Having led the sugary, post-war vocal group the Mel-Tones and subsequently been saddled with the "Velvet Fog" moniker, Mel Tormé probably found it hard to prove he was a legitimate vocal talent. This fine compilation from Verve should help clear the air for those still in doubt. Comprised of songs from Tormé's prime period of 1958-1961, Compact Jazz: Mel Torme spotlights the singer's impeccable phrasing and wide vocal range on 16 topnotch cuts. Showing range in taste as well, Tormé enlivens both old standards like "Body and Soul" and (for the time) modern jazz material such as Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight." And along big-band lines, Tormé veers toward the rarefied with obscure gems like Count Basie's "Blue and Sentimental" and Ivie Anderson's classic Ellington vocal "Truckin'." Getting back to more progressive fare, Compact Jazz also includes four top examples of Tormé's work with West Coast bebop arranger Marty Paich, including "Too Close for Comfort" and "Whatever Lola Wants." Not to stop there, the disc features four stunning Tormé originals in "Stranger in Town," "Welcome to the Club," "Born to be Blue," and the holiday favorite "The Christmas Song." And with arranger Johnny Mandel adding his very valuable two cents plus a cameo by the Mel-Tones thrown in for good measure, this collection qualifies as a great introduction to Tormé's music.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook