Tuesday, June 27
88 Seventh Avenue South
Phone 212-255-3626 for reservations
Sets at 8 & 9:30pm
Celebrating The Release Of His New CD
Avenue of the Americas
Beamtide BT 1013
Street Date: June 20, 2006
Avenue of the Americas, is a satisfying assortment of jazz, Brazilian and popular music, showcasing the critically acclaimed vocalist/multi-instrumentalist's considerable talents as a lyricist, composer and arranger. Joined by a talented cast of accomplished musicians, including guitarist Toninho Horta, bassist Richard Bona, pianists Gary Fisher, Kenny Werner and Dave Kikoski, and flautist Jeremy Steig, Lellis sings with a vivacious spirit throughout the disc. It features his lyrics to contemporary jazz songs by Pat Metheny, Keith Jarrett, Donald Brown, the Yellowjackets and Horta, as well as his own compositions and classics from the Beatles, Ashford and Simpson and the Great American Songbook. A uniquely personal venture, Avenue of the Americas imaginatively blends the music of many worlds into a unified sound that belongs to Tom Lellis alone.
The opening track, For Better Days Ahead," features Lellis's lyrics to the popular Pat Metheny composition from the guitarist's Letter From Home album. A joyous ode to optimism, Lellis sings his upbeat words to Metheny's infectious melody over a swinging samba rhythm buoyed by Horta's guitar and Bona's bass with Cliff Almond's drums and the leader's percussion adding an authentic Brazilian flavor. Voice and piano blend as one and keyboards further enhance the orchestration bringing out the best of his rhythmically articulated vocal. Lellis and Fisher arranged the standard Baubles, Bangles and Beads" (inspired by the Russian composer Alexander Borodin) as a beautiful bossa nova featuring the leader's relaxed reading of the lyric combined with Cole Porter's I Get A Kick Out Of You," sung as a countermelody. Horta's acoustic guitar sets the romantic mood and Steig's high flying flute finely complements Lellis's sensuous interpretation of the two songs.
The potent words of For Wisdom," the Yellowjackets' song co-written by the group's pianist Russell Ferrante and bassist Jimmy Haslip, speak to the power of the mind and its ability to bring about positive change. Lellis sings his insightful lyric with commanding authority accompanied by the first class straight ahead rhythm section featuring pianist Dave Kikoski, bassist Tony Marino and drummer Tommy Campbell, whose brushwork sets the composition's thoughtful tone. Lellis scats a swinging solo and Kikoski's solo shines in between choruses of Tom's words.
River of Light," with Lellis's words and Gary Fisher's music, slowly builds from piano and voice. Using space and mood to convey the philosophy of the lyrics, the piece develops into an uplifting gospel-tinged orchestral arrangement by Fisher, featuring Bona, Horta and Almond and ending with Bona's fretless bass, Fisher's piano and Tom's voice in haunting unison.
The disk closes, as it began, in sing-able optimism with Lellis's signature song Lucky Southern," reprising, with a twist, his lyrics to the Keith Jarrett composition that he first recorded twenty-five years ago on his now re-issued debut record (with Jack DeJohnette, Eddie Gomez and the returning Jeremy Steig) And In This Corner. This encore performance, with a twist, features the singer's lighthearted whistling arrangement and acoustic guitar accompaniment, as well as his Portuguese, while intertwining Dorival Caymmi's equally breezy, Maracangalha.
Avenue of the Americas further demonstrates the artistry of Tom Lellis the vocalist, a singer's singer who is always adding new facets to his music, but also as an instrumentalist / lyricist- composer and arranger with a unique world vision of music and a story to tell that is all his own.