A Man and his Music – William Price King meets Mel Tormé – Part Five – The 70s and 80s

Welcome to the Saturday Jazz session with singer and composer William Price King and his series on the incomparable Mel Torme.  Many of us grew up listening to him perform and I seem to remember a couple of romances being helped along by his smooth style…. Anyway enough reminiscing – on with the show in the capable hands and voice of William Price King…


We catch up with Mel Tormé in the early 70s and he had not released an album since 1969. He continued to work in television and film however and by 1971 he was host and co-producer for an ABC documentary series ‘It Was a Very Good Year,. The major events of all the years from 1919 to 1964 were presented each week and Mel would sing musical hits and interview personalities of the featured dates. He would appear in acting and singing roles on TV during those leaner years as well as continue to perform live at every opportunity.


Mel would not release any studio recordings until 1977 but he did privately record a new live album Mel Tormé live at the Maisonette in 1975, recorded at the Maisonette room in the St. Regis Hotel in New York, which he sold to Atlantic Records.. Despite not making money on the album it did produce a nomination in 1976 for the Grammy Award for Best Accompanying Vocalist for the 15 minute Gershwin medley. One of the songs that he performed live on the album was the 1972 Stevie Wonder Motown hit ‘Superstition’

After a seven year gap, in 1976, Mel signed a new record contract with Gryphon Records and recorded the LP Tormé! A New Album in London in June 1977. One of the tracks on the album was New York State of Mind by Billy Joel

Whilst this album was being produced Mel was working in collaboration with long-time friend, drummer and band leader Buddy Rich and their January 1978 sessions, Together Again: For the First Time was released before his Gryphon label album.


However both albums would provide Mel with further Grammy nominations – for his album with Buddy he was nominated in the Best Jazz Vocal Performance category in 1978 for the fourth time and a fifth nomination followed in 1979 in the same category for his work on Tormé! A New Album.

Jazz vocals were making a great comeback in the 70s and Mel’s consistent loyalty to live performing in the 60s stood him in good stead now. He had developed a reputation as a talented Jazz singer and he was in big demand to perform around the world with often over 200 performances a year. He headlined at Jazz festivals, concert halls and with symphony orchestras and was booked to appear annually in major cities around the globe. His awards were not limited to the US or the Grammys as he was honoured in Europe as well.


His success continued into the early 80s with more traditional pop music making a return to the charts. There was a sixth Grammy nomination, again for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, for his LP, Mel Tormé and Friends Recorded Live at Marty’s New York City, which was released on Finesse Records in 1981 and reached number 44 in the Billboard jazz chart. One of the songs on that album was The Best is Yet to Come by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh which was very apt considering how well Mel’s career was doing as he entered the new decade.

The 80s continued on track for Mel and his next collaboration with jazz pianist George Shearing in 1982 at the Peacock Court of the Hotel Mark Hopkins in San Francisco would result in the album An Evening with George Shearing & Mel Tormé released by Concord Records. It reached number 34 in the jazz chart and cemented their association for the rest of the 80s. Mel was nominated for his seventh Grammy again in the Best Jazz Vocal performance and this time he won in February of 1983. Here is a live performance from the album.. A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.

The pair teamed up for the album Top Drawer, winning Mel his second Grammy win and their album An Evening at Charlie’s released in 1984 provided his ninth nomination with a studio album An Elegant Evening producing the tenth for 1986.

At last Mel Tormé was receiving the recognition he deserved and next time we will explore the rest of the 80s and the 90s with this amazing singer and performer.

Additional sources


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. His album ‘Home’ is available to download and more details in the Buy Music for Christmas.

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

William Price King meets Mel Tormé
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
https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/a-man-and-his-music-william-price-king-meets-mel-torme-part-three-the-50s/ Part Three
https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/a-man-and-his-music-william-price-king-meets-mel-torme-part-four-the-1960s/ Part Four