Rhythm, Romance and Swing
A cabaret show with songs and lyrics by Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Bronislau Kaper, Ned Washington, Harry Warren, Al Dubin, Rube Bloom, Harry Ruby, Mel Tormé, Robert Wells, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Eddy Arnold, Cindy Walker, Jerome Kern, Dorothy Fields, Oscar Hammerstein, Sigmund Romberg, Steve March-Tormé, and Steve Rawlins
Steve March-Tormé (singer) with Steve Rawlins (piano), Dave Olney (bass) & Elliott Henshaw (drums)
Reviewed by: Tom Vallance
Reviewed: 20 November, 2012
Venue: The Crazy Coqs, Brasserie Zédel, Piccadilly Circus, London
Bearing the surname of one of the greatest jazz vocalists, Steve March-Tormé pays dutiful homage to Mel in his nightclub act, but wisely does not attempt to replicate his father’s style. Tormé senior was not only a fine jazz performer but also an expert balladeer, who ranked with Sinatra, Crosby and Damone when it came to a caressing a melody. March-Tormé performs the lovely Kern-Hammerstein song ‘The folks who live on the hill’ beautifully – on his own terms and with a pleasing voice. When he performs a rhythm number, he employs more scat vocalising than dad used to, and during instrumental passages he hops around the stage, galvanised. His three accompanists are given generous time to display their talents.
March-Tormé also plays piano occasionally. He begins his set with a buoyant ‘Blue skies‘, followed by two songs his father sang, Cole Porter’s ‘Just one of those things’ and Bronislau Kaper’s haunting film theme, ‘Green Dolphin Street’. In his youth, Steve tells us, he would listen to the radio and join in with all the pop hits. He particularly liked The Flamingoes’ 1956 recording of ‘I only have eyes for you’, which he presents in a style very different to how Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell introduced the song in Busby Berkeley’s 1934 musical, Dames.
Other highlights include the lovely Eddy Arnold hit, ‘You don’t know me’, and he segues from a wistful ‘The way you look tonight’ to a ferociously swinging ‘Lover come back to me’. ‘Blue Moon’ is preceded by the story of Richard Rodgers chastising Mel Tormé for singing one note differently to the way it is written; and March-Tormé tells us that his father never achieved his ambition to have a Number One hit in the US, but he did in the UK: ‘Mountain greenery’ topped the charts for several weeks! “It turned my father into a total Anglophile – he loved the British from then on.”
It would have been interesting to hear more stories about Mel, but Steve was adopted by his mother’s second husband, the comedy actor Hal March, when he was three, so had little contact with Mel during his formative years. Like his father, Steve started composing in his teens, and was persuaded by his friend Desi Arnaz (junior) to write a song for Lucille Ball’s television show, Here’s Lucy. March-Tormé performs four serviceable songs he has written with Steve Rawlins, the best of which is ‘Swingin’ at the Blue Moon Bar and Grille’, a real rouser that makes a perfect climax to a most enjoyable set. For an encore, a touching tribute to Mel, a loving rendition of his dad’s greatest hit as a composer, the perennial ‘Christmas song’ (“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”).
- Rhythm, Romance and Swing is at The Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, Piccadilly Circus, London W1 until Saturday 24 November 2012
- Bookings 020 7734 4888