Reviews/recordings

Article excerpt

"VELVET & BRASS"

Mel Torme, with Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass (Concord)

"THE VERDICT"

Johnny Adams (Rounder)

You can't say enough about a vocalist who can inject personality into a pop standard without crowding the song.

Mel Torme can pull this off, of course. Scat-singing profusely, spontaneously varnishing the lyric, angling toward an extreme frontier of the bar line, Torme invariably navigates his way to the emotional nexus of a song.

Working here with arranger, conductor and trombonist Rob McConnell and his 22-piece Boss Brass, Torme demonstrates this talent on 13 songs from the meat of his metier, especially the Gershwins and Cole Porter. Torme, who recently introduced himself to Generation X with a soda commercial in which he sang a Madison Avenue twist on Porter's classic "I Get a Kick Out of You," does a Latin treatment of that song here. He also does a Latin-style rendition of Porter's "In the Still of the Night. Both sizzle like expensive steaks.

And the 75-year-old vocalist continues to traverse his expansive vocal range acrobatically, with that astonishing precision of pitch.

Johnny Adams, who at first thought couldn't seem more unlike Mel Torme, similarly embraces a dozen standards on his new recording, constructing sophisticated balances between the personality of the singer and the song.

Long famed as an R&B singer in his native New Orleans, Adams, who will be 63 in January, inhabits the persona of "jazz singer" on his new album, embracing that role with customary soul and with an elegance that may surprise some.

The latter quality comes through especially on the ballads - listen to "Blue Gardenia," on which his sole accompanist is pianist Harry Connick Jr., and to a thoroughly delectable treatment of "I Cover the Waterfront," recorded with a four-piece ensemble that features saxophone veteran Houston Person. Paul A. Harris

*****

"HIGH LIFE"

Wayne Shorter (Verve)

"I want to create the sounds people hear when they sleep," says living legend Wayne Shorter in the press release accompanying his new recording "High Life."

He has succeeded.

One song into the disc and that's what you hear - through your snores, that is.

His first solo project in seven years, "High Life" arrived with high expectations, coming as it did from one of the premiere saxophone innovators. From his work in the '50s with Art Blakey to his pivotal work with Miles Davis to his fusion work with Weather Report and into his world beat ventures, Shorter has always driven hard and on an edge.

But "High Life" is slow and dull, a funky, new-age elevator ride.

The Los Angeles Symphony fills some space, but with the heavily programmed synthesizers also coloring the mix - and all of it wallowing in an oozy romanticism - this disc is little more than background for dreams. David W. Bothner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

*****

"NAIVETE"

Brian Ales (Intutition)

"MANGO THEORY"

Flying Monkey Orchestra (Monkeyville)

Not long after pop-jazz emerged in the early '70s, its most persuasive inventors, Bob James and Joe Zawinul, headed off in two distinctly separate directions. …