Tuning in to the "Tone Poets"

by Diana Zeiger

According to the dictionary, a tone poem is "an orchestral composition, usually in one movement, based on a literary theme and tending to evoke images." New York's Tone Poets don't exactly traffic in "orchestral compositions;" however, their music certainly does "evoke images."

Take, for example, the song "Cold Comfort" on their debut album, WHATEVER. This song depicts the ending of a relationship in which the feelings are unequal, and how it is the things that the other person didn't say which hurt the most. This song brings you into the world of the person from whose point of view the song is written, and makes you feel his sorrow.

Or consider the album's title track. "Whatever" describes one person's search for the truth. For most of the song, it seems as though it is a pretty futile notion, but at the end of the song, there's the line "I will go where I can change the weather" -- a line which emphasizes the necessity of going on anyway.

All of the intelligent, evocative lyrics present on WHATEVER are layered over a lush, rich guitar-oriented sound which is definitely original, but still hints at influences such as The Beatles and Peter Gabriel. It's a melodic, tuneful mix.

The Tone Poets developed their sound over the course of the last twelve years or so, and with various combinations and permutations of band members. They finally found the chemistry they were looking for almost three years ago, when keyboardist Leo Rizzo signed on to join guitarist Kevin Albinder, drummer Scott Firestone, vocalist Mark Houck, and bassist Eric Lipsenthal.

Along with their various changes in personnel came changes in the band's approach to songwriting. It used to be that one person or another would bring a more or less completed song to the rest of the band -- but now they take a more democratic approach and write songs together.

One thing that is very surprising about WHATEVER is that it was actually recorded at a number of different studios, over a long period of time (several years), and with a number of different people. What started out as a three-song demo grew into a remarkably cohesive-sounding album that truly defines and establishes the Tone Poets.

The band is very excited about their second album, which they are in the midst of writing and recording. It, like WHATEVER, will be released on Midnight Fantasy Records. The band deliberately chose an independent label because they wanted to be someplace where they had access to the company executives, and they are very happy with the personal attention they receive from Midnight Fantasy.

Though the Tone Poets will, of course, play out more frequently once their second album is complete, right now they are concentrating on recording. However, they manage to play a lot of benefit gigs for causes they believe in. The band prefers not to let their politics come out in their music, choosing instead to keep it more personal. However, if something in the news touches them in some way, they will write about it, and of course the charities and benefits to whom they lend their support attest to the fact that they care about the community.

Keep your ears open for the Tone Poets. You should be able to catch their appealing sound on a radio or in a record store near you -- and if you can't, call them and ask!

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