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The Best of the Concord Years

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Album Review

For nearly 20 years, critics have been praising Mel Tormé's recordings for Concord, the label he spent the last 13 years of his career recording for, in a variety of settings. Fans of his '50s and '60s heyday, however, have often had difficulty approaching the work of Tormé's last 13 years. The Best of the Concord Years presents two hours of his best on the label, including a mix of live and studio sessions recorded with groups both small and large, originally issued on solo albums as well as his excellent collaborations with George Shearing, Rob McConnell, Marty Paich, and the Frank Wess/Harry Edison Orchestra. No, Tormé wasn't at his performing peak on "Hi-Fly," recorded in 1983, but his emphatic delivery and scatting finale will surprise listeners unaware that he was nearing the age of 60. The selections are roughly chronological and include many gems from Tormé's later career: "Lullaby of Birdland" with George Shearing taking one careful run-through before Tormé himself storms through the song; his perennial "Too Close for Comfort," delivered with just as much emotion and exuberance as it had been 40 years earlier; and a languid, touching "These Foolish Things" recorded at the Fujitsu-Concord Jazz Festival in 1992. Yes, the polish was wearing off what had once been the most able voice to ever grace an American popular song, but these songs reveal a depth of experience and consistency unmatched during the 1950s.


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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