Elizabeth Tomboulian: Love’s in Need of Love Today

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Elizabeth Tomboulian

Love’s in Need of Love Today

(Quantum Starsong)

May 12, 2019

Reviewed by Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes

Here is another real find. Elizabeth Tomboulian has a wide range, a controlled voice with slide and scat ability, and a solid blues feel equal to her jazz chops.

Add some really intriguing arrangements, and you have a singular musical personality.
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“Exactly Like You” (Jimmy McHugh/Dorothy Fields) finds sashay and stroll hand in hand. Attitude is appealing, rhythm infectious, vocal elastic. The number has a N’Orleans feel. Her mama wants her to find someone “to, you know, do domestic chores like you.”

In the first of several original combinations, Bill Evans’ “Re: Person I Knew” arrives as underpinning to Cyndi Lauper/Rob Hyman’s “Time After Time.” The number has a genuine lilt. A splendid, muted horn (Ingrid Jensen) weaves its way through like macramé. Similarly unexpected, Thelonious Monk’s “Nutty” is paired with Ben Oakland/Jack P. Murray’s “If I Love Again.” It’s a mideum-tempo jazz bookended by a scat duo by Elizabeth and Lee Tomboulian; the bright, bouncy song features nifty vocal conversations with bass (Cliff Schmidt) and drums (Alvester Garnett).

Texas poet laureate David Rodriguez’s “Battle of The Snow Leopard” and “Tanqueray Cowboy” are songs Joni Mitchell or Judy Collins might’ve performed: “It’s a penny for your thoughts/It’s a dollar for your kisses/I keep a runnin’ tab all the time.” I can’t tell where one begins and the other ends. Tomboulian herself plays a soulful piano. Lonely wordless singing makes this timeless.

Lone Star roots also show appealingly with the classic “Good Old Wagon” (John Willie Henry) made famous by Bessie Smith. “You been a good old wagon, daddy/But you done broke down.” The multifaceted vocalist plays twangy, fingerstyle, blues guitar. It’s funky and cool. The languid approach alternates with two-step, ooo ooo, doot dootin doot with round-edged scat. Yeah!

“Tristeza de Amar” (Meredith C’ambrosio/Luis D’olivera/Geraldo Vandre) is a subtle bossa; Tomboulian’s voice rises and falls like a wave, Jensen’s horn circles like a wary lover. The bass is resonant, while the piano (Lee Tomboulian) sparkles like moonlight on water. It’s a barefoot song with gently swinging hips.

For a moment we hear a traditional American Songbook treatment of Hoagy Carmichael’s “I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes),” but listen. There are strains of classical piano and definite jazz influence.
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Its purveyors have the wisdom not to change the balladic backbone.

Who would think to layer “For What It’s Worth” (Stephen Stills) with “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” (Josef Zawinul), including an original lyric?  Again, it works. What emerges is an optimistic call for faith in man. “That’s really my purpose for the whole album,” Tomboulian writes, “to say that love wins.

” Stills is ably represented by a light horn and a gentle back-up vocal. “Hungry children got to eat/Everybody got to be free” she sings. The tune swings out on audacious piano, then circles back. It’s a swell mesh. Brava.

Alix Cohen

Alix Cohen’s writing began with poetry, segued into lyrics then took a commercial detour. She now authors pieces about culture/the arts, including reviews and features. A diehard proponent of cabaret, she’s also a theater aficionado, a voting member of Drama Desk, The Drama League and of The NY Press Club in addition to MAC. Currently, Alix writes for Cabaret Scenes, Theater Pizzazz and Woman Around Town. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine and Times Square Chronicles. Alix is the recipient of six New York Press Club Awards.