keyboardist from Buffalo, New York, who came from musical stock and could play the piano without the benefit of sheet music
when he was just six years old.
Daddy played bass and mama sang alto. (Tom likens her voice to that of
Sarah Vaughan.) At seven years
of age, Tom was already composing.
In 1965, he
began taking piano lessons, but the rigidity of classical music went
against his natural instinct to improvise. Instead of playing a piece as it was
originally written (which he could do, by the way) he opted to vamp over
the existing chords. Tom has an
extremely high musical I.Q., evidenced by the fact that he could divine the
similarities between Frederic Chopin’s “Prelude in E minor”
and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “How
organ in church, and piano at his senior high school prom, although it
turned out to be a painful experience, literally. In his attempt to open the lid on
the school’s less-than-mint-condition piano, it collapsed on him
before he could even play his first note. Fortunately, the piano was hurt more
than he. He wound up playing
the thing with a pair of trash cans serving as casters.
inauspicious debut, anything could be considered a step up, and he soon got
his union card and started performing on the local club circuit. Early venues in which he played with
Birthright and The Existing Reality included prisons and the Psychiatric
Center in Buffalo, New York. He
retained his sanity, however, and managed to do a recording with Birthright
and support it on a European promotional swing. Other artists with whom he worked
around this time included Grant Green, Mark Murphy, and Sammy Noto.
Then he had
the good fortune to jam with a couple of guys named Jay Beckenstein
and Jeremy Wall, who mightn’t have had stars in their eyes but were
about to give birth to one of the most successful jazz bands ever. Their name was Spyro
Gyra, and Tom has been with them from the get-go,
appearing on their eponymous debut in the late ‘70s through 2009’s
Down the Wire.
In the new
millennium, Tom began releasing solo albums, showing off his production
chops on albums such as Into Your
Heart, on his own, Jazz Bridge Music label. Its follow-up was 2003’s Schuman Nature, which utilized the
talents of Cora C. Coleman, Dwayne Dolphin, and Ameen
Tom wrote four of the tracks and Dwayne wrote another one to go with
the balance of the album, which includes standard gems such as “Waltz
for Debbie” and “Search for Peace.”
In his copious
free time, he has still managed to record with artists such as Steve Oliver
on a pair of albums, Positive Energy
and 3-D, and Al Williams III on
2008’s Heart Song.
not touring with Spyro Gyra,
an itinerary that keeps him on the road for about one third of the year, he
continues to flex his songwriting skills on singles like “God Please
Bless America” and “When”, a couple of politically tinged
recordings, and hosts and co-produces a podcast entitled MusiConversations. A website is listed below.