Tom Lellis

Taken to Heart

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When Concord Jazz released Tom Lellis' third album, Taken to Heart, in 1993, one hoped that it would be the first of many albums he would record for the company. Concord, after all, is among jazz's top independent labels, and it would have been nice to see the company make a long-term, multi-album commitment to Lellis. But Taken to Heart turned out to be his only album for Concord, which seemingly envisioned him as a romantic improviser -- to a point, that is. Taken to Heart isn't strictly a romantic mood album; there are some memorable up-tempo selections and Lellis swings hard on his McCoy Tyner-ish "Love Is" and a medley of Sammy Fain songs. But it is safe to say that ballads and romantic material are a high priority and that Lellis' romantic side serves him well on the standards "It Never Entered My Mind" and "My One and Only Love," as well as the gentle "Wistful Thinking" (a Lellis original) and the sensuous "Milton's Moment" (a Brazilian-influenced song that Lellis wrote for singer Milton Nascimento). "Milton's Moment" is one of two selections that finds Lellis collaborating with Brazilian great Toninho Horta; the other is Horta's "Mountain Flight," which Lellis wrote lyrics for. The singer also provides lyrics for Dave Brubeck's playful "The Duke" and Lellis' lyrics pay tribute to Duke Ellington and his associates. But thankfully, they're a cut above most jazz tribute lyrics. Quite often, jazz tribute lyrics sound like they come from a textbook -- they're about as sexy as warm milk. But Lellis' homage to Ellington is pleasingly hip. Full of interesting surprises, Taken to Heart paints a highly attractive picture of the New York-based jazz vocalist.

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