Mel Tormé: Four Classic Albums

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A consummate jazz singer and prolific songwriter, Mel Tormé only improved with age. He was originally dubbed “The Velvet Fog”; later his voice matured and deepened, while retaining its unique sound and inflections. His first notable recordings were made in the 1960s, but in partnership with George Shearing and in reunions with Marty Paich he reached a new creative peak in the 80s. Whitney Balliett noted:”His songs seem to overflow, to surge out of him uncontrollably, as if singing were the easiest thing in the world for him.”

Pride of place here probably goes to Swings Shubert Alley, with skilled accompaniment and scoring by Paich and short but memorable contributions from Porcino, Pepper, Williamson, Hood, Perkins and Rosolino. Paich recalled: “When we picked the tunes we chose those geared not only to serve Mel as a vocalist but to serve instrumentally as well”. He handles the materials with imagination and wit (updating the lyrics of “All I Need Is the Girl”), and putting his imprimatur on “Sleepin’ Bee”, “Just In Time” and “Lola”.

The earlier Marty Paich Dek-tette date proved a happy collaboration with some then prominent West Coasters including Shank and Envoldsen. Try “Lulu”, “Lady Is a Tramp”, “Carioca” and “Lullaby of Birdland”. The lesser-known Mel Tormé Vol 1 rivals Schubert Alley in quality, but with slower tempos. “Old Feeling”, “Gloomy Sunday”, “Body and Soul”, and “‘Round Midnight” substantiate the point. A retitled “I Dig the Duke/I Dig the Count”, arranged and conducted by Johnny Mandel (but with incomplete and inaccurate personnel listings) is faster-paced and Mel clearly relishes the jazz potential of these compositions. An ebullient “Down for Double”, a scatting “Sent for You Yesterday” and an intriguing “Reminiscing in Tempo” (lyrics by Tormé) are among the highlights of a superlative session.

Leonard Feather remarks: “The honesty and conviction of the singing on these sides, the delightful premise of the album and the expert manner in which the routines were devised, made the happy outcome inevitable”. Four very tasty puddings.

Discography
CD1: [Mel Tormé & The Marty Paich Dek-tette] (1) Lulu’s Back in Town; When the Sun Comes Out; I Love to Watch the Moonlight; Fascinating Rhythm; The Blues; The Carioca; The Lady Is a Tramp; I Like to Recognize the Tune; Keepin’ Myself For You; Lullaby of Birdland; When April Comes Again; Sing for Your Supper; [Mel Torme Sings Shubert Alley] (2) Too Close for Comfort; Once in Love with Amy; A Sleepin’ Bee; On the Street Where You Live; All I Need Is the Girl; Just In Time; Hello Young Lovers; The Surrey with the Fringe on Top; Old Devil Moon; Whatever Lola Wants; Too Darn Hot; Lonely Town (78.13)
CD2: [Tormé Vol 1] (3) That Old Feeling; Gloomy Sunday; Body and Soul; Nobody’s Heart; I Should Care; The House Is Haunted (by the Echo of Your Last Goodbye); Blues in the Night; I Don’t Want to Cry Anymore; Where Can I Go without You; How Did She Look; ’Round Midnight; I’m Gonna Laugh You Out of My Life; [I Dig the Duke/I Dig the Count] (4) I Gonna Go Fishin’; Don’t Get Around Much Anymore; I Like the Sunrise; Take The “A” Train; Reminiscing in Tempo; Just A-Sittin’ And A-Rockin’; Down for Double; I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town; Blue and Sentimental; Oh What a Night for Love; Sent for You Yesterday (and Here You Come Today); In the Evening (When the Sun Goes Down) (80.43)
Tormé (v) and Marty Paich (p, arr, cond.) on CD1 and CD2 with:
(1) Bob Cooper, Jack Montrose (ts); Bud Shank (as); Jack DuLong (bar); Pete Candoli, Don Fagerquist (t); Bob Envoldsen (tb); Albert Pollan (tu); John Cave, Vincent DeRosa (frh); Red Mitchell (b); Mel Lewis (d). Hollywood, 16-18 January 1956; Los Angeles 21 January, 4 February, 11 February 1960.
(2) Perkins (ts); Art Pepper (as); Bill Hood (bar); Al Porcino, Stu Williamson (t); Frank Rosolino (tb); DeRosa (frh); Red Callender (tu); Joe Mondragon (b); Lewis (d).
(3) Shank (as), Perkins (bar), Dave Pell, Med Flory (ts); Richard Collins, Frank Beach, Jack Sheldon, Marion Chambers (t); Rosolino, George Roberts (tb); Richard Perissi, DeRosa (frh); John Kitzmiller (vib); Mondragon (b); Alvin Stoller, Shelly Manne (d, mar, bgo). Hollywood, June 1958.
(4) Johnny Mandel (cond, arr); Jo Maini (as); Ed Theodore (ts); Perkins (bar); Rosolino, Williamson (vtb); Jimmy Rowles (p); Al Hendrickson (g); Mondragon (b); Lewis, Manne (d). Los Angeles, 12 December 1960, 2 February 1961. [Teddy Edwards (ts) and Jack Sheldon (t) were also present].
Avid Jazz 1317