Originally released on Inner City Records.
In 1979, a young Tom Lellis made his recording debut with And in This Corner, which originally came out on Inner City and was, in 2002, reissued on CD by the Japanese P-Vine label. Lellis still had some growing and developing to do in the late '70s and early '80s; even so, this is an enjoyable debut, and one hears Lellis' potential on original material as well as interpretations of Chick Corea's "Times Lie" and Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine." That Porter standard is the only track that can honestly be described as an overdone warhorse; most of the songs that Lellis interprets (when he isn't writing melodies of his own) have not been beaten to death. And you certainly can't accuse the singer of performing "Begin the Beguine" the same old way; Lellis puts a surprisingly mysterious and haunting post-bop spin on the familiar standard. Nor can you accuse Lellis of being lazy; he provides lyrics for Keith Jarrett's "Lucky Southern" as well as Wayne Shorter's "E.S.P." and McCoy Tyner's "Man From Tangayika." One of the things that Lellis (who is joined by bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette, among others) brings to this post-bop session is a healthy appreciation of Mark Murphy, whose post-bop recordings of the '60s and '70s are a major influence. As time passed, Lellis continued to be influenced by Murphy but became increasingly original -- again, the singer still had some growing and developing to do back in 1979. But all things considered, And in This Corner is a decent, noteworthy debut. And at a time when so many jazz singers are content to offer knee-jerk versions of the same old standards done the same old way, one can't help but applaud the fact that Lellis wrote most of the lyrics himself. ~ Alex Henderson