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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Guard Sessions

Sounds of Yester Year DSOY 877



1. Introduction
2. Hello Young Lovers
3. Marie
4. Porgy And Bess Medley
5. O menino desce do morro (Little Brown Boy)
6. Introduction
7. Hey Look Me Over
8. One Note Samba
9. A Foggy Day
10. Taboo
11. Introduction
12. The Surrey With The Fringe On Top
13. Tonight
14. The Lady's In Love With You
15. One O'Clock Jump
16. Introduction
17. Lulu's Back In Town
18. Pao de assucar (Sugar Loaf)
19. 'Round Midnight
20. Kook-a-ra-cha Waltz

Mel Tormé - Vocals
Shorty Rogers - Trumpet, flugelhorn, arranger, conductor
Ken Shroyer, George Roberts - Trombones
Paul Horn, Buddy Collette - Flutes, clarinets, alto saxes, tenor saxes
Bill Hood - Baritone sax, bass sax
Larry Bunker - Vibes
Lou Levy - Piano
Monte Budwig - Bass
Shelly Manne - Drums


Jazz singers are often hindered by accompaniment from lush string orchestras or overweighted big bands. Most vocalists would be better served if they were backed by small jazz groups. Thus Mel Tormé benefits from the backing on this CD by Shorty Rogers and his Giants, a ten-piece group which contains such versatile musicians that they can provide a wide range of accompaniments. For instance One O'Clock Jump is renewed with flutes. The band can cope with swing, ballads, show tunes, and bossa novas (the announcer suggests that Shorty Rogers invented the bossa nova - a claim which Shorty hastens to deny).
The band is accompanying one of the finest vocalists in jazz history. Mel Tormé had a miraculous ability to sing with immense freedom: changing keys and moods at a moment's notice, scatting, improvising new lyrics and melody lines, while singing in tune and with consummate swing. His medley of songs from Porgy and Bess illustrates all these talents. Mel takes huge liberties with the Gershwin brothers' songs but his phrasing never misses a beat.
Mel's vocals are interspersed with instrumentals from the band, where Shorty Rogers makes a good lead, whether on trumpet or flugelhorn. Shorty's arrangements give a fresh look to most tunes. Larry Bunker's vibraphone adds glitter to several tracks, especially the imaginative reworking of Tonight from West Side Story.
The tracks on this CD were recorded in 1963 for four different "Guard Sessions". These were basically programmes to advertise the National Guard and the music is continually disturbed by presenter Martin Block talking about the benefits of joining the Guard. It's as annoying as lots of commercials interrupting a TV programme you want to watch.
Incidentally, track 10 is listed as Speak Low but it is actually Taboo. And the sleeve-note says that Mel Tormé was also known as "The Velvet Frog". His actual nickname was "The Velvet FOG".
Tony Augarde

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