AS BEFITS two distinguished gentlemen in their 60s, Mel Torme and George Shearing represent jazz at its most refined. The 60-year-old Chicago singer and the 66-year-old London pianist never resort to the pushed rhythm or the twisted tone to make their point, relying instead on the utter grace of their exquisite sound and precise phrasing.
Unlike their three previous Concord records, their new album, "An Elegant Evening," features them without any accompaniment. The spaces usually filled by a drummer or bassist only reinforce the duo's air of refinement. Shearing's keyboard architecture for each song is as restrained and lyrical as ever. Torme delivers his consonants cleanly, but he fills his pure-toned vowels with a sense of longing that seems to hang in the air.
Each participant contributes one strong song of his own composition: Both Torme's "After the Waltz Is Over" and Shearing's "You Changed my Life" capture, in unhurried phrases, the swooning intoxication of new love. The album's best song, though, is Harold Arlen's "Last Night, When We Were Young"; the pauses between Torme's melancholy vowels and Shearing's spare phrases say more about heartbreak than the most tortured moans.
MEL TORME & GEORGE SHEARING -- "An Elegant Evening" (Concord, C-294); Torme appears through Sunday at Blues Alley.