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Debut album from Elizabeth Tomboulian

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    Posted: 09 Jun 2019 at 8:39am

After decades of performing - from her early forays as a blues-folk singer-songwriter in her native Arkansas and Houston during the '70s to her deep dive into the music of Brazil and Uruguay to her various excursions into jazz as a pianist, guitarist, and vocalist - ELIZABETH TOMBOULIAN has finally stepped forward with her debut as a leader.
A wide-ranging collection of tunes reflecting her eclectic tastes in music, LOVE'S IN NEED OF LOVE TODAY represents Tomboulian's bluesy roots, her love of bossa nova and jazz along with her enduring belief in the power of music to heal.
Tomboulian was born and raised in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and cut her teeth on folk and blues, migrating from Arkansas to Houston in the Seventies. But her wide-ranging taste in music comes from her peripatetic life. She's lived and performed in various cities and towns in Texas, Louisiana, Colorado, Tennessee, Wisconsin, New Jersey, and New York.
Playing with musicians from diverse backgrounds and different musical points of view has helped shape her aesthetic sensibilities. She first got into jazz during her time in Houston when she studied with famed vocal coach Ray Sullenger. A romantic entanglement with Al Hirt's bass player brought Tomboulian to New Orleans. She got her first job in The Big Easy when she walked into a Bourbon Street hot spot just as the manager was putting down the phone after learning that the club's pianist had just died. It was bad luck for the pianist but good luck for Tomboulian, who got the job on the spot and started playing that very night. Although her time in New Orleans was brief, her time with the Charles Neville House Band imbued her piano style with funky jazz riffs.
Her next stop was Boulder, Colorado, where she was hired as the opening act at The Blue Note for many of the top names who played there. After her stint in Boulder, she moved on to Nashville, where she spent seven years working in studios, arranging and singing backup vocals for sessions.
After Nashville, she moved back to Little Rock where she met her husband, jazz pianist and composer LEE TOMBOULIAN, who wasintroduced to her as "the closest thing Little Rock has to Frank Zappa." The two of them formed a 6-piece Latin jazz group called Circo Verde, which played the music of Uruguay and Brazil at regional festivals and concerts. After a couple more moves around the country for work, the Tomboulians settled in New York City, where they've been performing and teaching for several years.
LOVE'S IN NEED OF LOVE TODAY is produced by the prolific, Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist ROSEANNA VITRO. Tomboulian and Vitro met in Houston in the 70s and have kept in touch over the years. "Roseanna was the catalyst for this record," says Tomboulian. "She came to one of my gigs in New York and told me that she loved my voice. I had appeared as a sideman on several albums, but she said it was time for me to put my own name on the cover. I was especially encouraged when she offered to produce it."
The project features A-list musicians in the New York area, including Tomboulian's husband Lee, who has accompanied some of the top names in jazz, such as Airto, Nat Adderley, Larry Coryell, and Jack DeJohnette, to name just a few. Bluesy bassist CLIFF SCHMITT is an old friend and colleague from Texas. Schmitt has had a steady gig at Terra Blues in NYC for decades, and records and tours with Curtis Stigers. Drummer ALVESTER GARNETT and trumpet master INGRID JENSEN are well-known in the jazz world. They have both played and recorded with a Who's Who of jazz luminaries.
The concept for LOVE'S IN NEED OF LOVE TODAY was a reaction to the murder of 49 people at the Pulse night club in Orlando. "I heard Stevie Wonder's song Love's In Need Of Love Today on the radio after the shooting and immediately thought that this is exactly what we need right now." Indeed, her soulful rendition of the song is an emotive testament to the album's unifying concept. Vitro provides back-up vocals on this tune.
Tomboulian wrote lyrics to McCoy Tyner's "For Tomorrow," which originally featured a wordless, scat choir. For Tomboulian, when it comes to love, we never know what tomorrow brings - "I am not afraid. / Love will carry on. / Everybody knows / People have to grow. / Tomorrow never comes, / But we can have today. / You needn't try to be / Somebody else for me."
Vitro shares arranging credits with the Tomboulians on interweaving Bill Evans "Re: Person I Knew" with Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time," creating a lovely, romantic ballad.
Tomboulian and her husband open and close a swinging version of the 1933 standard "If I Love Again" with a bossa nova version of Thelonius Monk's "Nutty," featuring Elizabeth and Lee doing a Jackie & Roy style scat chorus. Tomboulian spent a lot of time in Texas in her youth where she was inculcated with the blues, and she accompanies herself on piano on "The Ballad of the Snow Leopard and the Tanqueray Cowboy," an epic ballad written by Texas poet laureate David R. Rodriguez.
Tomboulian plays finger-style guitar on a laid-back version of Bessie Smith's "Good Old Wagon." She also accompanies herself on solo piano on an affecting, intimate version of "I Get Along Without You Very Well."

"Cheesy" is an original tune by Tomboulian. It's a bluesy, boozy number with Tomboulian on piano, about a woman whom people think is cheesy because she's too choosy about finding the right man.
Tomboulian closes the CD with a mashup of Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" with Joe Zawinul's classic "Mercy Mercy Mercy." Tomboulian wrote new lyrics to the tune as a coda for the theme of love that permeates the entire CD, "We can make a way for every soul to live in peace/hungry children got to eat/everybody's got to be free/and there is no fear in this whole sphere that love cannot defeat."

LOVE'S IN NEED OF LOVE TODAY was released on May 17, 2019 and is in stores and online everywhere.

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