Jazziz Magazine's 2009 Critic's Choice (Jan. 2010)
"Lellis swings and soars, supple, agile and emotive over the sublime accompaniment of the Metropole Orchestra. His words seem a perfect fit for Brazilian master Horta's 'Mountain Flight'."
Read the full review
"Studies in romance and reverie" "Exquisite"
— The New York Times 7/08
This is Tom Lellis' seventh album as leader (rather disappointing
output considering the immensity of his talents as singer and
It is also his forth album to include Brazilian guitar virtuoso (and
sometime vocalist) Toninho Horta. On previous platters additional players surround Lellis and Horta.
Here they are left in one another's company and the results are
Indeed, if lustrous pearls on black couture are the height of
understated elegance, then Lellis and Horta are, in combination, the
Audrey Hepburn of Latin-fused jazz.
They wind their way through 11 standards and three originals with the
seductive gentleness of Horta's guitar.
The covers are so consistently gorgeous that it is impossible to
elevate one above the others, though "Dindi" and "My Romance" on which
Lellis sings the English lyrics as Horta counters in Portuguese, are
As for the originals, two, the grand "An Infinite Love", at once cloud
soft and sharply angular as it explores love's limitless magnitude and "Dreamwalking" (sort of a modern-day "Girl From Ipanema" praising a
passing and perceivably unattainable goddess) - were cowritten by
Lellis and Horta. The third, "Three for Marie" (3/4 Marie) is Lellis'
own, and cunningly suggests a mellower, more sensuous "Waltz for
NAMED “TOP CDs OF 2006”
Int. Assoc. For Jazz Education Journal, 5/07
JAZZIZ NAMES “CRITIC’S BEST CDs OF 2006”
January '07 Issue
Several times a year I discover for my own listening pleasure someone new, (at least to me) whose artistry really catches my ear, engages my thoughts and feelings, knocks me back saying, “Wow, this is REALLY good. Where can I get some more of it?” Knowing that this is going to happen from time to time keeps me buying CDs by the dozen in the knowledge that I’ll keep finding those gems out there. This is one of those gems.
Avenue of the Americas, aka / Sixth Avenue in Manhattan is the namesake of this recording, much of which has a Brazilian/Latin flavor contained in a mixture of original songs, vocalese lyrics set to contemporary jazz tunes, a couple of jazz standards and a few pop songs done in wonderful new ways. Lellis has some of the tone of Mark Murphy with a little Al Jarreau thrown in for flavor but really he’s his own man, imitating no one, writing clever and thoughtful vocalese, very nice original material, and several clever pairings of different songs which, after he’s done sound like they’ve always belonged together.
His writing reminds me of the cleverness of Michael Franks but done by a much better jazz musician. All are sung with a smooth baritone, always in tune, always phrased well. He’s also a multi-instrumental player, whose vocal scats don’t sound like someone trying-to-scat and he’s even a pretty darn good whistler.
The opener, “For Better Days Ahead” takes the bright, joyful sound of Metheny’s “Better Days Ahead” and adds vocalese lyrics that really capture the feel of the original. I found myself singing it for a couple of days. It’s just that kind of song.
I’ll be soon getting everything else Mr. Lellis has recorded and look forward to a trip to New York City to perhaps hear him live.
JAZZ IMPROV MAGAZINE, By Will Wyatt
CD Review: Brazzil.com
Brazilian Music as an Antidote to Bush's Depression and 9/11
Written by Bruce Gilman
Saturday, 09 September 2006
Even the most cursory listen to Tom Lellis will establish a few key identifying traits: a richly melodic voice, an agility and accuracy that enables him to scat with an extra degree of daring, his throwaway sense of time over a metric pulse, the company of top-drawer talent, and a way of experiencing a song and expressing to the listener what the words and melody mean to him, in the most direct and honest means possible.
An established and original stylist and bona fide musician (he is an excellent lyricist, pianist, and arranger), Lellis sings with the freedom of an instrumentalist, conjoining evocative sophistication with boyish delight in a beguiling style that sizzles with sensual as well as musical allure.
His latest release, Avenue of the Americas, bears out these sentiments and reveals an interpretive depth - be it pop, soul, jazz, or samba - that never falters.
Impeccable timing and imagination make his wordless improvisations exceptionally fine, and his dexterity with up-tempo numbers is matched by the beautiful poise of his ballad singing.
Incidentally, Lellis does not shy away from challenges. Avenue of the Americas includes works by Dorival Caymmi, Pat Metheny, Donald Brown, Keith Jarrett, and Toninho Horta, each a little minefield in its own way for which Lellis has provided lyrics and negotiates superbly.
Furthermore, Lellis works closely with his stellar backing groups making sure that their work is not merely a singer-plus-band date, but a properly collaborative effort.
It is hard to come up with a new or refreshing angle on music that is frequently performed as are six of the tracks that form this 11-track CD. Tom Lellis succeeds in doing so, at least in part due to the sensitivity of his accompanists, all of whom perform well, though it is invariably Lellis's voice that catches the ear, towering over the proceedings with a dazzling display of vocal expertise and good taste.
And what a pleasure it is to hear a vocalist whose lyricism grows from his improvisational method, who sings with the instincts of an instrumentalist, and who has the capacity to add lyrics to previously instrumental works, which show intuitive musical understanding.
Avenue of the Americas is an excellent and sophisticated recording that draws on many contemporary strands of music-making, but with a jazz heart.
Saturday June 24, 2006
★★★★☆ Standards and new works with a terrific, unique Latin Flavor
Tom Lellis is a man of many talents as he so well demonstrates on this fine new CD. Not only is he a fine and pungent vocalist, but he also is a strong lyricist, composer and arranger (he also just happens to be proficient on the piano, keyboards, percussion, voice bass, and whistle!). But the full flavor of this collection in the mixture of jazz with Brazilian and popular music comes from Lellis excellent arrangements of songs we thought we knew - until he makes the lyrics his own.
Lellis' voice is a bit of Mel Torme but no further comparisons should be made. His style is easy, relaxed and full of scat and improvisations. He has collaborated on this CD with Toninho Horta’s guitar, Richard Bona and Tony Mario, bass, Jeremy Steig flute, Kenny Werner and Dave Kikoski and Gary Fisher on piano, and Tommy Campbell and Frank Colon and Cliff Almond and Jorge Amorin on drums and percussion. It is a well tuned ensemble and serves Lellis well.
Included on the collection are Norwegian Woods, For Wisdom, Pure Imagination segueing into Waiting for Angela, Ain't No Mountain High Enough - 11 songs in all. This is one of those recordings for easy listening in the evening watching the sun go down - and the fire come up! Grady Harp, June 06
Record Label: Beamtide
Style: Jazz Vocals
Jazz vocalist Tom Lellis is a purveyor of optimism. Feeling down and lonely? Then it might be a judicious and soul-satisfying move to break out Lellis’ new release, which carries forth the mark of excellence witnessed on his 2004 venture, “Southern Exposure.” With many of these Brazilian flavored jazz pieces, the vocalist’s hip and sometimes glib delivery marks an urban type of enhancement to notions of tropical paradises and multicultural elements. And with pianists Kenny Werner, Gary Fisher and Dave Kikoski serving as strong foils, Lellis’ resounding lyricism and touching balladry spawn a panorama of good cheer.
Lellis benefits from a worldly aggregation of musicians. On “Baubles, Bangles & Beads,” flutist Jeremy Steig’s whispery lines and Lellis’ lilting vocals atop a sleek samba groove render lucid imagery of a sun-drenched Brazilian beach. Otherwise, Lellis’ hip swagger is reminiscent of jazz vocal great Mark Murphy. Therefore, he lives and breathes the storylines with a deeply personalized gait that surfaces via his uplifting line of attack. In various spots, the soloists counterbalance Lellis with fluidly executed choruses, as they often reengineer primary themes with lushly harmonic underpinnings. On “Isle Awhile,” Kenny Werner’ steers a piano trio format teeming with floatation-like qualities, while Lellis sings with the panache one might hear at an upscale metropolitan lounge. They also fuse a jazz waltz into “The Beatles” pop classic, “Norwegian Wood.” In sum, Lellis has produced yet another jaunty and especially pleasurable set. Toss your troubles by the wayside; the artist’s muse is therapeutically entertaining.
By Dr. Judith Schlesinger
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 releases—especially 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!
CD Review: Bruce Crowther http://www.swing2bop.com
It is with considerable pleasure that I came again to this fine singer who works skillfully in an artful blend of jazz and Braziliana. His repertoire takes in classic pop, Lennon and McCartney, and songs for which he has written lyrics. Some of the latter draw music from jazz tunes composed by the likes of Keith Jarrett, 'Lucky Southern', and Pat Metheny, 'For Better Days Ahead'. Among the instrumentalists on hand to support Tom on this set are guitarist Toninho Horta, bassist Richard Bona, pianist Kenny Werner and flautist Jeremy Steig. I count at least four continents represented in the personnel and this gives a hint at the global appeal of Tom's writing and singing (and he plays keyboards and percussion too at times). If, like me, you have neglected this fine singer for a while - or even have yet to hear him - this is a golden opportunity to fill that gap in your collection
“Lellis is in top voice and he utilizes his sidemen, particularly guitarist Horta and flutist Jeremy Steig (who duets with Lellis on the medley of "Pure Imagination" and "Waiting for Angela") quite well. This is very much a haunting and atmospheric set, one of Lellis' most intriguing to date.”
~All Music Guide
What a romance. What a hip CD!
"The Voice" 88.7 fm Sacramento, CA
With a flexible voice that navigates smoothly and unhesitatingly through challenging and very different melodic terrain, Tom makes for satisfying listening. His basic salty-sweet vocal sound is consistent throughout the album. There's a becoming touch of gruffness here and there and an invigorating strength on sustained tones on "For Better Days Ahead." It boasts a Pat Metheny melody with Tom's straight ahead optimistic lyrics and is the song I've made my own "repeat play" favorite of the last few weeks.
CD Review: http://www.talkinbroadway.com/sound/aug1006.html
By Rob Lester
|Reviews for Southern Exposure:
"Southern Exposure is a taste of paradise, full of heart
and soul, with breezy phrasing and a laid-back but very determined,
Tom delivers the ballads as well as the fast stuff with strength
and dynamics. If you are a fan of Brazilian jazz this CD deserves
a spot in your collection."
Singer Magazine, 11/04
"It's a brave man who opens up an album (Southern Exposure)
with the Bobby Darin classic "Beyond the Sea", but
vocalist Lellis carries it off with some aplomb. Tom Lellis
has it all going for him."
Vocalist/multi-instrumentalist, Tom Lellis would seemingly
enjoy a career-based, upward spiral with the advent of this
winning production. He garners compassionate assistance from
the likes of pianists Dave Kikoski, Kenny Werner, guitarist
Toninho Horta and others. And with these, Brazilian-jazz oriented
pieces; Lellis rides the crest of a wave!
Sure enough, Lellis is clearly the star here, via his rather
hip stylizations, marked by variances in pitch, intonation,
and an unhurried but deterministic vocal style.
Many of these tunes might elicit notions of
a Brazilian surfside festivity, amid upbeat ensemble work
and breezy choruses. Lellis is a distinctive jazz crooner,
whereas, his near effortless delivery can be deceiving. He
masterfully phrases lyricism into emotive flavors, often providing
the listener with a taste of paradise. No doubt, when I grow
up, I'd like to sing just like Tom Lellis. (Feverishly recommended)
Adventure has released the irresistible vocalist and pianist
Tom Lellis’s Southern Exposure - a vespers to love.
“Luisa”, a Toninho Horta and Lellis composition,
features guitarist Horta and pianist Dave Kikoski’s
tidy and lovely interchanges, a supple trio of back-up glittering
mermaiding vocals and Lellis gorgeously phrasing the sense
of wonderment in the lyrics. Lellis and Horta also pair up
for a closing duo in Jobim’s “Falando de Amor/Tema
de Amor” sung accent less by Lellis, who manages to
reproduce himself vocally in Portuguese, without losing phrasing,
intonation, technique or feel. Horta ’s accompanying
is beautifully toned and placed. Lellis funks up his Portuguese
singing in a samba titled “Obi” where Kenny Werner
stands out with driving strength and block chords, matched
by Romero Lubambo on guitar.
Hermeto Pascoal and Airto Morerira’s “Mixing/Tomba
in 7/4 is energetically interpreted by Werner and Lubambo
with percussive intensity and punchy unison vocal effects
from Lellis and Roseanna Vitro.
“Bridges” is a crooner’s creamy and dreamy
balladistic delight - on “bridges made out of love”.
Tom Lellis is omni-talented. He sings, writes music and lyrics,
plays guitar, piano and keyboards, all of it with class and
taste. But Lellis has something more than talent: he has honesty.
There's no trace of jive or cynicism in his music, which is
soulful, intimate and full of heart. this CD is a rare gem:
consistently enjoyable, superbly played, it's a must-have
for fans of Brazilian jazz and those who are weary of hype
All Music Guide
"It's very romantic, enticingly sensuous fun. Lellis avoids
easy sentiment with challenging songs and his harmonically
galvanizing vocal approach. "
Newark Star Ledger
"The CD "Skylark" is a stunning accomplishment.
"The warmth and versatility of his voice
make him one of the most easily distinguished contemporary
jazz singers on the planet"
"A spirited, nimble, embroidery of melody."
"Good music that worked well!"
"Music that transports the listener."
New York Newsday
"Tom's lyrics and vocal on Keith Jarrett's
"Lucky Southern" are absolutely infectious and have made it
a 'hit' in London's jazz discos."
Melody Maker, London
"A gifted persuasive vocalist with impressive
strength. On "Double Entendre" Gomez and DeJohnette surpass
their role as sidemen, producing a brilliant fusion of styles
between the three musicians, largely due to Lellis' sophisticated
versatility as both vocalist and pianist. Tom Lellis should
fascinate not only vocal fans, but instrumental fans, thus
producing an ideal vocal form. What a treat it would be to
hear this band live."
Jazzlife, Tokyo, Japan
"An extremely rare breed of artist.
Music fit for a serious listening jazz club. This talented
man's work cannot be ignored."
Swing Journal, Tokyo
"Rather than listen to Harry Connick
rehash Sinatra, follow my heart of hearts for this singer
who has already realized his gift and sings jazz with conviction
Jazz Magazine, Paris
"One has just to listen to Dukedom'
to realize he has few equals."
Jazz Hot Magazine, Paris
"If Tom Lellis had been singing in the
earlier times his smooth romantic vocal and matinee-idol looks
might have given 'old blue eyes' a run for the money."
"An unequivocal ear treat is his powerfully
distinctive vocal style. His fully developed fashion of squeezing
the inner essence of every meaning of every word completes
his oneness, and his own "Wistful Thinking" is a majestic
model. Not to enjoy Tom Lellis is sheer self-deprivation."
International Assoc of Jazz Educators Journal
"Vocal profundity. A finer job of jazz
vocalizing for the eclectic age of jazz you've never heard.
He is to be congratulated for vocalizing on newer jazz, crossover,
fusion, jazz-rock, modal hard bop and the like. It is obvious
that he has paid his dues and dating from this album forth
those who would give voice to Jazz will have to go to school
on Tom Lellis along with Ella, Sarah, Joe, Mel and the rest."
Cleveland Plain Dealer
"He owns a unique place in the music
embellishing a tradition that few are tracking, combining
vocalese, scatting, crooning and high-wire vocal acrobatics.
He is also a brilliant writer of lyrics, combining romanticism,
hidden meanings and turned around cliches into an alluring,
sometimes startling meld of vocal expression. Lellis has the
desire to be an intelligent interpreter of jazz and there
is no doubt he succeeds.
Ann Arbor News
"Remember the name Tom Lellis - he's
a triple threat. On keyboard the guy can rumble like McCoy
Tyner and on vocals, he stretches and soars. Toss in an undeniable
gift for composing and arranging and you have a hyper-romantic,
cosmically-conscious, virtually unstoppable fellow and one
of jazz music's big undiscovered talents."
Minnesota/St. Paul Reader
"Tom Lellis is an absolutely incredible
jazz singer. He captures the nuances in a great song as every
magnificent jazz voice is supposed to do. The richness of
his vocal instrument is at once apparent."
"A reason for rejoicing. A rare commodity,
striking and utterly captivating."
Norfolk Star Ledger