Mel Torme, Gerry Mulligan and George Shearing: The Classic Concert Live

Though it wasn’t the first time the Torme-dubbed “terrible trio” performed together, nor would it be the last, this legendary meeting of giants in 1982, organized with typical elan by George Wein, is believed to be the only Torme-Mulligan-Shearing concert ever recorded. And what a time it was; one of those rare nights when seasoned masters, each at the top of his game, converge to create an inimitably tight unit while remaining individually determined to rise to the competitive brilliance of their friendly stage rivals.

The entire two-hour concert was broadcast by NPR in 1983 but hasn’t resurfaced until now, with this 65-minute disc that, though abbreviated, still captures the magic and majesty of the evening. Backed on most tracks by Mulligan’s 14-piece big band, the trio wonderfully wanders all over the place, dipping into Mulligan’s California-cool “Jeru” (refitted with new lyrics created specifically for the occasion), indulging Torme and Shearing’s indefatigable affection for swing-era tunes with Basie’s “I Sent for You Yesterday and Here You Come Today” and a soaring Ellington medley, recreating the intimate splendor of the early-’50s Mulligan quartet on “Line for Lyons” and confirming Torme’s status as the best scatter and vocal interpolator in the business with a sublime blend of Jobim’s “Wave” and “Agua de Beber.” But the centerpiece of this masterpiece is unequivocally an 11-minute “Blues in the Night” that, shifting the spotlight ever so slightly to the left of Torme and Mulligan, provides an exquisite showcase for Shearing.