Vocal Goodies II: Classic Singers
"That Old Feeling , the first track on Torme's self titled album, is a lively tune tinged with sadness ï" he's happy to see his old lover, but he recognizes that he won't fall in love again until he gets over her, which isn't likely to happen anytime soon. On the next track, it's a lonely Sunday morning, it's gloomy, and he hasn't been able to sleep. The somber mood pervades the rest of the album, turning this into a soundtrack for a late night alone with a bottle of whiskey and a pack of cigarettes.
However, good singing is good singing, no matter what the subject matter, and Torme makes beautiful music out of several songwriters' tales of loneliness and abandonment. Torme comes at the beginning of the most successful phase of the singer's career, one that established him as a successful interpreter of popular songs. On this album Torme taints his boyish lilt with a weariness that suits the cheerless material well; although Torme can obviously swing with the best of them, he knows that the songs here call for intimate sorrow.
Marty Paich's orchestrations are tight and muted and a bit spartan, forgoing the ornamentation and lush setting that would have turned many of these songs of loneliness into maudlin slush. The top-notch West Coast session men that make up the orchestra handle the arrangements expertly and contribute tasteful solos when the moment arises. Especially effective is a bare-boned arrangement of two songs in which Torme is accompanied only by guitar; when he sings "no one's heart belongs to me today the sparse setting effectively highlights his solitude. Also welcome is a rendition of "'Round Midnight , seldom heard with lyrics, and the Latin vamp that permeates "I Don't Want To Cry Anymore . However, "Blues In the Night is turned into a lengthy tone poem and, while Paich can't be faulted for being ambitious, he attempts to create lofty art out of a song that never really called for such aspirations.
Torme can join the ranks of some of Sinatra's work as a great break-up album. A bit of a downer, but an engaging listen nonetheless.
Sings Sweet Songs For Swingers
Ella's Songbook series was so popular both critically and commercially that it cast a very long shadow over her other fine work for Norman Granz and Verve. Slowly these sessions are beginning to see the light of day, and Sings Songs for Sweet Swingers is one such session of Ella at her best. It's difficult to find a bad Ella album, and this session, recorded around the same time as the Gershwin songbooks, features the singer's regular potion of swagger, sass, and style and doesn't disappoint.
While each of the songbooks focus on the work of a single composer and at times seem like painstakingly meticulous efforts of craftsmanship, Sings features an assortment of tunes, and seems like a much more spontaneous effort that gives Ella an opportunity to cut loose. Much of the credit goes to Frank DeVol here. He made most of his money writing for television shows like My Three Sons and his arrangements feature the immediacy and novelty that one would expect from working in this medium. He uses a very broad palette to create a variety of textures for each tune and makes each song sound different from the rest. From the romantic vibes and piano behind "Moonlight Serenade to the stomping riff that anchors "Lullaby of Broadway , DeVol brings a fresh approach to even the most shopworn of tunes. Ella once again proves that she can sing virtually anything and make it her own.
Although Sings Songs for Sweet Singers lacks the transcendent quality that makes the songbook series more than just a collection of pop songs, it is still a highly appealing album. Ella fans will appreciate it; newcomers will enjoy it; and almost no one will be able to say the title three times fast.
My Gentleman Friend
Let's be clear about one thing from the start. This is more of a pop album than a jazz album, and anyone who buys My Gentleman Friend for the presence of any of the other musicians involved ï" especially Kenny Burrell ï" will probably be disappointed. Those who have encountered Blossom Dearie on any of her other Verve releases will be wiser, for she has always been more of an elegant cabaret singer whose delicate voice and modest piano playing lifts her just slightly above a mere interpreter of tunes. Despite the fact that her renditions of song like "You Fascinate Me So are teeming with sweetness, they have about as much substance and weight as a soap bubble and are perhaps best experienced as background music for a romantic dinner rather than as careful listening.
However, Dearie would probably be satisfied with this assessment, content to deliver pleasant pop to the masses. It a shame, though, that Burrell and Jaspar (who guests on two tracks) aren't given more to do than add a few indifferent solos. While Dearie has turned in excellent performances before ï" her album of Comden and Green is a subdued classic and features a more eager Burrell ï" she makes some odd choices here, as if she's running out of good songs to interpret. The obligatory French tunes are fairly pleasant, but forgettable and only "Someone To Watch Over Me has a depth that suggests Dearie has a real knack for putting an intimate spin on a song we have all heard before.
Perhaps Dearie's real legacy will always be paving the way for sultry songbirds like Diana Krall, and fans of that particular style will probably find My Gentleman Friend appealing. Others will wish a meal was served before dessert.
Tracks: 1. That old Feeling 2. Gloomy Sunday 3. Body and Soul 4. Nobody's Heart 5. I Should Care 6. House Is Haunted By the Echo of Your Last Goodbye 7. Blues In the Night 8. I Don't Want To Cry Anymore 8. Where Can I Go Without You 9. How Did She Look 10. 'Round Midnight 11. I'm Gonna Laugh You Out Of My Life.
Personnel: Mel Torme-vocal; with Marty Paich's Orchestra.
Ella Fitzgerald-Sings Songs For Sweet Swingers
Tracks: 1. Sweet and Lovely 2. Let's Fall In Love 3. Makin' Whoopee 4. That old Feeling 5. I Remember You 6. Moonlight Serenade 7. Gone With the Wind 8. Can't We Be Friends 9. Out Of This World 10. My Old Flame 11. East Of the Sun (West Of the Moon) 12. Lullaby Of Broadway.
Personnel: Ella Fitzgerald-vocal; with the Frank DeVol Orchestra including Harry "Sweets Edison-trumpet.
Blossom Dearie-My Gentleman Friend
1. Little Jazz Bird 2. Gentleman Friend 3. It's Too Good To Talk About Now 4. Chez Moi 5. You Fascinate Me So 6. You've Got Something I Want 7. Boum 8. L'Etang 9. Hello Love 10. Someone To Watch Over Me.
Personnel: Blossom Deaire-vocal, piano; Kenny Burrell-guitar; Ray Brown-bass; Ed Thigpen-drums; Bobby Jaspar-flute.