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Album Review

Amazingly, this early-'00s CD is only Tom Lellis' fourth album; by that time, a jazz veteran as talented and expressive as Lellis should have had a much larger catalog. But then, the music world can be a mind-boggling, frustrating place, and talent isn't always rewarded the way it should be. Lellis sounds like he is making up for lost recording time on this ambitious disc, which finds him being backed by Holland's Metropole Orchestra (conducted by American jazzman John Clayton). Being an orchestral project, Skylark is more arranged than Lellis' small-group efforts. But the musicians still get in some meaningful solos, including trombonist Bart Van Lier and tenor saxophonist Leo Janssen. Of course, Lellis' vocals are the main attraction, and the singer really shines on a variety of material. Lellis, much to his credit, isn't the sort of jazz vocalist who is content to sing overdone Tin Pan Alley warhorses exclusively and do them the same old way — he is much too ambitious for that type of knee-jerk approach. Lellis won't exclude a song just because it was written in the '30s or '40s, but unlike a lot of the derivative Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald wannabes who labels are so quick to record, he looks for great songs from the '60s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. On this CD (which has been sold on the Metropole Orchestra's website), Lellis turns his attention to songs that range from Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark" to Chick Corea's "Straight Up and Down" (which he wrote lyrics for) to Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Falando de Amor." Brazilian music is a priority on this CD, and the singer revisits "Milton's Moment" (Lellis' ode to Brazilian great Milton Nascimento) and Toninho Horta's "Mountain Flight." Skylark is enthusiastically recommended to fans of post-bop vocal jazz.


Born: 08 April 1946 in Cleveland, OH

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

New York resident Tom Lellis is part of what has seemed like an endangered species in recent decades--he's a male jazz singer. Lellis, whose influences have included Mark Murphy and Jon Hendricks (among others), isn't as well known as he should be. But the talent is certainly there; in addition to being an insightful interpreter of lyrics, he is a risk-taking, expressive improviser who has often written lyrics for jazz gems that started out as instrumentals (including Keith Jarrett's "Lucky Southern,"...
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Top Albums and Songs by Tom Lellis

Skylark, Tom Lellis
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