on 6 March 2011
This doesn't pretend to be a top-quality recording and you do have to make allowances for the fact that the recording was made for private use. It's too light at the bottom end. Having said that, it doesn't really spoil the occasion - and what an occasion it was! Ultra-relaxed to the extent that nobody worries about the odd fluffed entry or scrabble to get a solo together, and all the more fun for that. The three stars are in congenial company and are clearly having loads of fun. I particularly like the extended version of Arlen and Mercer's 'Blues in the Night' - nobody will ever match this for me and the band's 'train whistle' will make your hair stand on end. Also, the closing numbers, beginning with 'The Song is ended but the Melody lingers on', are among the warmest and most enjoyable live performances I've heard. No wonder the usually fastidious Concord people issued this - it would be a great pity to miss it.
This recently discovered 1982 recording of the Carnegie Hall performance of Mel Torme, George Shearing, and Gerry Mulligan is the only known recording of these three giants performing together, and what a performance is! Mulligan's fifteen-piece orchestra connects the artists' solos and fills the recording with atmospheric effects, haunting beats, and dramatic accents. Torme's evolution from crooner of beautiful melodies, as he was in the 1977 "London Sessions," to a full-out jazz performer just five years later, is obvious through his relaxed scatting and his use of his voice as a jazz instrument--on a par with Mulligan's sax and Shearing's piano.
Containing all the patter of a live performance, the CD gets off to a rousing start with Count Basie's "I Sent For You Yesterday and Here You Come Today," a lively swing song in which the performers are obviously having fun--an all-scat track in which the trio echoes and plays off each other, improvising as they go. Mulligan's composition, "Jeru" features Torme and Mulligan singing together in a song that is almost without a melodic line, filled with what Torme calls "crazy bridges." A Duke Ellington medley allows each man to solo, but they move back and forth, picking up each other's motifs and ending up back where they began. Thelonius Monk's bluesy "Round Midnight," sung as a haunting ballad, contains two long solos by Mulligan and Shearing, along with much improvisation and many key changes.
One of the most interesting tracks is "Line for Lyons," in which Torme, Mulligan, and Shearing, aided by Don Thompson on bass, recreate the "Mulligan Quartet" of earlier years, with Torme representing the clarinet through his scatting, and the soloists sometimes performing in different tempos simultaneously. The eleven-minute long "Blues in the Night" serves as the grand finale, a wildly imaginative treatment of the Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer standard in which the performers are so in tune with each other that they soar into new realms.
Despite the fact that they are playing in Carnegie Hall, the three stars create the feeling of playing in an intimate jazz club--experimenting with songs full of dissonances, changes of rhythm, soaring improvisation, and non-stop scat. The orchestra, generally sensitive to the solos of the stars, somewhat overpowers Shearing, on occasion, and greater amplification of the piano would have helped. This recording of three jazz greats, having fun at a time when all three were making changes in their styles, is a landmark recording, one for which some small problems with mixing can be excused. Mary