Mel Tormé

20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Mel Tormé

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The 20th Century Masters series serves many purposes for all the varying artists with MCA affiliations, and with Mel Tormé, the spryest of jazz vocalists, the case is no different. With few hits to essay, compiler Ryan Null and producer Mike Ragogna instead chose to spotlight Tormé's range of abilities -- vocal acrobat and scatter, standards interpreter, songwriter, and pure musical innovator. Thanks to the consistent quality of Tormé's work, they were able to accomplish this despite focusing on several neglected corners of his MCA catalog, like 1954's Musical Sounds Are the Best Songs (Coral), 1960's Swingin' On the Moon (Verve), and 1961's My Kind of Music (Verve also). "Too Close for Comfort" and "Blue Moon" are twin paragons of a vocal artist excelling in an uptempo setting and in balladry (respectively), while the opener, "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)," sees Tormé teaching a master class in what it means to be a singing horn. His original material includes both the standard "The Christmas Song" and the pleasant throwaway "Swingin' On the Moon," and for innovation look no further than the eight-minute "Blues in the Night" with his prime collaborator, Marty Paich. Other budget Mel Tormé compilations may have slightly better material, but none explain Tormé's brilliance in such concise fashion as this.

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