Continuing the musical legacy of her father, jazz master Tony Bennett, Antonia Bennett has taken her childhood dream and put it to the test by releasing a jazz-infested EP,“Natural,” on Aug. 17 for digital download.
The EP consists of six tracks of smooth ballads, including remakes of two classics: “Puttin’ On the Ritz,” by Irving Berlin and Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield.” The album is simply genius, and it is a reflection of her musical background, of everything she learned from her father.
“I started out, obviously, singing American songbook, which was a great influence,” said Bennett. “I grew up with that music, so it came pretty natural to me. It’s hard not to get inspired when you’re around music like that, because it’s so beautiful.”
Growing up surrounded by musicians, Bennett has been performing since the age of 4 with the great Count Basie at international casinos and jazz clubs, as well as singing for musical icons Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
Not knowing much else but how to entertain an audience, she began considering music as a permanent career move at 17. Bennett attended a musical conservatory, the Berklee College of Music, to sharpen her sophisticated, silk-like vocals, and the Lee Straburg Theatre and Film Institute for dancing and acting.
“I always knew I wanted to do something with the arts,” she said. “I wasn’t quite sure in what way it would manifest, but I was always interested in a lot of different things. Not just music, but dance and art and I was really into movies as well. Then just as I got older, it started to round out and I began to dive into music a lot more.”
Playing instruments privately as a writing tool but preferring to use her voice as an instrument, Bennett hit the studio for vocal lessons in Los Angeles after college with vocal coach Mark Rank. Studying and practicing at home wasn’t enough for the beautiful, fair-skinned redhead, who wanted to fine tune her voice to give her fans the best show she could.
With the idea to produce a pop record set to be available to the public soon, Bennett set up a meeting with award-winning songwriter Holly Knight and Grammy-nominated pianist/arranger Larry Golding, and they first felt it appropriate to create an EP that paid homage to Bennett’s heritage.
“For me, a lot of it was just sitting down with Larry Golding, the piano player, and playing songs and picking ones we thought were great – just kind of hanging out and seeing what comes naturally to us,” Bennett said. “He and I chose most of the tunes together, and then we would sit down, come up with arrangements and find a way to work it out or where it sounded good to both of us.”
With the trend of music being something that comes naturally to her, it was only appropriate that the album be titled “Natural,” marking the expression of the chapter in her life she is currently at, and what’s to come from this humble beginning.
“The meaning for me with the title is that this is what comes the most naturally to me, and it’s very basic,” she said. “Most of it is piano and voice, and that was how I started when I was a small child singing songs.”
A recurrent topic in some of the greatest songs written, Bennett has felt the prick of heartache just like everyone has, filling her album with relationship sorrow claiming, “Before things come together, they have to fall apart. It’s part of the learning process.” Her favorite song from the EP, “The Thrill is Gone,” expresses just that.
“Now I’m doing it [singing] with a lot more awareness,” she said. “When I was a kid, I was very influenced by my dad’s piano player at the time, Ralph Sharon. He gave me a lot of great inspiration, and kind of brought me along as a singer. He’d really work with me and make sure that I was doing everything I needed to do to make it look good and sound good.”
Before hitting the studio again in September/October to record a full-length record with Mesa/Bluemoon recordings, Bennett has been touring the country with her father, opening all of his gigs.
“It’s great to be on the road with such wonderful musicians,” said Bennett. “It’s such a well- oiled ship, and everything runs so smoothly that it gives me the chance to just focus on music and give the best performance I can.”