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Tom Lawton

Tom Lawton grew up in Arcola, PA and attended Methacton High School (remarkable only in that I attended the same school at that time), where he was a brilliant, but chronically truant student. He displayed great promise as a classical pianist, dabbled in British Rock and Roll, and eventually fell into Jazz. He was abbetted in his early education by Philly legend Gerald Price, who gave Tom his early pointers in the art.

He later began studies in Philadelphia with renowned pianist Bernard Peiffer, who had emigrated here from France. After Bernard's death, Tom began a long association with the late bassist Al Stauffer, who had accompanied M. Peiffer for several years.

Tom and Al were once among Philly's most visible proponents of free improvisation and were often seen at the Painted Bride and Khyber Pass back when those venues still supported the style. In ensuing years, they were seen playing more subdued (but no less creative) jazz styles at the Fountain Lounge at the Four Seasons Hotel. Tom now just subs at the Four Seasons, but can be seen frequently at Chris' Jazz Cafe. He teaches at Bucks Community College, and is considered by many to be one of Philadelphia's brightest undiscovered talents. His playing is awe-inspiring. Tom defines "two handed" piano playing. In his younger years he destroyed a number of pianos at our high school. His power is now slightly more well-controlled.


"Philadelphia pianist Tom Lawton has been piling up the pieces on 'Retrospective/Debut' for a while...as well as honing a formidably two-handed approach to the piano that slips easily between mainstream and more outside styles. Recorded over three days, this double-CD set is almost too much music to handle, packed full of ambitious, unconventional charts and committed playing. Even when the music is in a mainstream Jazz idiom, Lawton’s interest in the long form ensures it’s never business-as-usual: these are some of the most elaborate heads on record since Mingus wrote 'Sue’s Changes.' These structures demand a lot of the musicians, and of the listener too...though repeated listening helps make things clearer. Lawton has assembled an excellent band to perform his music (of whom only trumpeter John Swana is especially well-known): they handle its fearsome complexities with impressive ease. Swana’s big moments mostly come on the first disc, notably the trumpet/piano duet 'Grey Matter Doesn’t;' on the second disc saxophonist Ben Schachter gets more of a spotlight on, and there are also two tracks for just piano and rhythm.

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Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

The Big Band Project

Self Produced


On Point




Clean Feed Records



Self Produced


Michelle Lordi Sings

Self Produced


Tuesday Overture

From: At This Time
By Tom Lawton


From: Retrospective/Debut
By Tom Lawton



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