Jazz Vocals

Mel's First Christmas

09 DEC 09 ANNE FARNSWORTH

As co-writer of the "The Christmas Song," Mel Tormé is as closely associated with Christmas as Santa himself. So, it's surprising to find that 1992's Christmas Songs (Telarc), recorded with Keith Lockhart and the Cincinnati Sinfonietta, was Tormé's first full-length Christmas album. You can get it on sale right now as part of Concord's Holiday Sale.

Though he'd charted with pop singles, Christmas Songs is also remarkable because, after 60 years in the business, it marked the first time Tormé charted on Billboard's pop album charts.  It's easy to hear why. The arrangements of the sinfonietta (a small symphony orchestra) supporting him are expectedly lush yet also modern and fresh.

The arrangers have done much more than set beloved holiday classics in an orchestral mode. The yuletide pop and traditional standards range in presentation from orchestral formality to Tormé's signature effortless swing. His long-time trio sits at the center of the orchestra, the beating heart of Tormé's sound.

"Good King Wenceslas" begins with Tormé in a duet with Jennifer Leitham's bass. A jazzy "Glow Worm" flows in and out of a stately "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing." With three orchestral instrumentals and several multi-song medleys, the 16 cuts are a generous hour of music that's sophisticated, witty and urbane -- just like the man himself.

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    The Christmas Song

    Mel Torme With The Marty Paich Dek-Tette ...