“I consider myself a walking breathing, hopefully tribute to my dad and his peers and that era,” James Tormé told me by phone last week. “My entire career is like a lunar expedition into the environment that was my dad’s life.”
His father, ladies and gentleman, was the three-time Grammy Award winner Mel Tormé. The youngest son of The Velvet Fog and British actress Janette Scott, he showed his musical chops at a young age. “At 10-years-old when I could frighteningly sing Michael Jackson, I sounded a lot like him,” he shared. The main two influences audiences hear in his singing are his father and Jackson, among others. “I had a lot more influences and they are reflected in what I bring to some material that is that era from my dad’s, of course, that I grew up with and I want to keep doing and bringing my own sound to.”
Tormé makes his San Francisco debut at Feinstein’s at the Nikko where he’ll showcase his vocal gifts and enthusiastic personality with his show, James Tormé Celebrates the Greats on Wednesday, July 20 at 7 p.m. and Thursday, July 21 at 8 p.m.
“It’s a show I’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” he said. “It has all of the influences from writers to arrangers to artists, performers, jazz artists who have shaped me. It’s a mixture of people I personally had exposure to because of who I am, and people who I had a very intimate exposure to. Who they are but like through dad and my curiosity. It’s a mixture of those things.”
That childhood exposure comes to life on Feinstein’s stage as he celebrates music’s great legends with salutes to Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Peggy Lee, Nat “King” Cole, Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, his father, and more. It promises to be a terrific evening of memories and song. A proven audience favorite, Tormé is consistently appearing to sold-out audiences at the world’s top venues along with featured performances at jazz festivals throughout the world. He was named the recipient of the John Lennon Songwriting Award for “A Better Day Will Come” which he co-wrote and is featured on his 2011 debut CD “Love For Sale.”
Dividing his time between England and the United States, jazz lovers can also hear him on the UK’s www.jazzfm.com where he is the host of the weekly shows Sunday Afternoon with James Tormé and The Jazz Singers with James Tormé. The shows are also available 24/7 through the site’s “Catchup” (On Demand) tab.
“What a privilege just to represent an era that’s so great and also give it some more legs by putting it into a currency that’s traded in by the young as well. That’s important to do.”
On another “fun fact” note, the 70th anniversary of the release of his dad’s classic “The Christmas Song” (aka “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”) takes place this year. James has released his own version which is available on iTunes. He will also perform the song and more in Holiday Pops with James Tormé and the Modesto Symphony Orchestra (www.modestosymphony.org) December 2-3 honoring his late father.
“It hurts that he hasn’t been able to see more of what’s happening with me over the last few years, which is really a celebration.” His father would be proud.
Feinstein’s at the Nikko is located in the Hotel Nikko at 222 Mason Street in San Francisco. There is a $20 food and beverage minimum per person inside the showroom which guests can use towards cocktails and a variety of small plates through the Hotel’s Restaurant Anzu. Tickets for James Tormé range from $40 to $60 and are available by calling 415-663-1063 or visit www.feinsteinsatthenikko.com.
ENTERTAINING NOTES: Be it stage or screen, audiences are accustomed to seeing award-winning actor Dominic Hoffman deliver first-rate performances. The UC Santa Cruz graduate received his degree in English Literature followed by formal training at American Conservatory Theatre (ACT), the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, and NYU Film School. Television appearances have included roles on Grey’s Anatomy, 24, and Lie To Me, as well as recurring roles on The Mentalist, The Unit, NYPD Blue, Castle, and The Shield, among others. In addition to his extensive theatre credits, he has appeared in hundreds of films and television episodes as a voice over artist. Friday night, Hoffman bring his directorial talents to the SF Bay Area with the debut of his play Emmitt & Ava which he also wrote. Emmitt & Ava weaves humor into its tale of woe, providing perspective on life and how we cope with hardship. The play promises to pull on your heartstrings at the intimate Firescape Theatre, 414 Mason Street, Fifth Floor, in San Francisco from July 9-August 14, with a Preview performance slated for July 8 ($20). Presented by both the Firescape Theatre and the Beverly Hills Playhouse of SF, tickets are $30 for general and $15 for students. Performances on Fridays and Saturdays are at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Call 415-449-1919 or purchase tickets online at BHPSanFrancisco.com … The 17th Annual Hayward Russell City Blues Festival features a two-day line-up of terrific blues artists at the Hayward City Hall Plaza, 777 B St., Hayward Saturday and Sunday, July 9-10. Showcased artists includes Bobby Rush, Carl Weathersby, Sonny Rhodes, Sonny B. Blues, Marcus Cartwright, Blues Harmonica Explosion, West Coast Caravan of All Stars, and more. Tickets are $35 at the gate or can be purchased at EventBrite.com, WestCoastBluesSociety.com or at 510-472-8800 … Zio Fraedo’s at 611 Gregory Lane in Pleasant Hill continues its Motown Afternoon Shows on July 12 at noon and its dinner/dancing shows on July 16 at 7 p.m. with Top Shelf Classics’ Motown Madness. Call 925-933-9091 or visit ziofraedos.com.