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Mel Torm: Live At The Playboy Jazz Festival

Jim Santella By

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Recorded at his final Playboy Jazz Festival appearance, this 36-minute session was envisioned by Mel Tormé as a tribute to the Swing Era. As was his habit, the singer created an eclectic set that included a little of everything: vocal with piano accompaniment, vocal interacting with big band, the singer with his reliable trio, and much more. Tormé was the consummate professional who never lost the fresh energy that sparked every appearance he made. His distinctive voice and his animated stage presence made every live appearance special. The evening of June 12, 1993 found him working with Ray Anthony’s orchestra, which then included most of the all-star big band performers from the Los Angeles area. Roger Neumann stepped out several times with thrilling solo jaunts, and trumpeter Anthony displayed a big, fat, blasting tone to recall the heyday of Swing. The band resembled Duke Ellington’s orchestra on “I’m Gonna Go Fishin’,” which, Tormé reminded the audience, came from the score to Anatomy of a Murder. His interpretation of “Sophisticated Lady” and “I Didn’t Know About You” came without band. John Colianni joined the singer for a slow, rubato portrayal that stirred the embers gently. Later, Tormé’s scat chorus with band unison on “It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing” changes the mood. Forcefully, the singer moves naturally through material he’s performed a thousand times; yet, he still makes it sound fresh. He introduces Colianni’s piano solo, John Leitham’s bass solo, and Donny Osborne’s drum fours while scatting the response in characteristic fashion. The program’s finale, a 15-minute Swing medley, pulls out all the stops. Tormé sings the first six minutes with big band accompaniment and slips in several songs besides what’s planned. Then, for “Sing, Sing, Sing,” he sits down at the drum set and trades away with Anthony’s big fat trumpet, while the band holds the song firmly in its grasp. This album preserves a treasured memory of an extraordinary performer who always gave the audience the very best.

Track Listing: Opus 1; Medley: I Had the Craziest Dream/Darn That Dream; I

Personnel: Mel Torm

Title: Live At The Playboy Jazz Festival | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Playboy Jazz


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