Get ready to “Snap, Sizzle. Pop” at the The Smith Center Cabaret Jazz Room at 7:00 p.m. on Friday or Saturday September 27 and 28, 2013. That's when entertainer Steve March-Tormé brings his own interpretation of ballads and uptempo songs from the Great American Songbook to the Smith Center's Cabaret Jazz Room. The charismatic performer will be backed by a great jazz quartet as he presents both old standards and a number of original tunes.
Steve's name bring questions to mind. Yes, he is the son of the multi-talented “Velvet Fog” Mel Tormé. But don't overlook the March. That would be Hal March the man his mother married after her divorce from Torme. Hal March, best remembered as the host of The $64,000 Question Show, raised Torme. In later years, after Hal passed away, Steve connected more closely with his birth father, Mel Tormé.
I had the opportunity to chat with this talented, personable 60 year old Wisconsin resident and was charmed by his guy next door quality blended with his savvy approach to his career.
This man has performed from Los Angeles to London in everything from intimate clubs to huge arenas. He can't get too far without performing some of his famous singer dad's songs, but he always tries to mix up the show with both standards and his newer original material.
I had a few questions for him and he was ready with the answers.
Dianne Davis: Your show at the Smith Center is called Snap. Sizzle. Pop. Please explain.
Steve March-Tormé: I think enough people have delved into the Great American Song Book ad nauseum for the last 15 or 20 years. It was one thing when people that really were from that era were singing it. A lot of those great old tunes some of which I do sing in my show, but I try to rearrange them so that I give it a nice fresh approach so people can listen to something they've heard before and say, oh I haven't heard it done like that before. But without changing it so much that they don't recognize it.
I guess that's the finger snapping part of it. The sizzle part is the musicians I work with. I don't do a staid boring show. I think the guys I work with are pretty good hot jazz players.
And the pop part is the pop music that I bring to it, because I didn't grow up in my dad's era. I grew up in my era. I grew up not only listening to but in some respects emulating the pop musicians that I grew up listening to.
Dad up grew up in era of Benny Goodman, Harry James, Duke Ellington Count Basie. Those were his heroes. Mine growing up were the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Steely Dan, Todd Rundgren. I listened to pop music. There's a little of all of this in my show along with about a third of it will be original material. do a lot of writing.
DD: Do you bring your musicians with you?
SMT: Some of them do and some of them are from Vegas. And we know there is no lack of very good musicians in Vegas.
DD: Is it going to be all music? You are the son of Mel Torme. Will we hear some stories?
SMT: people especially today. I feel its incumbent upon me to entertain an audience. I don't want to be somebody who just says this song was written by so and so and sings it. I have plenty of vignettes and a little bit of questions and answers. I tell the audience they can ask me anything they like.
DD: What are you doing in Wisconsin?
SMT: You fall in love and you do it for love. People do insane things for love. I met my wife in Chicago. We lived in Santa Monica. We had our first child and had no yard. She said what do you think about moving to Wisconsin? I've got to get on an airplane anyway. It's worked out pretty well. I don't miss LA. I don't miss the traffic, the high prices, the attitude. I like it here.
DD: What was the best advice that Hal and Mel gave you?
SMT: The best advice that Hal gave me was that no matter what you want to be, just try to be the best you can at it. Have pride in what you do.
Best advice from Mel? Musically he did tell me, develop your lower range. He was right. It was very sage advice.
DD: What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a singer?
SMT: Go to school and become a doctor. … The business of music has changed so radically. I would tell them what I have learned over the last years which is sing honestly and then you can't lose.
DD: Who were your idols?
SMT: When I was a little boy, it was the stars of the New York Yankees. Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Tony Kubek. And when I realized at about 13 that I wanted to make music my career, then it was the Beatles for sure, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. To this day, I listen to a lot of the songs they wrote. They are great pop writers.
I don't have a lot of idols. I admire a lot of people. Stevie Wonder James Taylor, and Joanie Mitchell fall into that category The more I listened to older music, Ray Charles and Nat King Cole for sure. I loved my dad's singing. I thought he was extremely talented.
DD: Do you have a favorite charity?
SMT: Anything that has to do with animals. My wife and I give to an animal foundation in Wisconscin. We also support Leaven, an organization for people who have hardships. I give to the American Diabetes Association. I am more partial to helping animals.
DD: Who are some of the kids you grew up with?
SMT: Desi Arnaz Jr and his buddy Billy Hinsche, We were buddies. Eddie Fisher's daughter Carrie, Tony Martin's son Tony, Jr. We were acquaintances in High School.Tony Martin's son, Tony Jr. we were acquaintances in high school. I knew Liza. Became friends when we were in our 20's.
DD: Hal March was in the business. So who showed up at your house?
SMT: Comedians. Almost every weekend in our home it was Buddy Hackett, Jack Carter and Jan Murray, and Lucy and Milton Berle.
DD: How do you relax?
SMT: I play a lot of sports. I play USTA League tournaments. I relax by playing tennis and hanging with my family. I watch plenty of sports and I relax, that's therapeutic for me.
DD: What do you like about yourself?
SMT: I make people around me feel better. And make em laugh. My personality and ego have changed I hope for better over the last 20 years. I'm conscientious. I do my homework. And I'm a much more vulnerable and giving artist than I used to be. I was a pop singer before I was a jazz singer. I just enjoy seeing people enjoying the show.
DD: What would you change?
SMT: Acquire more patience. I am better than I used to be.... with my children, my daughters Ruby and Sunny.
DD: Back to the show, any song in particular we should be listening for?
SMT: There's a song I heard my dad sing in concert with George Shearing. I wanted to sing it the first time I heard it. The Folks Who Live on The Hill, a beautiful song.
It's clear that Steve March-Tormé loves what he does. And I believe those attending will have a beautiful evening as they listen to him do what he does well. Check out Snap. Sizzle. Pop at the Smith Center on Friday or Saturday nights, September 27 or 28, 2013.