Every Year at Christmas Timeby
I Miss My Friend, Mel Torme
never sure exactly when it’s going to happen, but every year at sometime during
the Christmas season I
realize how much I really miss my friend, jazz singer Mel Torme.
more about the mixing of cord harmonies than anyone did before or has since. He
was the one who taught that art to bandleaders Les Baxter and Artie Shaw, and
singers Ginny O’Connor (Henry Mancini’s wife), the Hi-Los and the Manhattan Transfer.
He’s the one who wrote the arrangements for Chico Marx’s band when Mel was but
no one sung the songs of Christmas with more interpretive passion than Mel, even
though he was Jewish.
also the one my business colleague of twenty-plus years ago, Carol Todreas, and
I tromped on many bitter-cold snowy nights from our Central Park South hotel to
a small jazz club on Manhattan’s east side called Marty’s, to hear him front the
George Shearing Trio, in a packed house that held no more than 70. |
was carved out of the first-floor corner of a multi-story parking garage. It was
New York City’s best kept secret. No way did the owner make any money, and it’s
for sure Mel and Shearing were working for not much more than a free meal.
for them it was the perfect gig. For the audience it was the venue of succes d’estime.
Torme wrote the tune and most of the words to the Christmas song that goes, “Chestnuts
roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost nipping at your nose.” And he did it when
he was just 22-years old.
summer he appeared to a packed house in the Marine Ballroom at Galveston’s
Pleasure Pier. And he had one successful appearance after another at the Island’s
Room, although his name never seems to be included in the list of the B-Room’s
star performers – entertainers like Phil Harris, Myron Cohen, Frank Sinatra and
the like -- when someone speaks or writes about those days.
Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
Every year symphonies
give their annual Christmas Pops concerts. The houses are always packed. But interestingly,
when you look around to see who’s in the audience, you would think that every
senior citizen within a fifty-mile radius was there, while the young people were
obviously somewhere else.
The orchestra plays arrangements of many of the
favorites – Adeste Fideles, Little Drummer Boy, Deck the Halls, O Come All Ye
Faithful and so on.
I remember that one time the vote on my wife, Patty’s,
and my row was that a Davis/Custer arrangement of Silent Night was the best.
It may have been. But before that, they had played my old friend Mel’s song. And
I sung along in my head, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost nipping
at your nose. Yule time carols....”
And that time like every other time,
while the orchestra and the rest of the audience moved on in the program, they
left me behind, as they always do, to think of Christmases of the past when Mel
was still singing his songs, Carol and I were tromping through the Manhattan snow
to hear him at Marty’s, and all of the members of the Cherry family were still
alive and together awaiting the wonderful celebration of Christmas.
are all of the reasons in the world for me to miss Mel Torme.
Cherry's Galveston Memories July 3, 2009 column
Copyright William S. Cherry.
All rights reserved
a Dallas Realtor and free lance writer was a longtime columnist for "The Galveston
County Daily News." His book, Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories, has sold
thousands, and is still available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com and other