Summer Jazz with William Price King – Mel Tormé – The Finale


William and his music

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.

 220px-Mel_Tormé_(1979)

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….

 It wasnt all velvet

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 and a reminder of some of the highlights of his life put together by TexPaco.


Additional material and images http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mel_Torm%C3%A9
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_at_the_Concord_Pavilion
YouTube Channel for Mel Torme – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYLwWpHekuN6mOxqmqUUJfw

About William Price King.

williampricekingWilliam Price King is an American jazz singer, musician and composer. Originally he studied classical music and opera but over the years his style has evolved to what many refer to as the ‘sweet point’ where music and voice come together so beautifully.
His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. His jazz album, ‘Home,’ is a collection of contemporary songs and whilst clearly a homage to their wonderful legacy it brings a new and refreshing complexity to the vocals that is entrancing.

His latest album Eric Sempe and William Price King is now available to download. The repertory includes standards such as “Bye Bye Blackbird” (a jazz classic), Sting’s “Englishman in New York,” Queen’s “The Show Must Go On”, Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and other well-known jazz, pop, and rock classics.

William and Eric Sempe have also brought their own magic to the album with original tracks such as Keep on Dreaming and Red Snow with collaboration with Jeanne King
Download the new album. http://cdbaby.com/cd/williampriceking

William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area.

Connect with William

LINKS
Links to website – http://www.williampriceking.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/WilliamPriceKing
Twitter – @wpkofficial
Regular Venue – http://cave-wilson.com/
ITunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/william-price-king/id788678484

You can explore all of William’s series at this link:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/william-price-king-jazz-and-music-series/

Thank you for joining us today and for those of you who missed the Mel Torme series the first time around we hope you enjoyed the performances.

Summer Jazz with William Price King – The Music of Mel Torme – Part Two


Welcome to part two of the Mel Tormé story with William Price King. William has enjoyed a long and successful career as a Jazz composer, musician and singer and over the last thirty years he has delighted audiences with his performances of the classic Jazz standards sung by iconic artists of the last century such as Nat King Cole and Mel Tormé.

Last week we briefly touched on Mel’s life and work and now it is time to take a look at his early life and career.  I will hand you over to William to pick up the story.

William and his music

Mel Tormé was born in 1925 in Chicago to hard working Russian Jewish immigrant parents whose surname was actually Torma.

The Blackhawk Restaurant

The Blackhawk restaurant – image by http://www.diningchicago.com

His singing career took off at a very early age and at four years old he was entertaining the diners at The Blackhawk Restaurant in Chicago. The Blackhawk was opened in 1920 and the Big Band headliners at the time were the Coon-Sanders Orchestra. Quite the mouthful especially for a small boy of four who sang ‘You’re Driving Me Crazy’ for the first time with them in 1929.

This was a hugely popular venue and in later years Mel would perform there from time to time along with the other great musicians. Here is the Coon- Sanders Orchestra in 1928 with “Rhythm King” Courtesy of Phonmono78s

From 1933, between the ages of 8 and 16, Mel acted on radio in two soap operas of the day, The Romance of Helen Trent and Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy. During this period Mel turned his hand to song writing and by only 16 years old, his first published song, “Lament to Love,” was a hit for the very popular trumpeter Harry James. He also sang, arranged and played drums in a band led by Chico Marx who also headlined at the Blackhawk Restaurant.

Here is Mel’s first song performed by Harry James – Courtesy of MusicProf78

Whilst he sang and wrote music, Mel was also finishing his education at Chicago’s Hyde Park High School. Whilst at night and weekends he was playing and singing at the upmarket eatery, during the day he played drums in his school’s drum and bugle corps. He also debuted in his first film alongside another up and coming actor and singer, Frank Sinatra in “Higher and Higher” in 1943 before graduating from High School in 1944.

album Mel-tonesOn graduating from school Mel formed a vocal quintet “Mel Tormé and His Mel-Tones” among the first of the jazz-influenced vocal groups. The group had several hits with Artie Shaw’s band and on their own, including Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love?” Courtesy of The Record Changer.

Although Mel would not go solo until 1947, he did record romantic hits for Decca Records and the Musicraft label with the Arti Shaw Orchestra from 1945-1948.

In 1947 he began his solo career at the famous New York nightclub, Copacabana and it is here that he allegedly received his nickname ‘The Velvet Fog’ bestowed by a local DJ as a tribute. Although Mel was not impressed and referred to it as ‘this Velvet Frog voice’. This is at odds with what the critics felt about his voice as illustrated in this quote from Will Friedwald – Jazz Singing

“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.”

Along with Mel’s developing solo career came a part in the Rogers & Hart film Words and Music in which he sang ‘Blue Moon’ and a revival of The Mel Torme Show from his teen years. More movie song writing assignments came along for studios such as Walt Disney and in early 1949 he was signed to Capitol Records.

The hits kept coming including ‘Careless Hands,’ ‘Again’ and ‘Blue Moon’ through to ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,’ in July 1950. The focus was on the music and his film career faded away in comparison to Frank Sinatra who was becoming increasingly popular across both film and music industries. Mel felt that he had been born just a few years too late to benefit from the huge popularity of both the era of the Big Band and Hollywood musicals.

His last chart hit for nearly ten years was with ‘Anywhere I Wander’ in November 1952 which was to be prophetic, as Mel Torme entered the 50s with no real direction and began to compete with the new popular music that was taking over the charts.

Part three next Wednesday with the challenges that Mel faced in the 50s and early 60s.

Album cover http://www.cdandlp.com
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mel_Torme

About William Price King.

Price King Eric Sempe

William Price King is an American jazz singer, musician and composer. Originally he studied classical music and opera but over the years his style has evolved to what many refer to as the ‘sweet point’ where music and voice come together so beautifully.
His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. His jazz album, ‘Home,’ is a collection of contemporary songs and whilst clearly a homage to their wonderful legacy it brings a new and refreshing complexity to the vocals that is entrancing.

His latest album Eric Sempe and William Price King is now available to download. The repertory includes standards such as “Bye Bye Blackbird” (a jazz classic), Sting’s “Englishman in New York,” Queen’s “The Show Must Go On”, Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and other well-known jazz, pop, and rock classics.

William and Eric Sempe have also brought their own magic to the album with original tracks such as Keep on Dreaming and Red Snow with collaboration with Jeanne King
Download the new album. http://cdbaby.com/cd/williampriceking

William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area.

Connect with William

LINKS
Links to website – http://www.williampriceking.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/WilliamPriceKing
Twitter – @wpkofficial
Regular Venue – http://cave-wilson.com/
ITunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/william-price-king/id788678484

You can explore all of William’s series at this link:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/william-price-king-jazz-and-music-series/

Thank you for joining us today and for those of you who missed the Mel Torme series the first time around we hope you enjoyed the performances.