Beside Marty Paich, none of Mel Tormé's collaborators exerted such a large influence on the singer's career as George Shearing, the pianist whose understated, expressive accompaniment contributed to Tormé's resurgence during the early '80s. Their six excellent albums together – two of which, An Evening With… and Top Drawer, earned Grammy awards – proved that classic vocal music had outlasted the long night that was the '70s, and emerged to become a timeless American genre. The pair's work for Concord was usually recorded live in a trio or quartet setting; leaving much space for Shearing solos, Tormé occasionally reprised his big standards ("A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," "Lullaby of Birdland," "The Folks Who Live on the Hill"), but often searched for more obscure material he could make his own, and often succeeded. Tormé and Shearing were restless innovators, taking on a full album of World War II standards, medleys devoted to songs about New York and by Duke Ellington, and a stunningly broad range of material: "Oleo," "Lili Marlene," "How Do You Say Auf Wiedersehen?," and "Dat Dere."
About the things I play: Id say my treatment of tunes should be classed as repertoire rather than a particular jazz style. This is probably due to the fact that years ago when I first started to play jazz, I would imitate various jazz greats such as Earl Hines, Tatum, and Cleo Brown. (She was the first musician Id ever heard who played eight-beat piano.) With imitation we can come close but we never really achieve what we try to achieve by imitation, at least I didnt. So I started to develop each tune as an individual composition rather than trying to play every tune in the same style. I had the best luck with this kind of approach, and now I have a repertoire built up over twenty years Incidentally, I usually write the piano parts out note for note even though when I play I never work from the music. This is a kick I got on years ago. I think we get the sound we do because a lot of our stuff is worked out carefully. It isnt what youd call free improvisation.