Jazz sextet to present old heroes and new faces

Jessica Engel

On Monday, September 26, at 8 p.m., the Lawrence Faculty Jazz Sextet will perform in a musical feature entitled “THERMO: The Music of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.” The performance will feature five transcriptions from the Blakey’s album “Thermo,” a compilation of works from the celebrated group’s previous albums. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’ fame derives both from the unique experimental style of their compositions and its legendary members: Curtis Fuller, Reggie Workman, Cedar Walton, Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, and, of course, Blakey himself. One of Lawrence’s very own faculty members, Tom Washatka, has appeared with Hubbard, their group’s famed trumpeter. Washatka, who is entering his second year on the Lawrence faculty, will be performing in this concert on tenor saxophone alongside new pianist Lee Tomboulian, as well as the returning members: trumpet professor John Daniel, trombone professor Nick Keelan, bass instructor Mark Urness, and percussion professor Dane Richeson.
In addition to making appearances with Freddie Hubbard, Washatka has performed with countless other memorable performers including Count Basie and Tito Puente. Furthermore, he has performed alongside such household names as the Temptations, the Brian Setzer Big Band, Jimmy Dorsey, and the Shirelles. Fred Sturm, Lawrence’s jazz program director, calls Washatka one of the “premier jazz saxophonists in the Midwest.” Aside from being a brilliant saxophonist, Washatka composes music, some of which has been featured on PBS and on film. Washatka also acts as a producer for Stellar Records, a recording label which he co-founded. In fact, he was even nominated for producer of the year in the Wisconsin Area Music Industry Awards. Clearly, Washatka’s active involvement in the international Jazz community has helped him play a vital role in Lawrence’s Jazz community.
Tomboulian, like Washatka, has a highly impressive resume. Particularly interesting is his diverse education. He received his B.A. in composition with a minor in drama from the University of Arkansas and his M.M. in Jazz Studies from the University of North Texas, during which time he studied privately with the great pianist and composer Art Lande. Tomboulian has performed with acclaimed performers Bucky Pizzarelli, Pharaoh Sanders, Nat Adderley, Steve Swallow, Doc Cheatham, and Herb Ellis, among others. Tomboulian has expertise in numerous musical genres, from gospel – which he studied at St. Andrew’s Church in Texas – to Brazilian and Uruguayan music, which he performs with his band Circo. With such diverse and impressive musical background, Tomboulian will truly enrich Lawrence’s jazz program. According to Sturm, “Lee brings a broad range of talents and experiences to Lawrence. A wonderfully gifted pianist and composer, he has strong jazz, classical, and world music interests as well as a genuine respect for the arts. He’ll develop the jazz piano studio, expand our jazz improvisation offerings, coach several of the jazz small groups, and co-ordinate jazz performance practice with Mark Urness.”
Hence, not only will “THERMO” likely prove an enjoyable and educational experience, but it will also provide a small glimpse of the knowledge and skill that Lawrence’s two newest jazz professors have to offer.