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Image Entertainment presents

Mel Tormé—Standing Room Only (1989)

"Some piece of music, isn't it?"- Mel Tormé, describing Soliloquy, from Carousel

Stars: Mel Tormé
Director: Michael Giacalone

MPAA Rating: Not RatedRun Time: 00h:58m:39s
Release Date: 2004-07-06
Genre: jazz

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+C+B- D-


DVD Review

Oh, it's way too easy to make fun of Mel Tormé—the double chin, the pinky ring, the white man's efforts at scat. And no doubt there's a whole generation or two who know him principally from his frequent appearances on Night Court. But the guy could write a heck of a song, and he had a set of pipes—unfortunately he passed away in 1999, but this concert, recorded ten years earlier, is a pretty fair look at what his show was like late in his career. Recorded at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, this was a benefit for the Brady Cancer Research Institute, and has been niftily edited to give us the full show in less than an hour.

Tormé performs a couple of medleys, which tend to feel forced—the Guys and Dolls sequence in particular seems like an unnecessarily fast gallop through Frank Loesser's score, even if Tormé would have made for a natural Nicely Nicely Johnson. Similarly, his hamminess comes through in his rendition of Soliloquy, from Carousel; but the full rich tone of his voice is very much on display, and he shows the song off to good advantage, even if dramatically he's no Billy Bigelow. He performs his most famous composition, The Christmas Song (you know—"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire," and all that), as well as a Yiddish-infused Ella Fitzgerald tribute—he oddly segues mid-scat into If I Were a Rich Man.

Tormé is also pretty fair on the skins, re-creating Gene Krupa's legendary solo on Sing Sing Sing, as part of a Benny Goodman tribute. The audience, almost all of whom seem to be in Tormé's age group, seem to be having a fine old time, especially when Mel gets them all to sing along to Bye Bye, Blackbird. For the entire set, Tormé is backed by a somewhat winnowed down big band, though for his encore, Day In, Day Out, it's just a jazz trio backing him up. Here's the set list:

Sing for Your Supper Medley
What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?
Guys and Dolls Medley
Christmas Song
Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald
Tribute to Benny Goodman
For All We Know
Bye Bye Blackbird
Day In, Day Out
Come Rain or Come Shine

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The images from this multi-camera shoot are a little too contrasty, and the colors tend to be a little muddy.

Image Transfer Grade: C+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: There's some hiss and buzz, but mostly the music sounds fine.

Audio Transfer Grade: B- 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Music/Song Access with 12 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Only a dozen chapter stops.

Extras Grade: D-

Final Comments

A nifty little set from an old-style jazz showman. Mel Tormé is probably looking down at this DVD release, scatting and smiling.

Jon Danziger 2004-07-13