Support All About Jazz

All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help
136

Mel Torme: The London Sessions

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count Views
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.

Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Audio Fidelity | Style: Vocal


Shop For Jazz

CD/LP/Track Review
Multiple Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Velvet Moods Featuring the Original California Suite
Velvet Moods...
Cherry Red Records
2007
buy
The Classic Concert Live
The Classic Concert...
Concord Music Group
2005
buy
Torme
Torme
Verve Music Group
2003
buy
The London Sessions
The London Sessions
Audio Fidelity
2003
buy
Live At The Playboy Jazz Festival
Live At The Playboy...
Playboy Jazz
2002
buy
Swings Shubert Alley
Swings Shubert Alley
PolyGram Records
1960
buy
Frank Sinatra Frank Sinatra
vocalist
Lena Horne Lena Horne
vocalist
Carmen McRae Carmen McRae
vocalist
Rosemary Clooney Rosemary Clooney
vocalist
Tony Bennett Tony Bennett
vocalist
Billy Eckstine Billy Eckstine
vocalist
June Christy June Christy
vocalist

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

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