It is eight years since William Price King joined Smorgasbord to share music across the genres. It is six years since we have featured the icons and delighted to showcase them again in 2022.
For over 30 years William Price King has been paying his tribute to two musicians who have influenced not just musicians, but all of us as we listened to their music. Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. Certainly many love stories began and sometimes ended whilst dancing to their music. In the next two features on the Jazz greats, William will be sharing some of their most iconic music, the musicians who influenced their passion for music and the highs and lows of their careers and personal lives.
Welcome to the finale of the life and music of Mel Tormé and his life and music. Not only a prolific composer but an entertainer who won the hearts of millions of music lovers around the world. I will hand over to William Price King to take us through the 80s and 90s.
Mel Tormé enjoyed a wonderful collaboration with George Shearing with popular albums but he also worked with other musicians during the mid to late 80s. These included an album with Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass resulting in a hit in the jazz chart of 1986. He also teamed up with his old friend Marty Paich and the Dek-Tette in 1988 and 1989 for Reunion with Marty Paich and In Concert in Tokyo. The album included one of Mel’s favourite classics by Duke Ellington – It Don’t Mean A Thing….Mel Tormé – Topic
In 1988 Mel published his autobiography It Wasn’t All Velvet – in reference to his nickname The Velvet Fog...Here is an extract from a review by Mary Whipple in 2006 for the book.
‘For those who love jazz and the entertainment business, the book is fascinating, giving insights into Harry James, Buddy Rich, Chico Marx, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mercer, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Duke Ellington, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Dick Martin (of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In). Tormé’s analyses of his professional failures (such as his disaster at the Copacabana) and of his betrayals by some of his “friends” show how closely some entertainers identify with their career decisions and how agonizing the ups and downs of professional life can be.
Some of the book can be considered self-congratulatory, and other parts reflect Tormé’s desire to set the record straight (and give some payback for past wrongs), but the book gives an articulate and thoughtful presentation of the life of someone who has been considered the greatest male jazz singer of the twentieth century. A fascinating and insightful look at show business, with all its warts’
Mel continued to perform and record albums in the early 90s with albums the live Night at the Concord Pavilion in 1990, a George Shearing collaboration for the studio collection of 1940s songs Mel and George ‘Do’ World War II and a duet album in 1991 with Cleo Laine, Nothing Without You. Here is Mel and Cleo performing After You’ve Gone...
In 1992 Christmas Songs for Telarc Records gave Mel his first pop chart success, and he also recorded a live album The Great American Songbook and Sing Sing Sing. 1993 saw the release of the classic album Blue Moon and in 1994 a studio album A Tribute to Bing Crosby. Mel was now approaching 70 but he maintained his live performances with a very strict health regime to maintain his unique voice. Here is Mel with that unforgettable classic ‘Blue Moon’ written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1934.
In July 1996 following the release of The Mel Torme collection 1944-1985 by Rhino Records, Mel recorded his last live album An Evening with Mel Torme for the A&E network. In the August he suffered a stroke and although he recovered he was unable to perform again. He was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in February 1999 and died following another stroke on 5th June 1999 ages 73.
He left behind an extraordinary legacy in his more than 250 songs, many of which are jazz standards and still performed by artists around the world. But it is his own ability to capture the hearts of his audiences with his immaculate and outstanding delivery of those songs that will be most remembered.
“Tormé works with the most beautiful voice a man is allowed to have, and he combines it with a flawless sense of ‘pitch’… As an improviser he shames all but two or three other “scat singers” and quite a few horn players as well.” Will Friedwald, Jazz Singing
I will leave you with Mel’s performance ‘That’s All’ written by Alan Brandt and Bob Haymes jeffrey a
I hope you have enjoyed this tribute to one of the icons of jazz and will join us again next week for the new series with the incredible Dionne Warwick thanks William
William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.
His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.
While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.
Thank you for dropping and as always William would love to receive your feedback… thanks Sally.