ANITA, MEL, STEVE, TORME, GENE AND MORE
JazzLegends.com is proud to welcome our newest supporter, Dave Bedrock’s American Drum School. You’ll find his advert on our CD page, and it is, without doubt, worth more than a click or two. Dave has been in the drum world for ages, with expertise in just about every type of music. Like my colleagues at Hudson Music, and DCI Music Video before that, Dave saw the possibilities for drum tutoring via video at the dawn of the video age. He is a pioneer, and his concept of online lessons–as well as plenty of more great goodies–is a superb one. His site was and is among the best drum-related sites on the web.
The manager of the late Anita O’Day, Robbie Cavolina, checked in with us after reading our column on Ms. O’Day. To say that he was not happy is an understatement, stating that I knew nothing whatsoever about the nature of their association, that it was Ms. O’Day herself who wanted to continue performing, etc., etc. I offered to open up our web pages for Mr. Cavolina to reply to my criticisms, at any length whatsoever and with no editing involved. I have never heard from him again, but the offer still stands.
Too many folks in the jazz world seem to be checking out these days, including fellow Philadelphian Michael Brecker, jazz and blues legend Jay McShann, reedman Kenny Davern and a really great writer by the name of Whitney Balliet. Balliet, to many of us aspiring jazz writers growing up, idolized him, as well as Martin Williams, Leonard Feather and various others. My brother, the musicologist Joel Klauber, gave Whitney the monicker of “the poet laureate of jazz,” and we’re happy that it stuck.
We are, hopefully, “this close” to signing a deal with Alfred Publishing for the book, “The Great American Drum Catalogs: The 1950s.” We will keep you updated. We are also told that our 1956 “JATP in Hamburg” discovery will be released shortly in a deluxe edition by Fresh Sound Records in Barcelona, Spain. The folks at Fresh Sound are really, really fabulous, and it continues to be interesting to consider the fact that we had to go to Barcelona to get this released properly. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t jazz “born” in the United States?
The Bopworks drum stick manufacturing company out of Austin, Texas, specializes in making sticks that have the look and feel of those great sticks from the 1950s and 1960s. Indeed, they are shortly coming out with a Mel Lewis model based, I believe, on Mel’s famed Gretsch stick. The big news, however, is that yours truly, Bopworks and the Estate of Gene Krupa are about to sign agreements for the issue of an “officially sanctioned” Krupa stick, the first on the market since Slingerland ceased producing them in 1972. The stick will be an exact duplicate of the Slingerland, late 1940s model, and will carry a reproduction of Gene’s actual signature. Though Bopworks may be a relatively small operation right now, it won’t be for long. We will let you know when the exact issue date is, and in the meantime, please visit the Bopworks web site at www.Bopworks.net
While visiting Naples, Florida, recently, I noticed that Steve March Torme’ was booked at the Naples Philharmonic to perform what was called “Torme’ Sings Torme’. While I was aware that Mel’s son was a singer, I had only heard him doing pop-type stuff, and I wondered how anyone could do a vocal and musical tribute to one of the certifiable geniuses of music. And yes, Mel was friend of mine. He wrote the introduction to my first book on Gene Krupa and narrated our famed, “Buddy Rich: Jazz Legend” videos. To my surprise, Steve March Torme’ was just fabulous. I was so moved by the show, that I wrote a review of it for the Naples Sun Times newspaper. This is the review as it appeared in the paper:
Steve March Torme”s recent, sold-out performance at The Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts was, quite simply, an extraordinary musical event. Steve March Torme’ is the son of the late, legedary and multi-talented Mel Torme’, and in this multi-media program, entitled “Torme’ Sings Torme’, Steve March pays vocal and verbal tribute to his father. Filling dad’s shoes–especially when dad was an absolute genius as a composer, singer, drummer, pianist and author–is virtually impossible. Mel Torme’ just cannot be imitated. Wisely, Steve March Torme’ doesn’t even try, though if anyone could do it, he could. There are, in fact, a few moments where the vocal resemblance is erie.
Certainly, the musical influence is present–how could it not be?–but Steve March Torme’ is very, very much his own man and it is obvious that this tribute to his father is nothing less than sincere and heartfelt. The program he chose to present focused on songs made famous by Mel, including “Mountain Greenery,” “Lulu’s Back in Town,” “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Stardust,” “Ridin’ High,” and of course, as an encore, “The Christmas Song.” The stellar, 12-piece big band, under the musical direction of pianist Steve Rawlins, tackled the most difficult arrangements in the Torme’ cannon, those being the famed orchestrations written for Torme’ in the mid-1950s by the great Marty Paich. Vocally, these charts are not easy to navigate, as they are filled with key changes, tempo changes and interludes of scat singing. Torme”s interpretations, without exception, are swinging, joyous and effortless, with all of the sense of perfection that was a hallmark of his father’s. More importantly, Steve March Torme’ draws no attention to the fact these pieces are difficult. One can only imagine how much rehearsal went into this. But then again, the younger Torme’ did grow up with this music.
He is quite candid, onstage and off, about his relationship with his father. Mel Torme’ and Steve’s mother, Candy Tockstein, divorced when Steve was 2 1/2 years old. Tockstein subsequently married Hal March, best known as the host of televison’s “The $64,000 Question.” By the age of 12, Steve had already made up his mind that he wanted to be a performer and had his own band a year later. After the death of Hal March, he established a relationship with his father, and both realized they had much in common. He had his father’s support as well. In one, telling segment of this program, Steve shows a vintage piece of video which shows the elder Torme’ sitting in with his son’s band at what appeared to be a rock club in Los Angeles. And, yes, Steve was scatting pretty well even then.
In the late 1970s, he recorded something called “Lucky,” for United Artists records, and later produced and sang on Liza Minnelli’s “Tropical Nights,” a Columbia records release. Through the years, he’s also done various acting jobs in films and television. Legendary arranger Quincy Jones was always impressed with Steve’s talent, and tapped him to be one of three siners for the famed vocal group, “Full Swing,” which toured the world and recorded for Planet Records. Since then, he has concentrated on a solo career, and has made more than a smooth transition to jazz. This current tour is in support of his new CD, “The Essence of Love,” which includes a duet with famed jazz vocalist Diane Schurr.
The entertainment industry is not an easy business as it is, and growing up in the business had to have been difficult. In this case, however, you’d never know it. Steve March Torme’ is funny, self-effacing and generally just a nice guy. After what must have been an exhausting, two-hour show, which also included a few turns at the piano, guitar and a surprisingly agile tap-dancing segment, he sat in The Phil’s lobby for hours afterward, signing CDs and photos, telling stories and listening to more than one tale from those who knew and/or saw his dad perform. And by the way, he does the darndest, verbal impression of Mel Torme’ that anyone has ever heard.
Steve March Torme’ is not the first, and likely will not be the last, child of a major performer to follow in mom or dad’s footsteps. Currently on the road, just to name two, are Frank Sinatra, Jr., who is paying tribute to his father and Deena Martin, doing the same. But ultimately, an artist with the talent of Steve March Torme’ will go his own way musically, as it is already clear that he was and is very much his own man. I can’t wait to hear what the future will bring. In the program notes, Steve March Torme’ thanks his father “for showing me how important professionalism is.” Believe me, it shows.
Dr. Bruce H. Klauber is the biographer of drum great Gene Krupa, producer/creator of the Warner Brothers and Hudson Music “Jazz Legends” DVD series, and a jazz drummer and recording artist since childhood. Mel Torme’ wrote the introduction to Klauber’s “World of Gene Krupa” book and narrated his two-part DVD, “Buddy Rich: Jazz Legend.” Visit him on the web at www.JazzLegends.com
Finally, friends, we have some exciting discoveries on the way. Please note that we have already released “Gene Krupa: 1966” on CD, which contains about 17 minutes of very rare material of the Jazz Quartet with Carmen Leggio, recorded in Detroit in 1966. Upcoming, from the same year is an unbelievable Krupa concert, with Eddie Shu, Wellstood, etc., that was likely recorded at a state fair some where in the midwest. This features state-of-the-art recording and some of the best Krupa playing ever captured on tape.
Stay tuned, God bless and keep swingin’.
Bruce Klauber February, 2007