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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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At the Crescendo

Fresh Sound FSR-CD 476




1. From This Moment On

2. September Song

3. That Old Black Magic

4. Get Out Of Town

5. My Shining Hour

6. Goody, Goody
7. County Fair

8. The Christmas Song

9. A Stranger In Town

10. I Wish I Were In Love Again

11. Moonlight In Vermont

12. Youíre Driving Me Crazy

13. Bernieís Tune

14. Our Love Is Here To Stay

15. Old Devil Moon

16. Blue Moon

17. Have You Met Miss Jones?

18. Jeepers Creepers

19. Mountain Greenery

20. Imagination

21. Get Happy

1. Itís Only A Paper Moon

2. What Is This Thing Called Love?

3. One For My Baby

4. Love Is Just A Bug

5. A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square

6. Autumn Leaves

7. Just One Of Those Things

8. The Girl Next Door

9. Lover Come Back To Me

10. Looking At You

11. The Tender Trap

12. Iím Beginning To See The Light

13. Itís All Right With Me

14. Manhattan

15. Taking A Chance On Love

16. Home By The Sea

17. Itís De-Lovely

18. Tenderly

19. I Wish I Was In Love Again

20. Nobodyís Heart

Mel Tormé - Vocals, piano
Al Pellegrini - Piano, clarinet (CD1)
Jim Dupre - Bass (CD1)
Dick Shanahan - Drums, bongoes (CD1)
Marty Paich - Piano, accordion (CD2)
Don Fagerquist - Trumpet (CD2)
Max Bennett - Bass (CD2)
Mel Lewis - Drums (CD2)
Larry Bunker - Conga drums, accordion (CD2)

Some songs are indelibly associated with particular singers: for example, Manhattan with Ella Fitzgerald and Cry Me a River with Julie London. Mel Tormé first came to many people's attention with Mountain Greenery, a Rodgers & Hart song which was a big hit for Mel and kept him in the British pop charts for 19 weeks in 1956. The song is included in this double CD which comprises two sessions recorded at the Crescendo in Hollywood in 1954 and 1957.

On the 1954 recordings, Tormé is accompanied by the Al Pellegrini Trio. Mel was a capable pianist (and drummer and arranger) as well as vocalist, so he takes over the piano for some tracks from Pellegrini, who switches to the clarinet. The second CD has Mel backed by the Marty Paich Quintet. Tormé made some of his finest recordings with Marty Paich's larger groups but he works well with Paich's smaller group, which included trumpeter Don Fagerquist (scorching on Lover Come Back to Me).

Both sessions display Tormé singing mainly jazz standards with his inimitable charm, perfect pitching and improvisatory skill. Some jazz vocalists are overrated while Tormé tends to be overlooked, but he was a unique jazz singer who improvised like a jazz soloist. As proof of his vocal expertise, sample his scatting on Bernie's Tune, the extraordinarily long note he holds at the end of Old Devil Moon, or his daringly delayed phrasing in Just One of Those Things. He handles ballads with the same apparent relaxation as faster numbers - a relaxation that comes from the confidence he could have after honing his talents with bands led by Chico Marx and Artie Shaw, and his own vocal group, the Mel-Tones. After all, his first professional vocal appearance was at the age of four!

Tormé also comes across as the consummate entertainer, creating a good rapport with the audience. He even tries out some comedy on Autumn Leaves, which he sings in French, although it starts nearer to Franglais. The multi-talented Tormé was also a considerable composer: he had a hand in writing three tracks on the first CD. His best-known composition is The Christmas Song but he also wrote A Stranger in Town and the multi-part County Fair. This latter is a remarkable mini-song-cycle which passes through several tempos and moods, conjuring up a typically American festivity.

We have good reason to be grateful to Gene Norman (who part-owned the Crescendo club), for thinking of setting up recording equipment to capture the singer in action. Tormé recorded many notable albums after this (I would especially recommend his duets with George Shearing) but his consistency was such that almost any album he recorded is worth acquiring. This double CD deserves to be in every jazz fan's collection,

Tony Augarde






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