James Torme: Love For Sale (E1 Music/Torme Jazz)
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UK release date 27.08.2012
Big shoes to fill, has young James. Son of the late, great jazz singer Mel Torme, who for many years paired up with pianist George Shearing. The latter I had the pleasure of seeing in concert some years back.
The burden of being from a famous parent who was or is in the same game as you; is you are forever going to be compared to their celebrated talent.
In the case of James Torme, that is far from being a problem. He is a superb singer, if you enjoy smooth jazz, and like guys such as Buble and Connick Jr. More to James than that though. He has soul.
His cover of Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” is just lovely. On paper, a car crash waiting to happen. Tackling such a big song from an icon of pop. But on record it’s a triumph, and has already been in the US charts at number 11. The public clearly agreeing with me.
With his album released here end of August, I’d have thought “Rock With You,” had Radio 2 Playlist all over it. He has made the song his own, but mainly stayed true to the original. Strange how it sounds like it could have been written just for him. It has won praise from MJ’s musical director Michael Bearden, and James was lucky enough to get an invite to watch rehearsals for Jacko’s “This Is it,” shows. I think Michael would have really dug this version had he ever have got to hear it.
He also tackles Al Green’s timeless soul ballad “Let’s Stay Together, the opener of this 13-track album. Again, a clever and finely crafted job. Faultless vocals and phrasing to die for, on the entire CD.
He has more soul, more jazz and is a little less commercial than Buble, but as good a voice as that very successful man. He is a master at vocal restraint and control. He delivers amazingly fast scat singing, like Ella on an LSD trip! If it hasn't been souped up with studio technology, he is a genius! But for me, it is a little over used on the album, perhaps.
There’s are some very fine trumpet and piano solos dotted across this album, and the entire ensemble give James world class backing. The piano solo on “Autumn Leaves,” is very much in the style of Buddy Greco. The Cole Porter classic, “Love For Sale,” comes at us at 100mph, set on a Latin, piano-based track. James in fine vocal form, delivering immaculate phrasing and clever scat singing. Putting me in mind of Buddy again,for vocal phrasing and sheer class. Set on lush strings and featuring a fab trumpet solo, “A Better Day Will Come,” provides a sweeter side of his vocal.
For James, his late Father was his main inspiration. He spent time in the UK with his mother, actress Janette Scott and grandmother Dame Thora Hird, and in LA with his Father. Alongside his Dad, James spent time with some of the greatest musicians in jazz history, such as Duke Ellington, Sammy Davis Jr., Peggy Lee and Buddy Rich. Their influence clearly rubbed off.
No stranger to these shores, in May this year he performed on Radio 2 from the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, as part of the celebration of Ray Charles and his music.
The New York Post said 39-year-old James was: “Definitely his Father’s son, smooth and cool……has made Comin’ Home Baby his own.” They refer to his Dad’s big hit song, which James treats us to at track nine here. Dare I say, it is as good, if not better than the original and as good a version as I’ve ever heard. More scat singing, and a fine horn solo. I am sure Mel would be proud of young James. Brave choice, as he is sure to be compared to his Father. He should not have any problems with that though.
The Alan Jay Lerner song, “Come Back To Me,” has a fine big band horn arrangement and another classy vocal performance.The whole album swings like a bitch one minute, with blistering big band arrangements that Neil Hefti would have been proud of. Then snuggles up to a candlelit, intimate atmosphere that would aid any seduction scene.
He is adept at writing too, his original “One Or The Other,” a well crafted song that fits him well. His musical vocabulary was born out of the music of his father and his contemporaries – Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae, Nat “King” Cole – mixed with influences from his own childhood like Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind and Fire, James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt.” He says: “Growing up in England, things like Jamiroquai and The Brand New Heavies showed that it was possible to keep the jazz textures I grew up with – brass, strings and woodwinds – in my music, yet let it remain totally fresh at the same time.”
He assembled a strong team for the recording, including jazz composer and trumpet virtuoso John Daversa, and veteran musician/producer/arranger David Paich to take on the production duties. A fine job, and I have to say the arrangements make James’ job so much easier as a vocalist,and should get much credit.Both guys are second generation musicians, as the sons of celebrated trumpeter Jay Daversa and legendary arranger Marty Paich. Clearly, like James, it is all in the genes….
Words SIMON REDLEY