Writings about Music
Mel and Mel
This recording by Mel Tormé is my favorite version of "My Shining Hour" to date, music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer. The irresistable legato and timbre of Mel's voice is enhanced coloristically, texturally, and emotionally by clarinetist Al Pellegrini. Apparently, this song, referenced in the notes for Lotus-Pollen, was a great comfort to WWII soldiers dreaming of home.
Following this glorious find, I came across the perfect chemistry combining Tormé with drummer Mel Lewis enacting "On the Street Where You Live," lyrics and music by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe. Notice the simultaneous clarity, definition, and flow Mel and Mel achieve together, pure melody and rhythm soaring at optimum trajectories. Enriching their sublime musical elevation is none other than alto saxophonist Art Pepper.
Something Mel Tormé and Pandit Jasraj share is how they began their musical journey as percussionists - Tormé as a drummer, and Pandit Jasraj as a tabla player. This largely accounts for the superior rhythmic sense informing their singing.
A friend of mine was a caretaker for Mel Tormé during his last years, and she was inconsolable when he passed away. She especially loved accompanying him to play poker once a week with Hugh Hefner at the Playboy mansion.
While living in Manhattan in 1987, I had a part-time job working for a Park Avenue doctor who was closely related to either Lerner or Loewe - I've forgotten which one.
Lastly, here is an exquisitely vibrant and breezy rendering of "All I Need Is the Girl," music and lyrics by Jule Stein and Stephen Sondheim, including the rarely heard introduction. My absolute favorite recording of this remarkably original song, illuminating elements of city nightlife and haberdashery, is by Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington.
- Michael Robinson, January 2021, Los Angeles
© 2021 Michael Robinson All rights reserved
Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and writer (musicologist).