Mel Tormé

Live at the Playboy Jazz Festival

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Three years before a stroke ended Mel Tormé's career, he appeared with his trio and Ray Anthony & His Big Band at the 1993 Playboy Jazz Festival, though the CD wasn't issued until some nine years later. Tormé sounds as if he has just a touch of hoarseness, though he never fluffs a note and his rhythm is flawless during the set, though it relies rather too heavily on medleys. The cavernous sound quality of playing in the bandshell and the somewhat poor mix (the big band occasionally nearly drowns out Tormé) are also a bit distracting. Those reservations aside, the veteran is full of energy, especially in his swinging arrangement of Duke Ellington's "I'm Gonna Go Fishin'," and he scats up a storm in "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)." Tormé's pianist, John Colianni, is a consummate accompanist, and the big band has a few strong soloists, though none of them are identified. It would be difficult to label this as one of the best releases by Mel Tormé during the latter part of his career since there are many far better live recordings available through Concord, but fans of the Velvet Fog will want to pick up this previously unreleased disc as well.

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