Happy Monday! Or rather… Happy Mel Tormé Monday!
Since we dabbled in Frank Sinatra last week, I thought that it was a good idea to continue down this road for a few weeks. Think of it like having just one more cookie… and then maybe another… Today’s moment comes from one of the kings of crooning, Mr. Mel Tormé.
Melvin Howard Tormé, the holder of perhaps the greatest nickname of all time “The Velvet Fog,” was a composer, arranger, drummer, actor, and author in the mid-twentieth century. Born to Jewish Polish immigrant parents in Chicago in the 1920’s, Tormé was a child prodigy and had his first professional gig at age four, singing at the historic Blackhawk restaurant with the Coon-Sanders Orchestra and composing his first hit for popular bandleader Harry James at age thirteen called, “Lament to Love.” Tormé went on to have a prolific multi-faceted career in showbusiness, writing music for and guest-appearing as himself in TV shows starring Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, and Jerry Seinfeld. However, one of my favorite guest appearances was in the Warner Bros. cartoon The Night of the Living Duck, first released in 1988. In order to sing in front of several monsters, Daffy Duck inhales a substance called “Eau de Tormé” and sings just like Mel, who did the vocals himself.
Today, Mel Tormé is still beloved for his velvety voice and incredible vocal technique, as well as for his numerous songs that have now become jazz standards. Perhaps his most popular was “The Christmas Song,” which is now an integral part of most American’s Christmas season. Interestingly, the tune was written by Tormé and his colleague Bob Wells on a hot day in California coming up with all the ‘wintery’ things they could think of to try and cool down! Unfortunately, his 65-year singing career was ended by a stroke in 1996 at the age of 70 and died just a few years later.
I am always in awe of Tormé’s singing, not just because of his famously smooth voice, but also his unique blend of relaxed style popular in those days with his impeccable clarity of pitch and rhythm. Much like his idol, the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald, Tormé always sang with perfect diction and a beautiful sense of musical line. Both Fitzgerald and Tormé also had a love for scatting (a type of jazz singing using improvised vocal sounds instead of words) and would frequently improvise solos with the precision of a wind or brass instrument rather than the human voice. You can hear Mel doing some scatting in the video below as well!
This week, I give you the cartoon excerpt I mentioned earlier featuring “The Velvet Fog” as smooth Daffy Duck. Afterwards, maybe consider going down the YouTube rabbit hole and listen to some of his other music as well. Definitely relaxed my Monday morning 🙂
I love Mel Tormé, this style of music, and Looney Tunes, so I hope you enjoy this as much I do!