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First enamored with rock, Torff caught the jazz bug after attending a Jamey Aebersold workshop (his instructors included Clark Terry and McPartland), then headed off to Berklee. In the 1970s, bored with their curriculum, he moved to New York City and immediately started landing work, often being at the right place and right time.
From his view as a sideman, he praises the musicians who helped him: the demanding Williams (who prodded him to learn a wider scope of standards and was frank in her assessment of his playing, as he admits he failed badly in his first two attempts to accompany her); the congenial bassist Milt Hinton (who was known for befriending newly arrived bassists, inviting them to dinner in his home and recommending them for jobs) and saxophonist Oliver Nelson, who hired him on the spot after his initial bassist unexpectedly left a rehearsal for a gig. This was Torff's recording debut as a sideman. In addition, the professionalism of Shearing and Torme left its mark on the bassist, as did his stints with Grappelli and McPartland.
Torff's writing style makes his memoir a fast read, buoyed by his dry, often self-deprecating humor. His anecdotes range from poignant (his father died when the bassist was 15, though he learned more about him decades later) to hilarious (especially an odd rehearsal with Goodman and Shearing). A sense of loneliness is present throughout much of his story, as he never mentions his ex-wife by name or details much of his family life. The valuable advice that Torff shares about performing as a career should make In Love With Voices required reading in any jazz curriculum.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.