Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...
THE JAZZ SINGER
Last month jazz vocalist Mel Tormé, now 70, got a standing ovation and eight curtain calls from 55,000 Seattle rock-and-roll fans while he was sharing the bill with the Ramones and Mudhoney. And in recent weeks, he has also been an undeniable presence on TV: appearing on ABC's The Monroes, cohosting MTV's Rude Awakening and singing the Top 10 List on Late Show with David Letterman. But despite his current popularity with young and mainstream audiences, Tormé says he still thinks of himself as "the ultimate jazz singer." He has just released Velvet & Brass (Concord Jazz) with conductor Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass.
Which musicians influenced you?
Number one, of course, is Ella Fitzgerald. I call her the high priestess of song. There was also a black singer by the name of Leo Watson. He played with the Gene Krupa Band, and I loved his scat singing. I loved Harry Mills of the Mills Brothers, and I thought Patty Andrews of the Andrews Sisters was a great singer.
Do you like any of today's singers?
Donald Fagen, who's one half of the team of Steely Dan; I think he's marvelous. I like Billy Joel's singing; I like Stevie Wonder. There are a handful of singers that I like, but really not a lot, to be frank, in the current crop.
How do you feel about finding a younger audience? Does it make you happy?
I think it's great. Young people dictate the trends of music. I'm thrilled to death that they have kind of clasped me to their collective bosom and said, "Okay, you're hip, you're cool, we like you."