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Mel Torme And Friends : A Grab Bag Of Jazz Styles At The Hollywood Bowl

September 05, 1986|A. JAMES LISKA

Eight singers, each with a particular and valid definition of jazz, crooned, wailed and scatted Wednesday evening at Hollywood Bowl, leaving one of the 11,782 patrons at the conclusion of the three-hour Jordache jazz at the Bowl concerts to remark, "I didn't know there were so many kinds of jazz."

Indeed, the variety of jazz styles presented covered the hyphenate spectrum from Latin-jazz to jazz-rock. And in-between came plenty of scat and soul, with swing serving as the common denominator.

Headliner Mel Torme hosted this grand night for swinging and answered his own question regarding the whereabouts of today's young jazz singers by introducing the five acts who represent the future of the music.

Dave Frishberg, the tradition-bound composer-pianist whose cleverly crafted tunes have delighted audiences for more than a decade, was the first to strut his stuff in a too-short set of his own musical witticisms. "I Can't Take You Nowhere" and "My Attorney Bernie" had the elfin Frishberg at his funniest, while his tribute to losers, "You'd Rather Have the Blues," and the futuristic "Green Hills of Earth" were incisively poignant. At the lyrically obscured core, however, was an unwavering jazz sensibility that Frishberg aptly displayed at the piano.

Dianne Reeves, whose considerable vocal talents frequently have been diminished by her errant choice of material and background, delivered a beautifully wrought set of three tunes from the standard repertoire. Her rich contralto voice and deep emotionality were particularly effective on "The Nearness of You," accompanied by bassist Joel DiBartolo.

Bobby McFerrin turned his voice into a battery of instruments for a 20 minutes display of a cappella vocal gymnastics. Though spectacularly impressive the entertainment value must be derived from such pointless exercises as a rendition of "Itsy Bitsy Spider" or a scat sing-along. His best outing was "Levi's 501 Blues," a tune that Jordache sponsors no doubt appreciated.

Tania Maria's too long, overly loud set of Latin jazz was the least effective part of the program. Her fiery brand of music seems too coolly calculated and the emotional content too predictable.

The concert's second half opened with Full Swing, a trio of singers Charlotte Crossley, Lorraine Feather and Bruce Scott. Though the group lived up to its name, the effectiveness of its set was lessened by the unharnessed volume of its six-man backup band. Sadly, the decibels obscured the clever lyric writing of Feather on such tunes as "Big Fun" and "Busted For Boppin' ."

After a pair of superbly played instrumental outings by the Bob Florence Limited Edition, the 18-man big band played backup for Mel Torme.

Torme's repertoire is so vast that he has reduced much of it into a series of medleys that, while musically effective and neatly crafted by the singer, delivered too little to an audience eager to hear the multitalented singer work through an entire song.

But despite the unsatisfying nature of the musical grab bags presented Wednesday evening, Torme nonetheless delivered each with a zeal befitting his enormous talent. And when he would settle for more than a few seconds on a single tune, such as "Watch What Happens," "How High The Moon" or "Wave," there would emit such musicality and swing as to amaze.

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