It is time to pick up the story of Mel Torme’s career in the 50s and early 60s which in many respects was an unsettled and frustrating period commercially. Mel blamed the increasingly popular rock and roll music for the demise of Jazz as music of choice and even referred to it as “three-chord manure”
After leaving Capitol records in 1952, a year passed in limbo until Mel signed up with the Coral label which was a subsidiary of Decca Records. It had been formed in 1949 and had signed and released music from both swing, Jazz and the new dreaded Rock and Roll with the likes of Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Mel recorded a number of singles with Coral and then in December 1954 a live performance was recorded at the very popular Crescendo Club in Los Angeles that would mark the beginning of Mel’s many “Live” albums.
Crescendo club. hollywoodphotographs.com
It was time for Mel to move on again and this time back to his roots with a small Jazz label, Bethlehem Records, who had released first albums for up and coming singers such as Nina Simone. Mel released a ballad LP, It’s a Blue World with Bethlehem in 1955 and this marked the first of many recordings in association with pianist/arranger Marty Paich. They formed the Marty Paich Dek-tette with a strategy to try and loosen Frank Sinatra’s hold on the charts at the time by recording little known songs that Frank had not covered as yet… This included the perennial favourite “Lulu’s Back in Town” in 1956 written in 1935 by Al Dubin and Harry Warren.
Along with recording, Mel also began to tour more including overseas visiting Australia in 1955. In 1956, a single from the live album Mel recorded with Coral, the Rodgers & Hart song “Mountain Greenery,”was released as a single in the UK reaching the top ten in time for Mel’s first tour in Europe.
On his return to Los Angeles in late 1956 Mel recorded an new LP – Mel Tormé Sings Fred Astaire with Marty Paich. This should have been a time of consolidation for Mel and a new opportunity to get a foothold in the charts. Unfortunately his record company Bethlehem was having problems and despite recording another Live Album at the Crescendo in 1957 and a further LP, “Songs for Any Taste” the label went out of business. Mel returned to England that summer and cut a record for his fans there with Philips Records – Tormé Meets the British. Back in the US he signed a contract with a small label, Tops, and recorded the concept album Prelude to a Kiss in 1958. The album charted the course of a relationship with the songs linked with dialogue. One of the songs on the album is “I’ve Got the World on a String” by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler
This was followed by a new label signing back to his Jazz roots with Verve Records where Ella Fitzgerald was recording. Over the next four years he released eight albums under the label Tormé; Olé Tormé: Mel Tormé Goes South of the Border with Billy May; Back in Town (with the Mel-Tones); Mel Tormé Swings Shubert Alley; Swingin’ on the Moon; Broadway, Right Now! (with Margaret Whiting); I Dig the Duke! I Dig the Count!; and My Kind of Music. All the albums did well with Jazz fans but were not huge sellers and by the early 60’s Mel decided to move on to the Atlantic Record Label.
A great boost to Mel’s career came along in the form of a revival in his acting career including in the television drama The Comedian and in appearances in a number of films including Girls Town and Walk Like a Dragon in 1960 with the added bonus of the title song being written and performed by Mel.
A final performance from the CD, “Olé Tormé: Mel Tormé Goes South of the Border with Billy May.” Mel Tormé is accompanied by the great Billy May and His Orchestra. Originally released on the Verve label, April 2, 1959. Vaya con Dios was composed in 1953 by Larry Russell, Inez James, and Buddy Pepper. Courtesy of davidhertzberg1
On Wednesday another featured iconic song performed by William Price King and next Saturday we follow Mel into the 60s and early 70s.
Here are Part One and Part Two of the series so far.
https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/a-man-and-his-music-william-price-king-meets-mel-torme/ Part One.
https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/01/17/a-man-and-his-music-william-price-king-meets-mel-torme-part-two-1940s/ Part Two
Links to the Nat King Cole series.
Album covers – http://www.amazon.com/Mel-Torme/e/B000APVACW
William Price King – Jazz composer, musician and singer.
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 debut jazz album is called ‘Home,’ 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.
William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area.
Links to website – http://www.williampriceking.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/WilliamPriceKing
Twitter – @wpkofficial
Regular Venue – http://cave-wilson.com/