Greetings, Spy Vibers! I've been following a thread on a music forum for a while that focuses on Bondian music, and the thread-starter found something really interesting this week! In 1959, Mel Torme released an album called ¡Olé Tormé!: Mel Tormé Goes South of the Border with Billy May, which included a track called "Frenesi." The song had been a standard for quite a while by then, with recordings by popular entertainers such as Frank Sinatra (Tommy Dorsey years), Eydie Gorme, Glenn Miller, and Artie Shaw. But what made the Mel Torme version special? Well, in the last 20 seconds or so, the tune veered into unmistakable territory and seemed to predict the Bond theme! And only the Mel Torme arrangement had this musical phrasing. The album arrangement, as the title suggests, was by Billy May, whose credits also included Man With the Golden Arm, The Green Hornet, Naked City, Batman, and even A Fine Madness (with Sean Connery). I think it's very likely just a cool coincidence and certainly an added footnote in the already dense fabric of the 007 theme's origin. Monty Norman used phrases of notes in his 1961 musical, A House for Mr. Biswas, and John Barry contributed his own impeccable, driving arrangement and ideas, all of which culminated in the now-classic Bond theme. But what of ¡Olé Tormé! in 1959? Again, I have to think it was down to luck and coincidence. Although, it is fun to note that a number of the musicians who played on the album sessions for Billy May were also steeped in the Crime Jazz movement happening at the turn of the 1960s. Among the jazzmen credited were the likes of Pete Candoli (Peter Gunn, Johnny Staccato, Touch of Evil), Conrad Gozzo (Peter Gunn, Touch of Evil), Larry Bunker (Peter Gunn, Ice Station Zebra, Bullitt, Charade), and many others. Check out the end in this video and see what you think. Photos below: Great cover of Billy May's 1960 album POW! (using comic graphics in a way that predicted Pop Art and Batman), Sinatra and Billy May take five during one of their projects together. Enjoy!
May 30, 2021
BILLY MAY FRENESI
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