Mel Torme & The Boss Brass
Mel Torme (September 13, 1925-June 5, 1999). Today would have been Mel Torme’s birthday. He is most famous for being a co-writer of “The Christmas Song”, which is my favorite Christmas song.
He recorded with the Boss Brass twice, and the example I posted shows how they took a tune the Boss Brass recorded in 1977 (the first tune- “Just Friends”) and how they basically recorded the same arrangement with Mel, with a few changes. Mel loved working with this band.
I never appreciated Mel enough until I was able to play his show in Dallas in 1979. I remember that it was in August, because it was the only time I ever played Christmas music in August during a show. He was an incredibly versitile performer. He was a song writer, singer, and a pretty good drummer, which he played during his show.
We used a big band in his show, including 4 trumpets. Don Jacoby had contracted the gig at the extinct Playboy Club with me on lead. At the rehearsal, I missed a note on one tune that had some strange lines. I learned that he had perfect pitch because he heard my wrong note (which I didn’t since I had never played the tune). Even the right note didn’t sound right to me, but anyway, he caught it and told me what note it was supposed to be, in my key. Not too many singers can do that in a rehearsal with a band. Usually it’s the conductor that did that, but I don’t remember him carrying a conductor. I just remember thinking he could have been a teacher if he had that desire.
“The Christmas Song” was written in 1946 and I read that it took him about 45 minutes to write the song. He told us in the show that he wrote the song in August in Palm Desert California, when it was over 100 degrees outside. That was a strange time to write Christmas music, but he made so much money on that one tune in royalties that he never needed to work again. Not bad when you are 21 years old!
Mel was also a good scat singer, which isn’t that easy to make sound right. It’s rare that a song writer can also sing, scat sing, and play instruments. Mel could do it all. I wish I had known more about him at the time I worked with him. Compared to most of today’s singers and song writers he stands out as one of the all time greats. His nickname is The Velvet Fog for his voice quality, but he jokingly referred to it as The Velvet Frog.