Tom Lellis: Avenue of the Americas (2006)
Tom Lellis is a bold, innovative musician with a supple voice and distinctive style. While he's not your cookie-cutter crooner, he's still fully capable of inducing swoons in his female listeners (see "Baubles, Bangles, and Beads" for evidence). This track also demonstrates some of what makes Lellis an original: his ability to combine different songs as if they always belonged together.
For example, he sings "I Get a Kick out of You" over the chords for "Baubles," and later weds "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" to "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." More than just a musical match, these two songs share a running theme of yearning and hope. But the tour de force on Avenue of the Americas is the "Norwegian Wood" suite, in which Lellis manages to refer to sixteen Beatles songs in a brilliant tapestry of shifting colors and moods.
The CD's title reflects Lellis's strong lifelong attachment to Brazilian music, which is evident here as well as on his previous releasesespecially the wonderful Southern Exposure (Adventure Music, 2004). Lellis has a superb feel for Brazil's subtle rhythms and harmonies, and his collaboration with Toninho Horta has been particularly memorable. Here, on "Olinda Wind," Lellis uses Horta's joyful melody to celebrate playful rhythms, soft sea breezes, and the kind of dancing that melts your troubles away.
In fact, this release is a tribute to collaboration: not just because of the interaction among excellent musicians, but also Lellis's intriguing lyrics to songs by Pat Metheny ("For Better Days Ahead"), Yellowjackets ("For Wisdom") and Keith Jarrett ("Lucky Southern"), the latter artfully fused with Dori Caymmi's "Marancangalha" in the gently swinging closer. Lellis imitates nobody, and his passion is evident in every word he sings. Refreshing!
Track Listing: For Better Days Ahead; Norwegian Wood; Baubles; Bangles; and Beads; Olinda Wind; For Wisdom; Pure Imagination/Waiting for Angela; River of Light; A Choice of Fates; Isle Awhile; Ain't No Mountain High Enough/Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For; Lucky Southern/ Maracangalha.
Personnel: Tom Lellis: vocals, guitar, keyboard, percussion; Toninho Horta: guitar; Richard Bona: electric bass; Tony Marino: bass, electric bass; Gary Fisher: piano, keyboards; Kenny Werner and Dave Kikoski: piano; Cliff Almond and Tommy Campbell: drums; Jeremy Steig: flute; Jorge Amorim and Frank Colon: percussion.