Recent review of the Project 142 solo concert at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music last week:
I've not had a chance since the concert on Thursday night to write about what a phenomenal performance Lee gave at the DiMenna Center. I can simply say I've never heard the piano played as Lee played it. He surpassed my expectations, expectations that are pretty high as I thought I knew what he is capable of. The entire performance was astounding, but here are some highlights: He moved flawlessly from Scarlatti and Khachaturian to ragtime (Bolcom) and then took me totally by surprise with a medley of Sweet Lorraine, Donna Lee (in 9/8 - as if it wasn't hard enough in 4/4!) and Sweet Georgia Brown. Those three tunes went through an explosion of styles that were masterfully played. But wait, I'm not done. Can you imagine moving from that to Zappa? Yep, he did it. Also played that evening was an incredible mash up of Stevie Wonder's I Wish and you won't believe this, Take Five. The Stars and Stripes Forever combined with practically every tune ever written. A few Brazilians crept in there too, Nazareth and Gismonti - all beautiful. The finale was a ferocious and moving mash up of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody and Rhapsody in Blue. His commentary in between tunes had us howling. Well done my friend, well done.
Mr. Tomboulian writes beautiful music.
--St. Petersburg Post-Dispatch
Imaginarium, like its cover photo of a ball of yarn
unraveled through the maze of a human mind, gives a
glimpse of multivariate musings of pianist Lee
Tomboulian. The set includes three originals - “Hanon
Merry Christmas”, “Black Morpheus” and “Samberg”
(a romping mambo) - and covers of everything from
“Sweet Georgia Brown”, “Sweet Lorraine” and
Ellington’s “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart” to
Coltrane’s “Naima” and Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge”,
the Brazilian flavored “A Fala da Paixão” and “Merry-
Go-Round”, concluding with JS Bach’s “Prelude in C#
minor”, the latter fleshed out with jazz chord voicings.
Several cuts feature solo or overdubbed accordion. The
most interesting arrangement is “Bohemian Rhapsody
in Blue”, a hilarious but musically compelling mashup
of George Gershwin and Queen that toggles between
the two compositions, eventually melding them into a
seamless whole, no mean achievement. Throughout,
Tomboulian displays vivid humor and ingenuity.
--NYC Jazz Record, July 2013
Review of Return to Whenever by Lee Tomboulian and Circo in All About Jazz
Pianist/accordionist Lee Tomboulian is the leader of Circo, an exciting ensemble that performs World jazz (Brazilian, Afro-Cuban and Uruguayan). Tomboulian first relocated the group from Arkansas to Dallas, and now to Appleton, Wisconsin, where he serves as a musical educator at the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music.
What makes a good portion of this album so diverting is its use of Brazilian and Brazilian-influenced music, sung by Elizabeth Tomboulian (nee Betty Elkins), who brings a lot of Luciana Souza-type vocalese to several tracks. On Toninho Horta's "Viver de Amor," her Portuguese sounds authentic and soothing. "Garota de Ipanema," more popularly known as the Jobim/deMoraes classic "The Girl From Ipanema," is slowed down to a surprisingly effective pace.
Another successful aspect of Return to Whenever is the work of Ricardo Bozas, a Uruguayan percussionist who previously worked with Brazilian singer/songwriter VinÃ-cius de Moraes. He is a virtual one-man band of percussive ideas....
....Good music being hard enough to find is appreciated, though, and there's enough of it on Return to Whenever for repeat listens.
Track Listing: Human Faith Medley; Afro-Joe; Viver de Amor; Uncle Frank; Hanon Merry Christmas; Belovely; The Highway; Cartoon Music; Weather Ornette; Viajando; Hermeto; Garota de Ipanema; Viva Hugo.
Personnel: Lee Tomboulian: keyboards, accordion, melodica, vocals; Ricardo Bozas: tambores, congas, timbales, percussion, frog, vocals; Pete Brewer: soprano, tenor and alto sax, flute, alto flute, piccolo, clarinet, bass clarinet; Dennis Durick: drums, marimba, vocals, drum orchestra; Elizabeth Tmboulian: vocals; Brian Warthen: electric and fretless bass; Jonathan Gregory: additional percussion; Valeri Glava: violin; Chris McGuire: clarinet, soprano sax; Joe Lee: guitar; Jason Bucklin: guitar, synth programming; Allan Gibson: trumpet; Tony Hakim: vocals.
Record Label: Self Produced | Style: Latin/World
"Masterful, inventive, sensitive, daring and breathtakingly beautiful piano and instrumental arrangements seasoned with a dash of whimsy. Lee's music always make audiences smile."