Mel Torme On Piano Jazz

Mel Torme.

Mel Torme. David Redfern/Redferns hide caption

itoggle caption David Redfern/Redferns

Set List

  • "Dream Dancing" (Porter)
  • "I Didn't Know About You" (Ellington, Russell)
  • "Give Me the Simple Life" (Bloom, Ruby)
  • "Stranger in Town" (Torme)
  • "Slow Boat to China" (Loesser)
  • "Too Late Now" (Lane, Lerner)
  • "Born to Be Blue" (Torme, Wells)
  • "Time After Time" (Cahn, Styne)

Mel Torme was born in 1925 on Chicago's south side. It was there that he began his show-business career, singing with the Coon-Sanders Orchestra at age 4 and shortly thereafter taking acting roles in radio serials. Torme began writing his own songs at 13 and was only 16 when Harry James' orchestra had a hit with his "Lament to Love." Torme was still a teenager when he began touring with Chico Marx's band as singer, arranger and drummer.

In 1944, Torme formed the vocal group The Mel-Tones with Les Baxter and Ginny O'Connor. The group had several hits and became the model for modern jazz vocal ensembles like the Manhattan Transfer. By 1947, Torme had gone solo, and despite an ongoing struggle between being the crooner the record labels wanted him to be and the jazz singer he wanted to be, Torme would become one of the great singers of the 20th century.

In his nearly 70-year career, Torme wore other hats, as well: actor, radio performer, talk-show host, producer, conductor and author. In the 1950s, he hosted one of the first talk shows on CBS. During the '60s, he spent his time as musical advisor for The Judy Garland Show and wrote scripts for The Virginian and Run for Your Life. In the 1980s, Torme made numerous guest appearances, often playing himself on the television comedy Night Court. Torme also penned more than 300 songs, including "The Christmas Song," co-written with his primary writing partner, Bob Wells.

In the latter years of his career, Torme maintained a tradition of annual sold-out performances at the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall; appearances with major symphony orchestras in cities such as New York, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Philadelphia; and appearances at the Concord-Fujitu Jazz Festival in Japan. He was awarded a Grammy for An Evening With George Shearing and Mel Torme and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mel Torme died in 1999 of complications from a stroke he'd suffered three years earlier. He was 73.

Originally recorded Jan. 21, 1992. Originally broadcast May 9, 1992.

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