Making her splashy, multi-faceted recording debut after decades of performing in nearly every musical style under the sun, vocalist, pianist, guitarist and songwriter Elizabeth Tomboulian swings, breezes, rolls and eases sensually through an expansive, multi-era blend of well-known classics, obscure gems and a originals that combine to make Love’s In Need of Love Today a singularly rich autobiography.
As Forrest Gump might say, Tomboulian’s worn lots of musical shoes, from the folk and blues she grew up with in Arkansas to New Orleans and the Latin jazz from Uruguay and Brazil she played with her husband in Little Rock. Her wide range of tastes comes from a well-traveled life that’s grounded her, for moments and/or years, in Texas, Louisiana, Colorado, Tennessee, Wisconsin, New Jersey and New York.
So under the brilliant guidance of producer and longtime friend (and fellow vocalist) Roseanna Vitro, “home” for Tomboulian is whatever style she happens to hang her stylish hooks and hats on, from her swampy take on Bessie Smith’s “Good Old Wagon” to the rollicking NOLA vibe of the opening track “Exactly Like You” and the elegant swaying ballad “For Tomorrow,” which showcases Tomboulian’s deepest romantic emotions, backed by the lush trumpet grace of Ingrid Jensen.
While truly serious about her craft, the singer displays a colorful sense of humor on her lone original the ballad “Cheesy,” a wistful acknowledgement of her choosiness when it comes to love. Elsewhere, the singer expresses her freewheeling creativity in unique ways, creating clever mashups (Bill Evans’ “The Person I Knew”/Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”), and putting her own lyrics to McCoy Tyner’s hopeful ballad “For Tomorrow.” Tamboulian combines these two threads on the crafty and bluesy closing mashup of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” and Josef Zawinal’s “Mercy Mercy Mercy,” which features her own socially conscious lyrics about working towards a more hopeful world.
That’s a noble coda to an album whose title (from the classic Stevie Wonder song) and concept came to her after the tragic Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. Tomboulian listened to that song and thought, this is exactly what we need right now. The same can be said of Love’s in Need of Love Today.