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Tom Lonardo: Press


Lonardo is a magical name in Paris music

P-I Staff Writer
Published: Friday, August 6, 2010 12:20 PM CDT
Several years ago, a Memphis musician named King Curtis recorded a song called “Memphis Soul Stew,” the essence of which was mixing in so much of each instrument in his band while cooking up a dance hit.

Coming up Aug. 14, the Lee Academy for the Arts will be mixing up some “Cool Summer Blues” at the Krider Performing Arts Center.

Memphis’ own Di Anne Price and Her Boyfriends will headline the show, but an important ingredient in the show — especially for local folks — will be her drummer, Paris’ own Tom Lonardo.

Price sings and plays piano in the group; the other two “boyfriends” are Jim Spake on saxophone and Tom Goodwin on bass. The show at KPAC is set for 7 p.m. with $15 general admission tickets available at Jack Jones Flowers & Gifts and Leach’s Music in downtown Paris as well as The Nest at 809 E. Wood St. Reserved seats are $25 but available only at Paris Civic Center, 650 Volunteer Drive.

Lonardo is the son of the late Tom and Claire Lonardo. A native of Rhode Island, the older Tom met Claire Taylor while he was stationed at Camp Tyson during World War II.

The Army brought him here because he was a musician and so became a third of The Tyson Trio, playing string bass and providing music for the officers’ club.

He also played bass horn in the camp band.

When the war ended, he went to work as chief chemist for Bowling Green Rubber Company, which was bought many years later by Harold Plumley.

After their marriage, Tommy was born and Tom surrounded him with music.

“Growing up in Paris was a carefree, wonderful time that afforded freedom and the experience of being around the musicians in Daddy’s band,” he said recently by phone from his studio in Memphis.

“Later, of course, he opened the music store (Lonardo Piano Co.),” he recalled, “and that would have been, I guess, the late fifties or early sixties.”

While his dad played bass, Tommy heard the call of the drums and took up the beat.

“Private music instruction from the late Bill Crosswy and piano lessons from Mrs. George Covington and other local teachers only got me more and more involved.

“I was also powerfully influenced by Chuck Simmons, the ace Murray drummer who played in Daddy’s band,” Lonardo said.

Those days also were filled with jam sessions and gigs with other local musicians.

“Well, three of the notables are, unfortunately, no longer with us: Steve Ross, Steve Clark and Larry Pierce,” Lonardo said, “but there was also Jimmy Tubbs, Sam Knott and Bill Neese.

“Some of the local gigs we played included the old Sportsman Inn, Paris Country Club, Teen Tavern and Clem and Ruby (Krider’s) ‘Ye Olde Time Minstrel.’”

Graduating from Grove High School in 1966, Tommy headed to Ole Miss on a music scholarship where he played drums for the jazz band and studied composition. Tom began to write music for the band and other university ensembles with two being published.

“In 1969, I was privileged to tour Europe with the university’s pop ensemble called The Group,” he said, “and I guess the world just began to open as I, heavily influenced by the feel of soul music and blues, began to listen to Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis and others, gaining a great appreciation for the music of Memphis.”

He received his master’s of music from Ole Miss in 1972, and attended the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston to study drum set with Dave Brubeck’s percussionist, Alan Dawson.

 Completing his studies there, he went on a short road trip with The Royal American Showmen, then moved to Memphis.

There, more doors opened with a chance to work with such “inside” Memphis musicians as Steve Cropper, T.G. Sheppard and the late Rufus Thomas.

Gigs at Holiday Inns around Memphis and with the Tom Ferguson Trio gave him a chance to really discover jazz music from a performance point of view.

“By that time, I had began to form some definite ideas about drums, writing and music,” he said, “and, in 1974, began teaching music theory and percussion at Southwest Tennessee Community College.

“A year later, I became the percussionist at the chief producer of radio and television in the country, William B. Tanner Co.”

By the mid-1980s, another important phase of his life began. He married Suzanne Campbell and they soon had two sons. Taylor, now 26, also has a degree in  music and is a bass player in Murfreesboro. Griffin, 21, is a student at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

“Taylor is actually using Daddy’s old bass,” Lonardo said.

He and his partners began Genuine Memphis Music Jingles in 1989 and they provide advertising music for radio and television clients.

The group that will be appearing at KPAC Aug. 14 has spread Memphis music in concerts from Canada to Texas. They also have recorded four compact discs.
Bill McCutchen - Paris Post Intelligencer (Aug 16, 2010)
Collective fun with the Jumpin' Chi-Chi's and more
By Bill Ellis
For that jazz cat lurking inside, try the following CDs for some sophisticated purr-fection.
The five pros that compose the Jumpin' Chi-Chi's are a notable bunch: trumpeter/lead vocalist Reid McCoy; sax man Jim Spake; bassist Sam Shoup; keyboardist Tony Thomas, and drummer Tom Lonardo. It'd take a phone book, in fact, to list the sessions these locals have played on over the years.
But when it comes to simply cutting loose, they find collective fun as the Jumpin' Chi-Chi's, a jazzy quintet that, on its eponymous debut disc (self-released, ), aims to meet every Happy Hour mood. And that translates to a grab bag of self-penned, often ribald novelty numbers, from the jump blues of "322 Pearl Ave." (with its W. C. Fields-inspired lyrics) and Rufus Thomas-worthy funk in "Can't Get Down" to the Hawaiian-cast "Wicky Wacky" and a N'Awlins-meets-Bo Diddley vamp, "Let's Do Chi Chi." Virtuoso-delivered silliness has rarely sounded so good.
Bill Ellis - Memphis Commercial Appeal
Calvin Newborn
Yellow Dog Records
The music on UpCity was recorded at two sessions, in New York and in Memphis. The former was comprised of a quintet with Tony Reedus, Charles Thomas, Bill Easley, Bill Mobley and Jamil Nasser with Newborn, the latter had Tony Thomas and Tom Lonardo. One of the most captivating tunes comes in the form of his “Visions”. Newborn works the melody with finesse, playing it to its deepest felt, turning the groove to swing and then changing the tack with chunky, propulsive chords to cue in Thomas, who funks and shunts on the B-3, and Lonardo who feeds the pulse with a forge of rhythmic energy.
Memphis Commercial appeal
There is a comfortable, laidback quality to the recording that just feels like an old shoe, with plenty of joking around captured, including a tentative beginning to the Disney classic, "When You Wish Upon a Star," that coalesces before our ears into a touching moment of pure magic. Funny thing is, Dickinson admits his piano was tuned flat "and so was I," but it's proof perfect you don't have to have a multi-octave range to hit the emotional heart of the material. When he sings of being left at the alter in "The Talk of the Town," you feel the betrayal, and when he asks, "Who would know better than I?" about the "Hard Times," you feel the shiver, as Lonardo's brushes tickle the cymbal like a snake shaking its rattler. Jim Dickinson is the real deal, and conclusive proof that old is the new young.
— 04/16/2009
Dinosaurs Run In Circles (Sep 29, 2009)
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

The word 'funk' is tossed around a lot. It has sources (Sly & the Family Stone, Parliament, Mother's Finest, etc.) but it also connotes wider parameters than are normally credited…and a lot of writers have no clue what they're talking about when it comes to the genre. Can I get an amen? Well, trust me when I say this is funk, 'cause what Charlie Wood can do to jazz, blues, rock, soul, and gospel, brother, is funky as hell.

The composer-keyboardist-singer writes his own stuff but also takes the oeuvre of the greats (Cohen, Simon, etc.) and drags them into the back room where the juju and gris-gris can be found, hipping them up, and down, to the wider vernacular. A number of crits are comparing this cat to Elvis Costello (and the CD's named after a Costello tune), and it's not all that terrible an allusion, but where Elvis is, or rather was, a jagged mega-nerd—he's changed a bit since his hornrimmed days—Wood's much warmer, infinitely more soulful, and smooth as aged whiskey. Yeah, there's Costello in there, but there's a lot more in the way of Sidran and Allison sieved through Wood's own voice, which is huskier and more upfront.

Probably the most impressive factor is the way he makes others' work his own. Robbed of liner credits, and playing upon the fact that ya mightn't be a Dr. Demento of the folk / blues / swamp-jazz genres, I'd not tally bad marks against any listener convicted that each and every track was of Wood manufacture. There's a disc-wide linearity that can't be missed. And when Billy Gibson cuts in that searing harmonica sounding damnably like an overdriven guitar, well, then Wood's own songs (here, Be my Ball) are invested ever more heavily with their own distinctiveness. From start to finish, Flutter and Wow is the kind of down-South music that Chuck Leavell and Sea Level would have been eatin' up with fork and spoon, then inviting the guy and his band on tour…and maybe, just maybe, sweatin' bullets over it after the fact, 'cause this is highly infectious, the sort of sound that attracts fans of one group over to another reeeeeeal easily.

American Tune (Paul Simon)
Doin' the Blah Blah (Charlie Wood)
Flutter and Wow (Elvis Costello)
Be my Ball (Charlie Wood)
Not too Big (Ron Sexsmith)
Everybody Knows (Leonard Cohen)
Last Dance (Charlie Wood)
What You Will (Charlie Wood)
Let's Get Up and Walk Around Some (Charlie Wood)
Johnsburg, Illinois (Tom Waits)
Up in the Attic (Charlie Wood)
A Song (Charlie Wood)

Edited by: David N. Pyles
Charlie Wood

Less than a year ago, Opus One made its debut as a bold concept -- one so innovative that nobody was quite sure how it would play out.

Tradition, after all, was going to be upended: no conductor, offbeat venues, guest performers outside the classical realm. Could musicians from the Memphis Symphony Orchestra do all this with minimal help from the parent organization? And, most important, deliver some fine tunes?

But the boundary-smashing endeavor became a quick hit. An informal atmosphere, a creative mix of set lists and arrangements by top talents like Sam Shoup and Jonathan Kirkscey propelled Opus One to its fourth engagement Thursday night at the Bridges Center.

With the evening's theme of "Opera Swings" and bolstered by a glorious performance from jazz singer Joyce Cobb, Opus One added another lively operatic blend to the cityscape, along with the ongoing performances of "Midsummer Night's Dream" at Playhouse on the Square, a partnership of Opera Memphis and the a cappella groups DeltaCappella and RIVA.

And with Thursday's performance, Opus One has now become a Memphis standard -- but predictable only in its inventiveness.

The cavernous space in Bridges -- with the 35-foot climbing wall as backdrop -- was amenable to the concert, from orchestral boom to Cobb's sassy scat singing.

The evening started out with Opus One playing familiar opera music, including overtures to Rossini's "Barber of Seville" and Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro," Puccini minuets, Mascagni's Intermezzo from "Cavelleria Rusticana" and selections from Bizet's "Carmen."

The performances were fresh and intimate -- it was possible to sit close in to the players and feel the lively sound. The wind section did lovely work on the Mozart and everyone brought passion and vividness to the "Carmen" pieces.

Opus One has established the winning idea of having musicians introduce the pieces.

We're not talking dry dissertations, but personal and engaging routines that tell us as much about the player as the piece. There is some gifted stand-up talent in the ranks. Jessica Munson got more good one-liners than you'd expect from the Mascagni-"Godfather: Part III" connection. And horn player Ion Balu cracked up the house with his dizzying patter that ranged from tales of a blind trombonist to the protagonist from "Carmen" ending up at 201 Poplar.

With all that energy built up, there was still more gorgeous music to dispense.

Joyce Cobb was in top form doing her own jazzy take on opera with Bizet's "Habenera," Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy," a Swingle Singers styling of Bach's "Sleepers Awake" and a sizzling medley of jazz pieces. All her tunes were accompanied by Shoup on bass, Tom Lonardo on drums and Chip Henderson on guitar, with Opus One providing a great jazz backing that never fell in the trap of an orchestra laboring to sound cool.

Thank Shoup for that, and for knowing how to stir the cool of the jazz players with the heat of the orchestra and come up with a triumphant night of perfectly blended music

John Sparks - The Commercial Appeal (Feb 5, 2011)