’Tis the season for sparkling holiday music, and James Tormé will bring it in style to Symphony Orchestra Augusta’s Holiday Pops! at the Bell on Friday, Dec. 9.
Tormé has a Christmas jazz concert planned for the Augusta audience that is unlike anything he has performed before.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for a concert than I am for this one. It will truly be an exciting journey through a winter wonderland,” he said.
For starters, he will be backed not only by the symphony but also a trio consisting of bassist Ryan Cross, who has recorded with Grammy winner Alicia Keys, drummer Lyndon Rochelle, who performs with jazz musician Esperanza Spalding, and Los Angeles sensation Nikos Syropoulos on piano.
He will be accompanied by a 60-adult chorus and the Augusta Children’s Chorale to help him sing some well-loved Christmas carols.
“There will be multiple Christmas legacies in the show,” Tormé said.
The son of jazz legend Mel Tormé, he will perform his father’s The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire), arguably one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time.
But he will also perform two other, little-known Christmas songs written by his father – each can hold its own next to that Christmas classic, he said.
One of the songs, Christmas Was Made for Children, was to be recorded by Bing Crosby, but he died before he could record it, Tormé said.
The opportunity to share his father’s legacy and music is very close to his heart. As a child, he was bounced on the knees of Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Rich, Olivia de Havilland and others he knew only as his parents’ friends.
His father instilled in him a love of music and steeped him in jazz. But Tormé also fell in love with the popular music of his childhood, from singers such as Michael Jackson, Bonnie Raitt and Earth, Wind and Fire. He has taken all of those influences and incorporated them into his own sense of jazz.
It incorporates the music of the 1920s, that of his father’s era, and of this era, and blends it into an art form that honors the elder Tormé’s legacy while giving him something from his own to pass on to the next generation.
“This is our American culture. It should be preserved and celebrated and passed on from generation to generation,” he said.
In addition to Mel Tormé’s Christmas music, the concert will honor Alfred Burt, a largely unrecognized composer who wrote 15 Christmas carols in his lifetime. Only one was recorded before his death in 1954.
Friday’s concert is Tormé’s Christmas gift to his audience, and hopefully to a new crop of fans. It’s a moment of Tormé Christmas magic in the midst of the bustle of the holiday season.
“Anyone who misses the sort of magic of Christmastime that they remember from their childhood in a world that is increasingly sterilized should be at this concert,” he said.
Tormé will also perform at the Aiken Symphony Guild’s Holiday Pops Concert at 8 p.m. Saturday at the USC Aiken Etherredge Center.