June 17, 2024

Mel Torme In The Studio and In Concert
Mel Tormé
by Paula Edelstein

Mention the name of Mel Tormé and anyone who had the pleasure of seeing him perform “live” will compare his voice to a string of pearls in a velvet glove and one that ranks among the greatest jazz singers of the 20th century. Born Melvin Howard Tormé in Chicago, he began singing with the Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra at a Chicago restaurant; studied piano and drums, sang with various bands and acted in radio soap operas, toured as a singer and arranger with the Chico Marx band in the 40s, appeared in films and with his own vocal swing ensemble, the Mel-Tones. WOW!

Before his untimely death in 2000, his prominent career as a pop and jazz vocalist received worldwide recognition and even garnered Mel Tormé successive Grammy awards for best male jazz vocalist for the albums AN EVENING WITH GEORGE SHEARING AND MEL TORME in 1983 and for TOP DRAWER in 1984. Mel Tormé also appeared as soloist and conductor with several symphonies, including the San Francisco and Dallas symphonies. In Los Angeles, the city officials proclaimed Mel Tormé Week in commemoration of his 50th anniversary in show business in 1980. With over 300 songs written by the great Mel Tormé, his “The Christmas Song,” has become a holiday favorite. Two books: The Other Side of the Rainbow and Traps, The Drum Wonder, recount his associations with Judy Garland and Buddy Rich respectively. However, if you missed Tormé’s many spectacular concerts, then that’s unfortunate. But don’t despair. The great folks at Concord Jazz had the good fortune to record his great sessions and concerts for posterity sake in 1988 and 1989 and their re-issue of two of Tormé’s greatest CDs are now in one great package! MEL TORMÉ and the Marty Paich Dek-Tette, IN THE STUDIO AND IN CONCERT is a two CD-set that features two classic albums: REUNION and IN CONCERT TOKYO. The mid-’80s collaborations mark the first and only meetings between the legendary vocalist and the brilliant arranger and his swinging 10-piece Dek-Tette. “In Concert Tokyo” is the only recording of their “live” concert in existence! On REUNION, you get nine great songs, complete with the accompaniment of Marty Paich’s conducting and arrangements. Tormé’s great phrasing, swinging style, and scat singing is excellent on his Bossa Nova Potpourri: “The Gift” and “One Note Samba.” “The Goodbye Look,” and his medley of “For Whom The Bell Tolls” and the Chick Corea and Al Jarreau favorite, “Spain (I Can Recall)” are thrust into the limelight with expert variety and musical expression. His phrasing and harmony is abundant and the lush big band is right there with him. He stretches on “The Blues,” by Duke Ellington and designates this as one of his own…gently pressing a sympathetic vibration. In other words, this CD is filled with great singing, great songs, and great musicians. On IN CONCERT TOKYO, Tormé sings his holiday favorite, “The Christmas Song,” as the finale of a 12-song program. Opening and reprising with “It Don’t Mean A Thing” Mel Tormé sings his heart out. Recorded “live” in Tokyo, Japan in 1989, this recording is a career recording that demanded all of Mel’s savvy, musicianship and bravado to pull it off. He swings, and then breaks stride with introspective moments of feeling and the Tormé-Paich collaboration. He breaks free on “Cotton Tail,” drumming away on the incomparable Marty Paich arrangement with Ken Peplowski on clarinet. “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “When The Sun Comes Out,” and “The Carioca” leap off the pages with Tormé’s exceptional delivery. This collection has “heart” and this is what makes Mel Tormé one of those great musicians that were able to do things that the rest of the world thinks impossible. A Must Have.

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