VOICES Notes and news on Jazz Vocals releases
20 NOV 07 ANNE FARNSWORTH
Musician/singer Mel Torme was also a musician's singer. His last recorded live concert, A&E: An Evening With Mel Torme Live From The Disney Institute, is a spirited romp through the classics highlighting his unique blend of talents.
"On Green Dolphin Street" and "A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square" are revisited with enthusiasm and infectious energy. As homage to his friend Ella Fitzgerald, he rewrites the lyric to "Oh, Lady Be Good" and shows his chops to be equal to the great lady's as he scats her famous solo note for note.
"You Make Me Feel So Young" takes on added poignancy when sung by a septuagenarian. But Mel doesn't rely on nostalgia to pull it off -- his voice still has a youthful suppleness that lets him have fun.
Unlike the standard performance relationship of vocalist supported by instrumental backup, when Torme sang with a band, he literally was with the band. Like a horn player, he wove his melodic contributions into the tonal fabric, trading licks with the pianist, stepping forward to solo, then standing back to let others shine. First among equals, he epitomized the democratic nature that is the heart of jazz collaboration.
That's the amazing thing about Torme. Wind instruments are hard. Whether singer or instrumentalist, keeping your chops healthy as you age is a combination of clean living, good genes and luck. After 60 years in the business as a drummer, pianist, songwriter and singer, Mel had a lot of musicianship to offer the public. Luckily for us, his primary instrument of expression endured, sturdy, nimble and soft as velvet.