Since a lot of people only know Mel Tormé as a comedic actor, making periodic appearances on Seinfeld and other shows, it would be a shame not to focus a little attention on what he had been known as for so many years, and that acting was a way of paying rent.
Mel Tormé, dubbed The Velvet Fog by fans and cohorts from the 1940s on, was one of those gifted and talented artists whose work was such an indelible part of the Great American Songbook – that not only as a singer, but a writer of such standards as The Christmas Song (“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire . . .” – one which you hear every year in December, whether you’re aware of it or not.
Starting in 1944 with his group The Mel-Tones, Tormé had several hits performing with Artie Shaw before branching out and making hits on his own, one of the biggest being “What Is This Thing Called Love“, which established Mel Tormé and his Mel-Tones as one of the first Jazz-inspired vocal groups, who was to influence other groups such as The Hi-Los, Four Freshman and later, Manhattan Transfer.
After the War, Tormé continued on a solo career, as well as singing with Artie Shaw, while also pioneering the vocal side of Cool Jazz.
But later in life, Tormé became much sought after as a character actor and he divided his time between recording and touring and performing on Sitcoms.
This concert, from Nice in 1981, comes by way of a Radio France International recording which was recently re-broadcast last year on France Musique, the Radio France outlet known for its eclectic programming and vast archive. This is only one of an amazing series of classic rebroadcasts featuring some of the greatest names in Jazz in a concert or club setting. I would seriously urge you to check it out; it’s a treasure trove of iconic performances.
But in the meantime, click Play on this one and settle back for a bit – it will take the edge off; I’m not kidding.