"VELVET & BRASS"
Mel Torme, with Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass (Concord)
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
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
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
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
Brian Ales (Intutition)
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. …