MEL TORME', whose voice has earned him the nickname "The Velvet Fog," has been a professional singer since age 4 and just won a Grammy Award as best male jazz vocalist. Torme' says he is working on his fourth book, an autobiography, about which he jokes, "I think millions can live without it." His first book, a Western novel written under a pseudonym, was adapted for one episode of "The Virginian" television series, and Torme' starred in that installment.
Torme', who begins a 10-day engagement at Charlie's Georgetown tomorrow, picks his five favorite singers:
1. Bing Crosby: "He was the breakthrough singer. He brought what I call 'off-the-elbow' singing to the forefront--natural, conversational singing. I consider good singing to be an extension of talking. He was a good friend, and I miss him."
2. Frank Sinatra: "Sinatra was the first guy to come along after years and years of singers casting themselves in the Crosby mold. He created a new, contemporary sound for singers. Superb enunciation and breath control. The biggest thing for a male singer is to be able to appeal to both sexes. Both Sinatra and Crosby were able to do that."
3. Ella Fitzgerald: "She is the embodiment of everything I like about a 'jazz singer.' I don't think there is any such thing--we're all pop singers, but she's the closest to it. She exemplifies survival and evolving with age."
4. Fred Astaire: "Astaire has always been my personal favorite singer because of the way he sang lyrics, his lightheartedness. He has the most appealing attitude about singing."
5. Janis Ian: "She knocks me out, not just because she's a fine musician and arranger, but because she has a purity of sound in her voice. Maybe it's because I don't have it."