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Lee Tomboulian: Imaginarium

Bruce Lindsay By

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Terry Gilliam's 2009 movie The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus was a complex, complicated, fantasy tale. Lee Tomboulian's Imaginarium doesn't quite match Gilliam's ambitious, if flawed, breadth of vision—after all, Tomboulian constructs this particular Imaginarium with just a piano and an occasional accordion—but he still displays an impressive range of ideas on this enjoyable recording.

Tomboulian leads a variety of bands, including the Brazilian/Uruguayan Circo and Whenevs (formerly Return to Whenever). This solo outing finds him drawing on a mix of original tunes, classic jazz and Latin (plus a Bach prelude).

Most of the tunes here are solo piano pieces. "Sweet Georgia Brown" rolls along in a cheerfully upbeat fashion, mixing stride and boogie, with a descending bass line that almost leaps off the end of the keyboard and a cheeky faux-classical ending. John Coltrane's "Naima" is a much gentler proposition: Tomboulian gives it a rolling, flowing, rhythm that retains the tune's beauty. "Bohemian Rhapsody In Blue" combines Queen and George Gershwin: not, perhaps, a marriage made in Heaven—the blue rhapsody easily outshines the bohemian one—but Tomboulian's enthusiastic performance carries the day.

Imaginarium gets particularly interesting when Tomboulian straps on his accordion. He's played the instrument with Kenny Wheeler, Maria Schneider and Eliane Elias among others so his ability on the instrument is no surprise. Airto Moreira and Flora Purim's "Merry-Go-Round" is a perky, mid-tempo, solo accordion tune. "Black Morpheus," one of three Tomboulian compositions on Imaginarium, is more melancholy—the title gives a clue to its mood—despite the underlying tango feel. The album's showstopper is Egberto Gismonti's "A Falo da Paixao." Tomboulian gives this tune a rich combination of piano and accordion that highlights its pathos as well as its beauty.

Elizabeth Tomboulian's cover design features a ball of red wool inside a head-shaped maze. This may suggest some woolly-mindedness on Lee Tomboulian's part, but such an interpretation would be misguided. Imaginarium is a well-constructed album that takes a fresh look at some old favorites, especially when that accordion appears.

Track Listing: I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart; Hanon Merry Christmas; A Falo da Paixao; Inner Urge; Sweet Lorraine; Black Morpheus; Naima; Samberg; Sweet Georgia Brown; Bohemian Rhapsody In Blue; Merry-go-round; Prelude In C# Minor, BWV 849.

Personnel: Lee Tomboulian: piano, accordion (3, 6, 11).

Title: Imaginarium | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Self Produced


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