With the April 20 release of his highly anticipated new single “Strange Little Planet,” vocalist and songwriter extraordinaire James Torme perfectly captures our wild and intense cultural zeitgeist in the late 2010s while creating a fresh, 21st Century twist on his family’s legendary musical legacy.
Produced in the UK by John Rosheuvel and co-writer James Rose of the acclaimed international a capella jazz group Accent, the song – which will be the title track from his upcoming Bungalo/Universal album, due May 25 - marks a fresh stylistic direction for Torme as he builds upon the success of his award winning, Billboard charting 2011 album Love For Sale. Tapping into his equal passions for pop, jazz and R&B, Torme’s stylish interplay between his soulful lead and dynamic vocal textures draws from an array of personal influences that include groundbreaking artists from multiple generations, including D’Angelo, Pentatonix, The Manhattan Transfer, Take 6 and, most significantly, rising young jazz/funk/a capella sensation Jacob Collier. The singer also offers a tip of the hat to the legacy of the Mel-tones, the popular vocal group led by his father, Mel Torme, during the 1940’s and 1950’s.
Thematically, “Strange Little Planet” reflects irony of life on earth, where billions occupy an essentially small space in the universe yet always seem to be at odds with each other. While lines like “We’re burning down the bridges before we’ve begun” and “I’m seeing what the walls you’re building become” shed light on the dire, world on fire craziness of our divided political culture, Torme uses his warm, inviting voice to offer hope as well: “Look into the eyes of the one you love and say/No matter how the stars are aligned, we’ll be okay (you’ll be okay…). Torme begins the song in a truly prescient way, singing some very unique, off the cuff background lyrics over the hypnotic bass driven vibe: “Resist to form, resist.” He wraps “Strange Little Planet” by paying homage to and quoting lyrics from one of his favorite songs of all time, Arrested Development’s #1 R&B/Hip-hop classic “Tennessee”: “Take me to another place/Take me to another land/Let me understand your plan…”
“I feel that the single is incredibly relevant, and just coincidentally, is the musical equivalent to the new National Geographic series ‘One Strange Rock,’ exploring the extraordinary story of our planet and narrated by Will Smith,” Torme says. “This is a time when people are looking at what’s going on and saying, ‘This is insanity!’ The song means something different to everyone, but at its core it’s about the reality that we’ve somehow, with the rise of terrorism, the constant ugliness of racism and lack of ability to find common bonds, we’ve lost the plot and we’ve got to find a new direction. It has a socially conscious message, but musically it’s a feel good and ultimately optimistic song which ties in well with the overall theme of the upcoming album.”
While Love For Sale was a well-funded major label project, the album Strange Little Planet – which will feature a mix of originals and covers of songs by Michael Jackson, Paramore and Nat “King” Cole - is a more organic, grass roots labor of musical love. It was recorded on laptop rigs in co-producer John Rosheuvel’s mother’s attic in Briston and James Rose’s bedroom on Warren Street in London. Torme traveled to the UK at his own expense six times over the course of two and a half years, catching his collaborators when he could to create a timeless album incorporating old and new school influences to fashion a soulful, seductive hybrid vibe and next level harmonies.
With a vocal and performance style praised by everyone from Billboard and CBS News to BBC Radio 2, Jazz FM and British jazz great Jamie Cullum, the multi-award winning Torme is, in the words of Sony Classics President Chuck Mitchell, “The greatest male jazz vocalist to come along in 20 years.”
The son of three time Grammy winning jazz legend Mel Torme, he is taking the legacy he was born into into a fresh age of sonic possibility. He has performed at some of the world’s most prestigious festivals and venues, backed by outfits like the BBC Concert Orchestra, Ronnie Scott's Orchestra, and his own band. In 2017, Torme released a single of what is perhaps his father’s most enduring classic, “The Christmas Song,” re-imagined with the vocal texturing style he now brings to “Strange Little Planet” and the upcoming album of that name.