Lulu’s Back in Town
Tormé is my favourite male jazz vocalist by far, and these three albums deserve a special place even within a list of favourites, primarily because it seems to be impossible to tire of them, even when you know every note and have done for twenty years! This 1956 masterpiece finds Tormé’s creamy-toned, rhythmically precise, perfectly enunciated and above all hip vocals floating over Marty Paich’s endlessly inspired and swinging modernist arrangements for his Dek-tette, with occasional superior west coast soloists such as Bud Shank or Pete Candoli stepping in to complete the magic. The highlights are the title track, which has an unforgettable introduction, ‘I like to recognise the tune’, a tongue-in-cheek complaint about the shortcomings of modern jazz, ‘I love to watch the moonlight’, and the definitive version of ‘Lady is Tramp’. There are no weak tracks, or even moments, however.
Tormé sings Astaire
The other 1956 masterpiece by Tormé with the Marty Paich Dek-tette, this one has Herb Geller rather than Bud Shank providing the breezy west-coast alto solos. I cannot list highlights for this album, because that would be almost every track; this one is even better than Lulu’s Back in Town. However particular mention must be made of my joint-favourite Tormé track, ‘Top Hat, white tie and tails’: how he manages to sing ‘I’ve just got an invitation through the mails [sic]’ with that much innocence and enthusiasm is beyond me.
Swings Schubert Alley
Tormé and Paich were back at it again in 1960, and this time Art Pepper was on alto; Shank and Geller did brilliantly on the previous two albums, but Pepper was the ultimate in west coast cool, and another bonus to this album is that the recording quality is a bit better than before. The highlights are ‘Too Close for Comfort’, ‘Once in Love with Amy’, ‘Old Devil Moon’, ‘Too Darn Hot’, and above all, my other joint-favourite Tormé track ‘All I need is the girl’: this time the top hat and tails are passed over in favour of Paris silk and Harris Tweed (and check out the way he says ‘like wow’ about the automotive accessory). You just can’t beat Mel singing about getting dressed up!