Elizabeth Tomboulian’s debut as a leader is ecletic and soulful

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Elizabeth Tomboulian’s one-of-a-kind style shapes the work on her debut release as a band leader. “Love’s In Need of Love Today” is a kind of musical social critique. Tomboulian shows listeners that the world is often without enough love. But it isn’t just universal love and kindness that the singer and pianist wants to show the world; she also has stories (in song) of romance.

Tomboulian surprises audiences with her ability to bend phrases, mix styles and in general express a clear, if artful, idea.

“Love’s In Need of Love Today” is a mix of styles that includes cover tunes by artists that range from Cyndi Lauper to Bessie Smith. With instrumental backdrops that range from classic jazz to bossa nova, Tomboulian and her ensemble bring the album’s big ideas to life. The mix of styles encourages audiences to keep an open mind while listening. It is difficult, rather, impossible, to guess what Tomboulian will do next.

About Elizabeth Tomboulian

Tomboulian is a vocalist, pianist and guitarist. Her professional forays into music began in the 1970s. A native of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Tomboulian found her musical path in traveling outside of Arkansas. Ultimately, she would continue to travel and live in a number of states, such as Wisconsin, Texas, Louisiana, Colorado, Tennessee, New Jersey and New York.

In each place, it seemed that Tomboulian gathered another important opportunity that would lead to her becoming a bandleader and meeting other performers who would be integral to her development as a musician.

Her nomadic life led Tomboulian to stints at The Blue Note in Boulder, Colorado, and as a backup singer in Nashville. When she moved back to Arkansas, Tomboulian met a man who was described as “the closest thing Little Rock has to Frank Zappa,” jazz pianist and composer, Lee Tomboulian. The two of them formed a six-person Latin jazz ensemble, Circo Verde, that played the music of Uruguay and Brazil at a variety of festivals.

The Tomboulians traveled the country again, working, before settling in their current location of New York City.

“Love’s In Need of Love Today” by Elizabeth Tomboulian

With eleven songs, including a couple of medleys of unexpected tunes, “Love’s In Need of Love Today” challenges listeners as it presents not only tunes of intimate love, but also songs about love as the guiding force that makes people have compassion and concern for each other.

Tomboulian sings and plays guitar and piano on the recording. Her guitar work shines on her version of Bessie Smith’s “Good Old Wagon.”

“Exactly Like You” opens the album. It is a wry, winking song about life lessons that led to being able to pick the right life partner. The song’s larger theme comes to audiences easily, not in a didactic way. The instrumentation rolls with the ease of the Louisiana piano styling that dominates the soundscape. The danceable beat gives the song a fun-loving feel, even as the narrator talks about praying for someone with desired qualities. In this song, love endures, love wins.

“Re: Person I Knew/ Time After Time” pulls much of its lyrical sound and rhythm from the Cyndi Lauper classic, “Time After Time.” However, the song is made new in Tomboulian’s earnest voice. The gentle crush of percussion and piano make the sound warm. A melancholy horn punctuates the lyrical phrasing. For fans of the original, the slight twists taken in the rhythm of the vocals makes the song fresh.

The album closes with “For What It’s Worth/Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.” The music sounds contemporary with moody keyboards and cynical lyrics. Hints of traditional jazz sneak in around the chorus, where horns comes to life, and the drums speed up. There is a 1960s feel that weaves its way in when the “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” part of the song develops. The piano showcase depicts lightning fast playing that is in sharp contrast to the sound and feel of the beginning. Later, that slowed down rhythm returns. Here is when audiences get the point about what kind of love is needed. There is a soulful urgency to Tomboulian’s voice as she sings, “Hungry children got to eat/have mercy on me…” that is likely to stir listeners.

While “Love’s In Need of Love Today” is Tomboulian’s debut as a leader, it illustrates her years spent honing her craft. The album will be available May 17, 2019 in stores and online everywhere.

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