March 04, 1991 12:00 PM

PBS (Sat., March 2,8 P.M. ET)

B

One of our most distinctive pop-song stylists, in concert with a full orchestra at a gussied-up Grand Ole Opry, croons and spoons his way through more than a score of songs. Of course, the sweet ache of his breathy delivery sounds best snuggled up to romantic ballads such as “It’s Not for Me to Say,” “Misty” and “Chances Are.”

Providing variety are special guests Patti Austin and the Gatlin Brothers, and Mathis even slips in a funny novelty number that seems to be about a seduction, right up until the last line reveals that he’s been singing about pledging funds to public television the whole time. (That’s fitting, since this program is interrupted no less than three times for solicitations.)

There’s also a nostalgic retrospective of the singer’s career, including footage of a 22-year-old, clearly petrified Mathis making his first TV appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1957.

At one point Mathis confides that he considers himself “a singer as opposed to a performer or an entertainer.” That’s patently obvious. His performance is visually soporific, but his sound is still absolutely dreamy. So turn up the volume and go on about your business.

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