Local Sax Player Tony Lombardo Appearing at Lefty’s May 23 

May 15, 2018
Tony Lombardo

Growing up on Long Island, Tony Lombardo developed an interest in jazz music at an early age.

“My grandfather was a big jazz fan, and he used to babysit me,” he said. “During those times, he’d be playing his jazz records. We could listen for hours, and I enjoyed every minute of it.”

That musical interest never left Lombardo, now 33 and an accomplished alto saxophone player. People can hear him Wednesday, May 23, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Lefty’s Tavern in Barnegat Township.

“I cover a variety of musical styles, from jazz standards to current pop hits,” said the Barnegat resident, who is a 2003 Southern Regional High School graduate. He has a bachelor’s degree in music education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He is also a former Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus musician and was once music director for Carnival Cruise Lines.

Lombardo estimates he has a repertoire of more than 100 songs, representing approximately 50 artists. For older tunes, he’ll play Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.

But he also found a lot of listeners want to hear the new songs, so his set list could include Ed Sheeran’s “’Perfect,”  Bruno Mars’ “Marry You” and “Just The Way You Are,” The Weeknd/Daft Punk’s “I Feel It Coming”  and Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”

He also likes performing hits of Billy Joel, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Adele, Whitney Houston and Alicia Keys.

It goes without saying that he’ll do a tune by Kenny G., who pretty much put the alto sax on the map when smooth jazz started becoming a popular genre in the 1980s. Aside from Kenny G., Lombardo said other top saxophonists are David Sanborn, Mindi Abair, Eric Marienthal and Dave Koz.

While Lombardo has played with various bands in the past (including a brief stint with Shorty Long and the Jersey Horns), he said he has found his niche as a solo performer. He currently performs at wedding receptions, cocktail hours and other special events through Absolute Celebration in Woodbridge.

“This is a style of saxophone that many people might not have heard a lot, at least live,” he said. “It’s much different than in a band when you’re playing harmony or doing a solo. Here, the saxophone is playing the lyric, like the lead singer. And what I need to do is translate that feeling and the meaning of the song from the voice to the sax. When I play ‘My Girl’ by the Temptations or ‘Let’s Get It On’ by Marvin Gaye, the sax version feels more powerful and moving than the original vocal.”

He said when you play the sax in a jazz improvisational setting, you can make a mistake but probably no one will know.

“But as a solo performer, it’s similar to singing,” Lombardo said. “But when I’m playing these popular songs, the audience is familiar with the melody, so I have to get the repertoire down pat and perform without a glitch.”  

Lombardo said that in learning to play the saxophone, you find out quickly that you have to use all 10 fingers.

“They all have to work together to create that sound,” he said. “Breathing properly is also very important, much like with various brass instruments.” 

Lombardo said other dates at Lefty’s are Saturday, July 14, and Wednesday, Aug. 8. On Sunday, Aug. 19, he’ll be playing at the Mud City Crab House in Manahawkin. For more information, call Lefty’s at 609-607-0707 or Mud City at 609-978-3660.

— Eric Englund


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