(London Hippodrome. 3rd August 2013. Review by Frank Griffith)
Vocalist James Tormé, one of the two singing progeny of Mel Tormé (his older brother, Steve performed recently at Crazy Coqs and reviewed HERE) was in spectacular form at this wonderful new venue in London's Leicester Square. The Matcham Room at the Hippodrome, perched alongside a bustling casino has a warm and comfortable atmosphere with a large stage, quality piano and PA system,etc. Featuring a programme which favours cabaret, lets hope that it continues to build as a jazz venue as well.
Tormé is a sparkplug of sensational vocal artistry and showmanship. He resembles his father vocally, with a similar light and airy quality and a stupendous range and agility, quite necessary to tackle the repertoire. His delivery is clear and unpretentious, and even more remarkable is his stylistic versatility. Of the 17 numbers he sang, about half of them were associated with his father with the remainder embracing many other genres. These included two Ray Charles classics, and a Bobby Timmons/Oscar Brown Jr ditty and two originals, one, "A Better Day Will Come" featuring James' lyrics and "My Room" penned by comedian and song and dance man, Earl Okin, who was present in the audience.
Tormé was not one to stifle his sidemen's creativity and expression: he was clearly enjoying and spurring on the brief but frequent solo forays by tenor saxophonist Brandon Allen and pianist Ross Stanley, especially in the second set. Allen deftly balances a fiery explosiveness in his solos with a supportive adherence to the written parts, clearly avoiding any overshadowing of the vocal. His solo on "Dat Dere" ran the risk of blowing the already high roof off of this venerable W1 edifice. His four-octave range and flawless command of the altissimo register was nicely offset by his full-bodied yet raucous tonal quality offering something for fans of the entire history of the instrument- from Hawkins to Brecker- he's got em covered. No shrinking violet, Stanley acquitted himself famously in both the solo and accompaniment stakes. He also provided a steady diet of what Ben Webster referred to as "reminiscing"- lightly playing moodily supportive tinklings behind the vocalist's verbal patter with the audience, of which their was no shortage. Bassist to the stars Geoff Gascoyne and Josh Morrison, who handed the drum chores flawlessly, both made peerless contributions.
Tormé is no mean scat soloist either. The focused shaping of his solos occasionally suggested that they could have been somewhat pre-structured, but they were no less effective. This adds yet another feather to his cap to illustrate his eclecticism as well as carrying on the bebop tradition.
James Tormé ended with a tribute to his mother, British actress, Janette Scott who was in the audience. His rendition of "If Only" sung by Janette in the 1957 film "The Good Companions" was gracefully handled and touching, in a non-sentimental way, wrapping up the programme together fittingly and poignantly.