136

Mel Torme: The London Sessions

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
Mel Torme: The London Sessions Professionalism, I suppose, implies the ability to perform to the best of one's ability in spite of whatever obstacles are placed in one's path. In June 1977, when the late Mel Tormé recorded the songs that comprise The London Sessions, he relates that he was nervous, apprehensive, and nearly exhausted after a long flight from New York City, and preoccupied by thoughts of a soon-to-be-held divorce trial that would end his ten-year marriage to an Englishwoman.

Nevertheless, Mel was in the studio at the appointed time, ready to record with unfamiliar musicians, conducted by a man he'd been introduced to only moments before, and supervised by a recording engineer whose name he'd never even heard. Mel looked so tired, he writes in the liner notes, that "among the first questions asked... was whether I felt I was in shape to go ahead with the plan to record with the orchestra, or should we scrap [that] plan and track my voice later, which is basically the way most pop artists... make records these days." But Mel, always the consummate professional, said he considered that method too mechanical and would record with the orchestra as planned.

Of course, he rose superbly to the occasion, as he invariably did, and no trace of weariness or loss of focus is evident in the finished product, on which Tormé places his singular stamp on seven contemporary songs, one from Broadway (Stephen Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns") and another from Tin Pan Alley ("Bye Bye Blackbird"). The orchestra, reinforced by the presence of alto saxophonist Phil Woods, is splendid, conductor/arranger Chris Gunning inspired, and that anonymous recording engineer, Keith Grant, makes sure the package is handsomely wrapped.

With the exception of "Clowns" (which embodies the first of several bracing solos by Woods), the session is balladic all the way, canvassing Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind," Stevie Wonder's "All in Love Is Fair," Evan McColl's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," Janis Ian's "Stars," Paul Williams' "Ordinary Fool" and a medley of "When the World Was Young" and "Yesterday When I Was Young." Even the usually gregarious "Blackbird," which closes the program, flaps its wings slowly while Tormé gently caresses the lyric and Woods' sensuous alto provides a colorful backdrop.

Tormé's voice is strong, his intonation sure, and he makes every lyric seem fresh and alive. In the end, that's what a professional does. Tormé writes about the special meaning some of the words had for him, coming as they did at such a turbulent time in his life, such as "stars they come and go" (from "Stars"), "I always think with my heart" (from "Ordinary Fool"), "love's a crazy game" (from "All in Love Is Fair") and "losing my timing this late in my career" (from "Send in the Clowns"). But the phrase that touched me most, now that Mel is no longer with us, is the poignant refrain from Charles Aznavour's "Yesterday When I Was Young": ..."there are so many songs in me that won't be sung..." Happily, many of those Mel did sing have been preserved on disc for the pleasure of generations to come including The London Sessions, wonderfully recorded in Dual Layered Hybrid Super Audio.

Track Listing: Send in the Clowns; New York State of Mind; All in Love Is Fair; The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face; Stars; Ordinary Fool; Medley (When the World Was Young, Yesterday When I Was Young); Bye Bye Blackbird.

Personnel: Mel Torme.

Title: The London Sessions | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Audio Fidelity


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read BACHanalia CD/LP/Track Review BACHanalia
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Hallways CD/LP/Track Review Hallways
by Paul Rauch
Published: June 24, 2017
Read The Crave CD/LP/Track Review The Crave
by John Sharpe
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Chase The Light (Excursions in Soul, Reggae, Funk, and Dub) CD/LP/Track Review Chase The Light (Excursions in Soul, Reggae, Funk, and Dub)
by Joe Gatto
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Kickin' Child - The Lost Album 1965 CD/LP/Track Review Kickin' Child - The Lost Album 1965
by Doug Collette
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Towards Language CD/LP/Track Review Towards Language
by John Eyles
Published: June 23, 2017
Read "One Minute Later" CD/LP/Track Review One Minute Later
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 28, 2017
Read "Sky Begins" CD/LP/Track Review Sky Begins
by Dave Wayne
Published: July 11, 2016
Read "Through The Glass" CD/LP/Track Review Through The Glass
by Nicola Negri
Published: March 25, 2017
Read "New Focus On Song" CD/LP/Track Review New Focus On Song
by Roger Farbey
Published: July 23, 2016
Read "Flux" CD/LP/Track Review Flux
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 18, 2016
Read "All My Treasures" CD/LP/Track Review All My Treasures
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: November 20, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.