Monday, April 16, 2018

From my dad’s CDs

I’m still making my way through my dad’s CDs: Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Ivie Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, Mildred Bailey, Count Basie, Tony Bennett, Art Blakey, Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins, Clifford Brown, Dave Brubeck, Joe Bushkin, Hoagy Carmichael, Betty Carter, Ray Charles, Charlie Christian, Rosemary Clooney, Nat “King” Cole, John Coltrane, Bing Crosby, Miles Davis, Matt Dennis, Doris Day, Blossom Dearie, Paul Desmond, Tommy Dorsey, Billy Eckstine, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, Gil Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Erroll Garner, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Stéphane Grappelli, Bobby Hackett, Coleman Hawkins, Woody Herman, Earl Hines, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Dick Hyman, Harry James, Hank Jones, Louis Jordan, Stan Kenton, Barney Kessel, Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross, Peggy Lee, Mary Ann McCall, Susannah McCorkle, Dave McKenna, Ray McKinley, Marian McPartland, Johnny Mercer, Helen Merrill, Glenn Miller, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Thelonious Monk, Wes Montgomery, Gerry Mulligan, Red Norvo, Anita O’Day, Charlie Parker, Joe Pass, Art Pepper, Oscar Peterson, Bud Powell, Boyd Raeburn, Django Reinhardt, Marcus Roberts, Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Rushing, Catherine Russell, the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, Artie Shaw, George Shearing, Horace Silver, Frank Sinatra, Paul Smith, Jeri Southern, Jo Stafford, Art Tatum, Claude Thornhill, and now, Mel Tormé.

My dad and I never agreed about Mel Tormé. I think of Tormé as an acquired taste that I’ve yet to acquire. The voice is a wonder; the technique, unlimited. But Tormé’s taste is, for me, too often questionable. Too much show business, too much showing off: scatting the name Jobim, interpolating “Superstar” — yes, that “Superstar” — in a tribute to Fred Astaire (“Fred Astaire, superstar, you know we admire who and what you are”), ending numbers with an extended “Yeah.” Help! I once told my dad about one of John Lennon’s recording aliases: Mel Torment. My dad was not amused.

But listen: here are two unembeddable and unremittingly terrific performances from the 1963 Atlantic album Mel Tormé Sings “Sunday in New York” and Other Songs about New York. Frank Sinatra introduced “The Brooklyn Bridge” (Sammy Cahn–Jules Styne) in the 1947 film It Happened in Brooklyn. Tormé introduced “Sunday in New York” (Peter Nero–Carroll Coates) in the 1963 film of that name. Johnny Williams did the first arrangement; Dick Hazard, the second. The second of these songs immediately puts me in touch with the 1960s Manhattan of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The World of Henry Orient.

Three mountain ranges remain: Sarah Vaughan (I hadn’t realized how many CDs), Fats Waller (see previous parenthesis), and Lee Wiley. And smaller hills along the way.

Also from my dad’s CDs
Mildred Bailey : Tony Bennett : Charlie Christian : Blossom Dearie : Duke Ellington : Coleman Hawkins : Billie Holiday : Louis Jordan : Charlie Parker : Jimmy Rushing : Artie Shaw : Frank Sinatra : Art Tatum

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