My Singing Teachers: Reflections On Singing Popular Music

Genre: Memoir, Music; Author: Mel Torme

The Jazz Age — the 1920s — was in full swing when Tormé, a.k.a. the Velvet Fog, made his debut. Bing Crosby was an early model. Ella Fitzgerald inspired Torme’s switch from pop to jazz singing. Ethel Waters called him the only white man who could sing with a black man’s soul. He perfected his vocal improv techniques listening to jazz favorites like saxophonist Ben Webster and trumpeter Roy Eldridge. It’s a pity Torme can’t write like he can sing. Illustrative anecdotes and biographical information from the heyday of big bands, bebop, and Broadway musicals swim in a velvet fog of platitudes. It’s fun to recall that Fred Astaire’s Paramount screen test results allegedly read, ”Can’t act. Can’t sing. Balding. Can dance a little.” But who needs reminding that ”Cole Porter was the soul of sophistication”? Reading this memoir is like listening to the emcee’s patter on a TV all-star gala. We keep waiting for the music to begin. B

Originally posted October 21 1994 — 12:00 AM EDT

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