On June 29, 1982 three of the biggest names in jazz – Mel Tormé, George Shearing, and Gerry Mulligan – performed their first live concert together. That night at Carnegie Hall would later be broadcast on the National Public Radio series Jazz Alive! in 1983, it was never issued as a separate recording. Concord has that with this release carefully mastered from the original master tapes.
The concert gets off to a rousing start with “I’ve Heard That Song Before” with Mulligan’s big band reaching Kentonesque heights. Then they effortlessly launch into the swinging “I Sent For You Yesterday And Here You Come Today” which was a big hit by Jimmy Rushing when he was with Count Basie. Mulligan’s baritone saxophone tone is just wonderful, but still it’s hard to keep up with Tormé. He’s an orchestra to himself with his inventive scatting. Mulligan wrote some new lyrics for his standard “Jeru” just for the concert, but I still much prefer the non-lyric version on Birth Of The Cool.
Tormé lives up to his “Velvet Fog” title on the ballad “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life” with an enveloping, languorous vibrato which even sounds a horn at the very end of the song. Gerry Mulligan takes a vocal turn on his musically upbeat “Walkin’ Shoes” as he trades off lines with Mel about a woman walking out on her man. “’Round Midnight” is performed with Tormé including the rarely heard first lines and the results are haunting with George Shearing naturally in excellent form. Shearing and Tormé had recently started performing and recording together for the Concord label.
The Mulligan Quartet is recreated for the tribute to West Coast disc jockey, Jimmy Lyons, on “Line For Lyons”. The majority of the Carnegie Hall concert was a tribute to American music, but a small portion was devoted to Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim with a quite syncopated version of “Wave/Agua De Beber”. Tormé jokes about the range needed to sing “Wave” and he interpolates “The Girl From Ipanema”, Gershwin’s “Summertime” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So”, plus a snippet of 20th Century composer Morton Gould’s “Pavanne.” All of the stops are pulled out for the almost 11 minute “Blues In The Night” with various emotions evoked throughout, but never straying too far from the blues. Shearing’s piano playing reaches a peak for the night on this epic cut. A touch of Las Vegas show biz rears its hammy head on “The Song Is Ended (But The Melody Lingers On)”, but its fun in its own ironic way. It’s not hyperbole for Concord to title this The Classic Concert Live.