Beside Marty Paich, none of Mel Tormé's collaborators exerted such a large influence on the singer's career as George Shearing, the pianist whose understated, expressive accompaniment contributed to Tormé's resurgence during the early '80s. Their six excellent albums together – two of which, An Evening With… and Top Drawer, earned Grammy awards – proved that classic vocal music had outlasted the long night that was the '70s, and emerged to become a timeless American genre. The pair's work for Concord was usually recorded live in a trio or quartet setting; leaving much space for Shearing solos, Tormé occasionally reprised his big standards ("A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," "Lullaby of Birdland," "The Folks Who Live on the Hill"), but often searched for more obscure material he could make his own, and often succeeded. Tormé and Shearing were restless innovators, taking on a full album of World War II standards, medleys devoted to songs about New York and by Duke Ellington, and a stunningly broad range of material: "Oleo," "Lili Marlene," "How Do You Say Auf Wiedersehen?," and "Dat Dere."
During the mid-'50s, Sarah Vaughan spent most of her time recording songbook standards backed by a large orchestra in florid arrangements, with only the occasional breath of fresh air like her masterpiece, 1954's Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown. Four years after that milestone, another landed with the live album At Mister Kelly's. Recorded quite early in the days of the live LP, the album captured Vaughan at her best and most relaxed, stretching out on a set of late-night torch songs and ballads.