Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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James Torme: Hippodrome, London Review 9/12/13

James Tormé: Hippodrome, London Review 9/12/13
James Tormé: Hippodrome, London Review 9/12/13 James Tormé: Hippodrome, London Review 9/12/13 James Tormé: Hippodrome, London Review 9/12/13 James Tormé: Hippodrome, London Review 9/12/13

Blessed with his mother's good looks and a healthy dose of pater's talents, James Tormé revels in the best of both worlds. Yet, as the Rolling Stones once wrote and sang, it’s the singer, not the song. Tormé's a fabulous entertainer, with a skill set that seems destined to take him back to further engagements in Vegas, from whence he came. His natural good nature was as much a part of the christmas festivities as the familiar melodies he plies.

This transatlantic troubadour oozes silky charm like only a crooner can, his scatting shows to be a chip off the old block - there is no monotone delivery either, he is always right up there with his fine musicians and more importantly the melody. There is a quivering frailty to his sound which I like, not dissimilar to Michael Jackson's voice, but with an overriding jazz sensibility - it's arresting and rather unusual (which is what you've got to be if you want to stand out in the crowd)

Yes he is an artist who offers a dexterous style which rolls out a clean-toned vibrato, feverishly musical and indelibly associated with his father. Perhaps his dues are now paid in full (as the recent gig in Vegas certainly seems to point that way) JT is about to break into the top tier of crooner, performers (move over Bublé your bubblé's about to burst!) and deservedly so. This kid has got personality, joi de vivre, bags of bonhomie and a healthy sense of humour…dedicating his jaunty version of "Love For Sale" to the oldest profession in the world, proclaiming that 'whores are people too' - by gad what a wag! Tackling Ray Charles ballads is a tall order for any singer, but tonight JT sang the bluesy ballad "Drown In My Own Tears " - not like the throaty rapines of the original, but a different sweeter timbre and was employed and delivered with panache. The mood was set…

He also proves to be a very savvy operator when it comes to cherry picking his UK backing band, which consists of the 'twighlight twinkler' Ross Stanley on piano. The heavy hitters, Quentin Collins on trumpet/flugel and the ubiquitous Branden Allen on tenor sax. These guys swing harder than Pierrepoint's noose, providing a win win situation as these surely must get plenty of time under the spotlight in the glitzy Matcham room, filled with a knowing and enthusiastic audience who even clap the arrangements, Bravo!

The christmas spirit was entered into with lighthearted stage banter, snappy and informative, my favourite story being the one about the origins of his dad's "The Xmas Song" (chestnuts roasting on an open fire etc.. ) "I saw a spiral pad on his piano with four lines written in pencil", Tormé recalled. "They started, "Chestnuts roasting…, Jack Frost nipping…, Yuletide carols…, Folks dressed up like Eskimos.' Bob (Wells, co-writer) didn't think he was writing a song lyric. He said he thought if he could immerse himself in winter he could cool off, from the blistering californian heat. Forty minutes later that song was written! Yes, he is proud of his heritage and it certainly doesn't hamper him as the natural talent is self evident throughout his performance. Highlights for me were his fantastic version of "Almost Like Being In Love", showing his adroitness and agility on one of my favourite all time jazz standards.

Nice to see guests coming up too, in the shape of Earl Okin, who is clearly idolised by James, who earlier covered one of his tunes ' "Drinkin' Yesterday's Wine" in an impressive upbeat fashion. Okin repays the compliment by joining in on "It Don't mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing" - mimicking with his mouth, mute trumpet, clarinet and trombone. The audience were absolutely enthralled into the bargain. This was a great way to ease your way into christmas, a scintillating performer, generously spirited and one to watch with an eager eye as to where he takes it next…to jazz, or not to jazz, there is no question!
Words Emrys Baird

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