MY SINGING TEACHERS: Reflections on Singing Popular Music by Mel "TormÉ

MY SINGING TEACHERS: Reflections on Singing Popular Music

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Great idea: Take one of America's top jazz singers, who also happens to be a good writer (Traps, the Drum Wonder, 1991), and have him write about the singers and musicians who influenced him. Unfortunately, the end result is disappointing and frustrating. TormÉ had the good fortune to grow up in an era of great singers, songwriters, arrangers, and instrumentalists. More important, it was also an era of live radio broadcasts and increased fidelity in recording techniques. As he makes abundantly clear in this text, the phonograph was his conservatory, with radio serving as a practicum and the movies and Broadway as sources of extra-credit assignments. As a result, the influences on his musical style range far and wide, from Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald to Mabel Mercer and sax players Georgie Auld and Gerry Mulligan. In the book's best moments, he deftly describes a singer's style in a few quick brushstrokes; his descriptions of Louis Armstrong on a bandstand or Crosby at a mike are little gems that capture a moment and a style. However, too much space in this slender volume is wasted on biographical data or irrelevancies like a long list of people who dubbed vocals for Hollywood's non-singers. TormÉ is capable of better, more extended analysis, as the excellent section on the underappreciated Lee Wiley shows. He is also a pretty fair prose stylist, despite a glaring mixed metaphor in his discussion of Richard Rodgers, whose ""iron-clad melodies...stuck to your ribs."" That sounds like a painful experience indeed. This book would have been much better if TormÉ had concentrated more on the music.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.