When exploring the true essence of keyboardist Tom Schuman, his skills as a jazz influence has yet to be completely realized; however, his ability to entertain and mesmerize his many legions of fans is already a given. Known primarily as the man behind the vibe for Spyro Gyra for more than 25 years, Tom has sporadically jumped out as a solo artist at various times during his tenure with the group. He has appeared on and co-written many of Spyro Gyra’s albums, in addition to serving as sideman and producer for other groups as well. His latest release entitled ‘Deep Chill’ continues a degree of illumination, while providing additional insight into the creative flow of Tom Schuman; arranger, composer and keyboardist for one of contemporary jazz’s most prolific groups.
An important fact about Tom Schuman most people do not know is that he is classically trained, with a talent that was recognized at a very early age. On top of that his penchant for jazz has been self-directed and has proven to be a tremendous asset; not only for Spyro Gyra, but to himself and other groups as well. This time out ‘Deep Chill’ re-visits Tom’s contemporary jazz influences once again. His previous release as a solo artist pushed him more into the direction of mainstream. That previous recording was not what most of his fans expected; therefore, he was definitely misunderstood and the level of acceptance for that particular CD was not very high. On the other hand, this newest release is a cut above and puts listeners in a state that allows them to do exactly what is intended: "Take a chill pill.’
‘Deep Chill’ is an album that grabs the listening palate from the onset. The CD is filled with a familiar blend of cover songs and melodic originals, all of which are deeply rooted in the influences of jazz, R&B and pop. To magnify the essence of this recording even more, Tom includes the skillful instrumental articulations of Peter White, Chuck Loeb, Jeff Kashiwa and a host of other notable musicians to keep ‘Deep Chill’ in focus mode. The first track entitled "Fearless Fostic" is one of nine original Schuman compositions. That tune in itself sets the stage for Tom’s intuitive approach. Relying on saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa as a backdrop, Tom provides a bit of funk-oriented antics to get a picturesque groove going; one that is light on funk but has a bit of toe-tapping action attached to its rhythm. Another jewel can be found on "Everybody Knows," a song that captures your attention with the syncopated vocal radio improvisations of Jessie Galante, a driving bassline and Tom’s ever present melody in front. Other tracks providing cover for ‘Deep Chill’ includes Elton John’s "Your Song," Aretha Franklin’s "Until You Come Back To Me" and El DeBarge’s "All This Love," all of which have a profound impact upon Tom Schuman’s chill factor concept.
One of the more intriguing aspects of Tom Schuman’s ability is the fact that he is so multi-faceted. He is one of the most skilled songwriters, arrangers and producers of his generation. These attributes coupled with his superb musicianship places Tom in a category of unparalleled proportions. ‘Deep Chill’ puts yet another creative feather in Schuman’s hat as a contemporary jazz influence. Although he is best known for his history with Spyro Gyra, Tom Schuman is gradually being recognized by the general public as one of the most significant artists of his time. ‘Deep Chill’ provides the platform for continued growth and acceptance.