Mel Torme was an inventive and gifted entertainer with a distinctive voice who became a favorite of several generations of music lovers.
In a career that lasted more than 65 years, Torme was a singular talent as a singer, songwriter, arranger, instrumentalist, actor and writer. He was as comfortable interpreting a lyric as writing one.
He used his fluid, silky voice to record more than 50 albums, created his own arrangements and worked from a repertoire he once estimated at 5,000 songs. He could ease into a ballad or soar into scatting, one of the few singers to master that art.
Of the 250 songs he wrote — more than half of them with Bob Wells — "The Christmas Song" is perhaps the most memorable. The familiar lyrics that begin, "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire . . . " have been recorded more than 1,500 times. The original by Nat King Cole remained Torme's personal favorite.
Torme won back-to-back Grammy Awards in the jazz category for "An Evening With George Shearing and Mel Torme" in 1982 and "Top Drawer" in 1983.
Even into his late 60s, Torme continued to give 200 concerts a year and to delight Generation-Xers, their jazz-loving parents and their swing-appreciating grandparents.
As an actor, Torme started young. He made his official debut in 1943's "Higher and Higher," starring another singer, Frank Sinatra. Torme's other motion pictures included "Pardon My Rhythm," "Words and Music," "Walk Like a Dragon," "A Man Called Adam" and "The Land of No Return."
He made many guest appearances on TV programs, and his biggest success on the small screen came with a recurring role on "Night Court," which ran from 1984 to 1992. The running joke on the show was that Torme was the musical idol of Harry Anderson's unhip character, Judge Harry T. Stone.