Tony Bennett pays tribute to ‘jazz greats’ as he accepts lifetime award

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Tony Bennett hailed jazz as a “treasured art form” as he accepted the lifetime achievement award at the 2021 Jazz FM Awards.

The American singer, 95, performed a pre-recorded version of The Way You Look Tonight, from the film Swing Time, from his home in New York.

British jazz saxophonist Courtney Pine, American bandleader Jon Batiste, singer Ego Ella May and multi-instrumentalist Emma-Jean Thackray were also among the winners at the event hosted by London’s Under the Bridge venue.

Bennett said: “I listened to jazz musicians to develop my own vocal style.

Tony Bennett was honoured at the 2021 Jazz FM Awards (Jazz FM/PA)
Tony Bennett was honoured at the 2021 Jazz FM Awards (Jazz FM/PA)

“They are such expert craftsmen which allows them to be spontaneous and stay in the moment and always change what they were doing.

“That really appealed to me and it’s one of the reasons I have gravitated to always having jazz musicians perform and record with me over the years.

“I would like to thank all the jazz greats I have worked with over the decades for this honour and thank you to Jazz FM for celebrating this treasured art form.”

Bennett revealed in February this year that he has Alzheimer’s disease after first being diagnosed in 2016.

In August, his son and manager, Danny, told American publication Variety that his father has retired from performing live.

Batiste took home both the album of the year and soul act of the year awards, while saxophonist Gary Bartz was named international jazz act of the year.

Thackray, meanwhile, picked up UK jazz act of the year and the EFG London Jazz Festival won the digital award for last year’s online festival, receiving a message of congratulations from London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Mr Khan said: “I want to pass on my congratulations to the EFG London Jazz Festival for winning the Innovation Award. This is a brilliant achievement and testament to the great work they’ve been doing to bring back music back to our city.

“And I can’t wait to see what they have in store for the whole festival back in action this November. I know you’ll keep innovating and celebrating, so congratulations again.”

Streamed via Jazz FM’s website, the ceremony was hosted by UK saxophonist Soweto Kinch and Jazz FM presenter Anne Frankenstein and featured guests including Sir Michael Parkinson, who gave a tribute to his longtime friend Bennett.

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
Courtney Pine was made a CBE for services to jazz music (Katie Collins/PA)

Also in attendance were author Nick Hornby, presenter Adil Ray, actor Danny John-Jules and tennis player Johanna Konta.

Jazz FM content director Nick Pitts said: “We’re extremely proud of this year’s event, which once again highlighted the incredible amount of talent, diversity and community spirit that exists within the global jazz scene.

“This year’s Jazz FM Awards with PPL and PRS for Music was also something incredibly special because every nominee and eventual winner had worked their hearts out to continue to make the music and the art relevant throughout a terrifying pandemic and difficult period for everyone.

“Our congratulations go to every single one of them.

“I’d also like to thank all of our partners and sponsors who made tonight possible, and of course our listeners for continuing to tune in and make us the UK’s best-loved jazz platform.”

The awards took place in conjunction with PPL and PRS for Music.

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