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Mel Tormé's Finest Hour

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Album Review

Mel Tormé's Finest Hour leads off with a Decca recording from 1944 but otherwise concentrates on Tormé's stints with the Coral and Verve labels between 1953-1960. Tormé's tight arrangements and smooth crooning made him a natural crossover artist, but he charted no pop hits during this period. Nonetheless, the recordings compiled here are broadly appealing, particularly on songs such as "What Is This Thing Called Love?" that prominently feature Tormé's jazz-pop vocal group, the Mel-Tones. "At the Crossroads (Malagueña)" vacillates between Bill Haley-style rock-a-boogie rhythms and big-band swing, and "What's New at the Zoo?" — a duet with Margaret Whiting — is a silly novelty with a rock & roll guitar solo. "The Hut Sut Song" and Slim Gaillard's "Cement Mixer" are novelties, too, but ones that jazz purists will find less offensive. In between, there are a number of serious jazz vocal performances and sweetly orchestrated romantic ballads of the sort that earned Tormé the nickname of "the Velvet Fog." Tormé's 1954 recording of his holiday standard "The Christmas Song" is also included, making Mel Tormé's Finest Hour an inclusive and diverse sampling of music from a versatile artist and exemplary vocalist.


Born: 13 September 1925 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Mel Tormé was a jazz-oriented pop singer who worked at his craft steadily from the '40s to the '90s, primarily in nightclubs and concert halls. In his 1988 autobiography, It Wasn't All Velvet (its title a reference to his nickname, "The Velvet Fog," bestowed upon him by a disc jockey in the '40s to describe his husky, wide-ranging voice), he mentioned a wish that he had been born ten years earlier, that is, in 1915 rather than 1925. If he had had his wish, Tormé would have been an exact contemporary...
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Mel Tormé's Finest Hour, Mel Tormé
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