Smooth as Velvet captures two sessions Mel Tormé cut during the early stages of his career. The first was with a small group headed by Dave Barbour during 1946 and 1947, and the second took place in 1957 with the Marty Paich Dekette (plus strings) for the Tops label. Each session is very good Tormé, and each has its special listening delight. When he hooked up with Dave Barbour (who appears on five of these cuts), Tormé had been recording for four years, and he demonstrates his sympathy for and control over the ballad form. Barbour's understated, calm guitar sets off Tormé's voice to perfection, creating a cozy, intimate setting for such classic tunes as "A Cottage for Sale," "Don't Take Your Love from Me" and "Gone with the Wind." There is also a very good pianist on these cuts who regrettably is not identified; it might be either Buddy Cole or Arnold Ross, both of whom were playing for Barbour during this period. The second date was one of the many mutually rewarding sessions Tormé was to have with Marty Paich over their long careers. On some cuts, Paich added strings, which don't lend much to the proceedings. But they are more than offset by the presence of one of the more lyrical trumpet players of the time, Don Fagerquist, who, as he has done for such singers as Ella Fitzgerald, Jeri Southern and June Christy, plays delicate, intriguing figures to accentuate the musical thoughts expressed by Tormé. Listen to his trumpet on "One Morning in May," "Ghost of a Chance" and particularly on "I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me." Most of the tracks illustrate Tormé's special affection for standards, most of which are done in a nice easy tempo. There are songs made famous by others, like "Love Me or Leave Me" (Ruth Etting and "Don't Take Your Love from Me" (Mildred Bailey). But with his inimitable phrasing, sense of timing, and perfect pitch, Torme puts his own imprimatur on these selections. Smooth as Velvet symbolizes a couple of impressive pit stops early in Mel Tormé's trek to becoming one of our finest and most admired pop and jazz singers. Like many albums issued by LaserLight, no discographical information is provided.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan