Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
New York resident Tom Lellis is part of what has seemed like an endangered species in recent decades--he's a male jazz singer. Lellis, whose influences have included Mark Murphy and Jon Hendricks (among others),
isn't as well known as he should be. But the talent is certainly there; in addition to being an insightful interpreter of lyrics, he is a risk-taking, expressive improviser who has often written lyrics for jazz gems that started out as instrumentals (including Keith Jarrett's "Lucky Southern," Herbie Hancock's "Tell Me a Bedtime Story," Chick Corea's "Times Lie," Dave Brubeck's "The Duke," McCoy Tyner's "Man from Tangayika" and Wayne Shorter's "E.S.P."). Although Lellis lives in New York, the Big Apple is not his home town. Lellis (who plays acoustic piano) was born in Cleveland on April 8, 1946 and raised in that northern Ohio city, where he started singing jazz as a teen-ager. After moving to New York in 1973, Lellis became active on the Manhattan club scene. He recorded his first album, And in This Corner, in 1979; the Los Angeles-based Inner City label released the album on LP in 1981. And in This Corner boasted an impressive lineup for a debut album; acoustic bassist Eddie Gomez (who is best known for his long association with pianist Bill Evans) and drummer Jack DeJohnette were among the improvisers who backed Lellis on his first release. In an ideal world, Lellis would have gone on to build a large catalog; but regrettably, his trips to the studio have been sporadic. Lellis' second album, Double Entendre (which reunited him with DeJohnette and Gomez), was released by Beamtide Music in 1991 and was followed by his only Concord Jazz release, Taken to Heart (which came out in 1993 and found the singer doing some collaborating with Brazilian great Toninho Horta). After parting company with Concord, Lellis didn't provide any more albums until he recorded Skylark (which unites him with Holland's Metropole Orchestra) for Total Music Design. In 2002, Lellis' first album, And in This Corner, finally came out on CD and was reissued by the Japanese P-Vine label.