitive and often stirring interpretations and arrangements. Fusing "Weaver of Dreams" and "There Will Never Be Another You" into a medley makes for a near-seamless match, and the subtle but often swinging liberties the singer and his trio take on "Body and Soul" and other tunes are similarly effective. Many of the album's highlights, though, involve far less familiar material, including the new and touching "Antonia," the emotionally restless ballads "Where Do You Go From Love" and "It's Like Reaching for the Moon," and the haunting after-hours musing "Where Did the Magic Go."