Jazz pianist Lee Tomboulian used to gig in Denton regularly, and recorded with his Denton-Dallas-Fort Worth band, Circo. He and his wife, jazz singer Betty Tomboulian, steadily created a catalog of original jazz, as well as covers of standards, with smart harmonies and phrases that sounded oh-so-easy in spite of their technical complexity.
Lee Tomboulian stopped in Denton on Wednesday on a short tour in support of his latest release, Imaginarium, an aptly named record that shows the pianist’s mellow side, but sneaks in some of Tomboulian’s jovial turns behind the accordion.
Imaginarium is 12 tracks of recently released and refined East Coast cool. Even “Sweet Georgia Brown” is a nimble dance across the keys, a sprinkle of well-dressed improvisation here and a dash of tribute to the source there. Tomboulian even treats the listener to his flair for Latin stylings, a needed touch of spice to a record that marinates in a headier kind of charm.
Tomboulian earned his Master of Music degree in jazz studies at the University of North Texas, where he was the pianist with the One O’clock Lab Band.
He lived in Denton for 12 years and recorded North/South Convergence and Return to Whenever with Circo before moving to Wisconsin. He was an instructor of jazz piano and improvisation at Lawrence University Conservatory of Music from 2005 to 2011. He has performed with jazz greats including Eddie Harris, Benny Golson, Kenny Wheeler and Chris Potter.
Since moving to the the New York City area in 2011, Tomboulian has gigged at the Lenox Lounge in Harlem, Smalls Jazz Club, the Kitano New York Hotel and churches.
Imaginarium features his compositions and his interpretations of jazz standards and Brazilian music. One treat on the record is a mash-up of Freddie Mercury’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” with Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin.
Tomboulian is selling the album online at www.cdbaby.com/cd/leetomboulian.
To learn more about this one-time local musician, visit www.leetomboulian.com .
— Lucinda Breeding