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Take Five With...

Take Five With Lee Tomboulian

By Published: March 2, 2013
I have had plenty of weird experiences on the road, but the most bizarre was the time I played with Valeri Glava in Idaho Falls when, just before the encore, someone collapsed in the front row and was revived after a few minutes. The crowd went from shouting and clapping to absolute silence, punctuated by the sobs of his hysterical wife. After he was slowly led away, his wife still unglued, Tony Hakim our singer said, "we promised you an encore, and we're going to give it to you." We started to play and my hands wouldn't work right at first. Eventually they did. We went to a reception after, and no one I talked to mentioned what happened.

Favorite venue:

In NYC, Smalls always has a great vibe. Kitano Hotel is a nice room, though the vibe was better upstairs with the round tables. Played in a lot of great places all over the US, and it's hard to pick a fave. Anywhere people are listening intently, it's a treat.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

Imaginarium, my just-released solo piano album, is probably truest to my heart. It features a wide assortment of music I love (tweaked jazz standards, Brazilian, Bach, Queen, Victor Borge) and puts it together. I have been fortunate, having this art to work with for a long time, as it is a meditation, a journal, a blank canvas, and a homage to Art Tatum, Hank Jones, Art Lande and other greats.

The first Jazz album I bought was:

The Bill Evans Album on Columbia. Not a critic's fave, and the piano is out of tune, but I love it still; bought it in three formats at least. So emotional and intellectual at the same time. Listen to the "Two Lonely People," every chord has a different dynamic level. Total mastery and intent.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

I like to think that I am enlivening the heart and mind of the ideal listener, who is always there, even when I'm by myself.

Did you know...

I would just as soon read or write as anything else.

CDs you are listening to now:

Keith Jarrett, The Sun Bear Concerts (ECM);

Stanley Cowell, Live at Maybeck Recital Hall (Concord);

John Bunch (forget the title, label) Guillermo Klein, Domador de Huellas (Limbo Music);

Desert Island picks:

Bill Evans, The Bill Evans Album (Columbia Keith Jarrett, My Song (ECM Art Tatum, The Complete Solo Sessions (Pablo Bud Powell, The Genius of Bud Powell (Verve Ella Fitzgerald, Five Nights in Hollywood .

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

Hydra-headed. Bebop is the new Dixieland, in terms of moldy figs. Love bop, but it can turn into a cul-de-sac. The Metric Modulation crew, on the other hand, has taken a facet of the second great Miles Davis Quintet and made careers out of it, and good for them! I like to make reference to danceabiility, probably from years of playing for dancers in ballrooms and in dance classes.

What is in the near future?

More gigs with the Weekly Reeders (my female voice, melodica, accordion, vibes and acoustic bass group) and Whatevs (the trumpet-alto-tenor-piano-bass-drums spang-a-lot-amus band). Recording albums with both groups, shopping them around.

What's your greatest fear when you perform?

That I'll suck, bad enough that the leader will notice.

To hell with fear. Fear is the enemy of music.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

"Goodbye," by Gordon Jenkins

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?

Usually some pop song like a "Take on Me" or theater classic like Oklahoma!

By Day:

So far, none outside of my teaching and gigging.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

Writer, or ocelot.

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