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Posted June 26, 2009
"In Love With Voices"- a great read!
"In Love With Voices" is an easy to read, excellent depiction of what it is like to be a musician/artist in the last 30 years. Whether talking about life on the road, learning from such masters as George Shearing, Mary Lou Williams and others, or just commenting on what is left of the "music/jazz scene", Brian Torff hit's a home run! Torff is an excellent bassist and this writing confirms his skills as an author as well. I highly recommend this book and while you are at it, check out his numerous recordings as a leader!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 17, 2009
In Love With Voices
Jazz 01 is "tell me your story." By the time you finish reading this book, there will be no doubt in your mind who Brian Torff is. His was the last generation to apprentice with the masters, and the stories of his musically "coming of age" are a window into a much lost process of learning. This is not a book about the past, but rather one young mans journey into manhood as a musician and a mentor himself. A great read and I would highly recommend it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Warren Odze, Monroe, NY
Posted June 1, 2009
In Love with Voices
Over the course of a 30-plus year career in music, Brian Torff has performed with some of the greatest jazz talents of the past century. His new memoir, In Love with Voices, provides us with a rich first-hand recollection of learning the art form from many of those artists, while at the same time lamenting the gradual disappearance of an era when young players learned the improvisational genre from the masters live on the bandstand.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Starting in his early 20s, Torff connected with some very famous names: Frank Sinatra, who once in his inimitable style said of Torff, "the kid is playing some pretty groovy notes"; Mel Torme, the smooth-singing tenor nicknamed "the Velvet Fog" who is widely remembered for writing "the Christmas Song" (Chestnuts Roasting by an Open Fire); and George Shearing, the pianist whose 300-plus compositions include Lullaby of Birdland, to name just a few.
Rising quickly to the pinnacle of jazz, it's clear that Torff had more than just innate talent working in his favor. The picture that emerges from "In Love with Voices" is of a voracious learner with a dedicated work ethic, an ability to connect with various musicians through a pleasant and sometimes humorous and self-effacing manner, the gumption to step up and introduce himself to famous players and ask for the opportunity to sit in, and the resilience early on to take his knocks when he committed a "musical slaughter," in his words, and go back to the practice room to work it out.
There were many mentors along the way. At age 20, a music school friend suggested he get to know Milt Hinton, a giant of the jazz bass who had played with Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Count Basie and others and once drove a van for Chicago gangster Al Capone. Hinton welcomed Torff into his home, where they played duets, and by the end of the evening Hinton had arranged for Torff to go on tour with Cleo Laine, with the first performance scheduled for Carnegie Hall.
Also formative in Torff's musical development was Mary Lou Williams, a legendary pianist/composer and pioneer woman in jazz whose Harlem apartment over the years had served as a salon to such jazz greats as Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker (Bird), among others. A stern task master with extremely high standards, Williams would temper occasional praise for Torff's playing with eviscerating criticism when she was disappointed. Her self-professed goal was to save jazz, a part of her people's heritage, from the ravages of commercial music, with the greatest threat being that young musicians didn't know how to play with feeling. "I was taught about more than merely the notes on the page; she made me fully aware of the feeling and soul it takes to play jazz. I can never repay her for that," Torff writes.
Torff's charm and self-effacing sense of humor are sprinkled throughout the book. During the Reagan administration, Torff and George Shearing were invited to dine and perform at the White House. Afterward, President Reagan praised Torff's playing, and said, "I always thought the bass was an instrument you either slapped or sawed in half." Standing behind the president, Torff grimaced at the hackneyed joke, an expression captured by a wire service photographer. Torff speculated that the result would be a lifetime of IRS audits.
Jazz fans will enjoy In Love with Voices for Torff's vivid retelling of time spent with these masters of jazz and the lessons they imparted.