tommy mars

aka: tommy mariano




Early 2010, a couple of YouTube movies showed The Theoretical Five, recording an improvised set at the Lo-Tek Studios in Mar Vista. The Theoretical Five were: Tommy Mars (keyboards,vocals), Warren Cuccurullo (guitar,samples), Arthur Barrow (bass), Larry Klimas (saxophone) and Andy Kravitz (drums,percussion).
Also in 2010, Arthur Barrow and Tommy Mars recorded and performed with Robby Krieger. Both of them can be heard on Robby Krieger's "Singularity" album and performed with the Robby Krieger Band.

Arthur Barrow, Tommy Mars, Tom Brechtlein and Larry Klimas toured with Robby Krieger's Jazz Kitchen band in 2012. Chad Wackerman replaced Tom Brechtlein during the tour.


tommy mars

keyboard magazine, 1980

q:what kind of training did you have on the keyboard?
tm:well, like every other kid, i hated taking piano lessons. i just wanted to improvise and pick songs off the radio. i had the typical garage band sort of training through high school. but during my senior year, i decided to pursue it as a career so i totally changed direction and went into a very strict, sort of monastic musical training. i never really learned how to read music until i went to a conservatory, and it brought out things that i never knew i had inside my self. i graduated in '72 from hart college of music in west hartford, connecticut, and i have had just about every musical job there is since then. i was a choirmaster, a church organist, movie accompanist, i played bars and clubs, everything.

q:did you ever try to go the professional classical route?
tm:i did, but i found that the whole profession is dominated by a select group of people; you have to wait until someone dies before the next one moves up. it's so limited and i just could not live in the past. to me, you have to be doing things fresh and always looking ahead instead of looking back. now i'11 never stop playing classical music; i still practice every day. i play for a couple of hours, keeping my technique up, practicing different styles, and i think that has really helped me in my rapport with frank, my being actually able to be a musical encyclopedia. like he'll say, "play this in an alberti bass style," or maybe a tatum stride, or like a stockhausen pointillistic sort of feel. he picks people who, when he says that, can snap right into it. you can only get that by working at a particular phase of musical development, mastering it, and then moving on. to me, being a musician should be all-encompassing. i try to think of myself as a total jiminy cricket; i try to learn every thing, and it's helped me, because you never know what you're going to be called on to do.

q:were you in any rock bands after leaving college?
tm:well, i had my own. i worked with a drummer for a couple of years. it was called mars, but that concept never really went anywhere. when i left new england and came out to the west coast, i had to start from scratch as a solo act. i had to go up to alaska before i could get a job in california. it was that bad; i was striking out worse here than in connecticut. i was working in this revolving organ bar in kodiak, alaska, with japanese and russian fishermen kicking me in the back if i couldn't play an ethnic folk song to their drunken satisfaction. this was in '7ci; i was going from bar to bar, agent to agent, trying to hustle up some work.

q:what led you to move to california?
tm:basically, i came out here to get into the movie business; that's really what i want to do, write music for movies, arrange, produce, and you have to start somewhere. but i was starting on the planet pluto. it was really difficult, and i was very lucky to get a break with frank. it was like immediately ascending to the snowy peaks, even though there was a lot of volcanic ash on the sides. it's a great experience; i always enjoy working with him whenever he calls me.

q:how did you finally connect up with zappa?
tm:i had known ed mann, the percussionist in his band, back in connecticut. he said, "frank has a keyboard player already and he's thinking of auditioning another one as well. why don't you give him a call?" and that's what happened; i told him a little bit about myself and he said, "yeah, definitely, come on down." so i just jumped. at that point, i was striking out everywhere in the bars; getting fired was my middle name.

q:what did your audition consist of?
tm:i can distinctly remember that i knew that frank was gonna put me through the most stringent musical maze that i had ever confronted in my life. i remember him arranging or writing a piece, 1 can't remember which, and all it had on it was, "slowly." and on the first page was a really beautiful set of chord changes and that was no sweat so i read through that. then all of a sudden, there were these rhythmic modulations and conceptualizations that i hadn't seen since i was in college. i was on the verge of it, but it wasn't jelling immediately because i had been playing cole porter and gershwin tunes for years. frank had a toothache that day and i could sense that i was sinking lower and lower. then he wanted to see how i memorized. he played me a tape and said, "okay, here's four measures; play it back. here's eight measures." and my life raft was getting a bigger and bigger leak in it. finally, he said, "okay, let's hear your voice. sing something to me." i must know thousands of songs with lyrics, but i couldn't think of one song that i could do all the way through. so i told him, "frank, i can't think of anything so i'm going to improvise something." so i just started playing the piano and singing. i have a style of scatting that is very definitely my own and it's coordinated very basically and organically with what i'm playing on the piano. it totally knocked frank out. he called gail, his wife, downstairs and said, "listen to this guy blow." and that saved me. my reading was only adequate for what he wanted but the improv saved me, i'm sure. then we talked a lot and he said, "i guess you won't have to work many holiday inns any more.

q:and that was it?
tm:basically, that's it. there's reading and everything, but it's also balanced on your personality. he stressed very highly in the audition that he wanted somebody who could be flexible, moldable, compatible, and i'm that type of person. i like working with composers, working on new projects, and not just being a sideman per se, but giving the music some personality, some breath of life. i think that was what frank was looking for at the time.

q:was sheik yerbouti the first album that you did with him?
tm:yes, the first thing that i was involved with.

q:a lot of that was recorded live with various overdubs added after the fact.
tm:various, very loosely. from my experience, i would say that the overdubs on that particular album were at least equally balanced with the live tracks. we worked for months on that. for instance, on the song "baby snakes," i was watching a twilight zone on tv late one night and i got this phone call from frank, he said, "hi, tommy, how are you? feel like doing a little singing tonight?" and i said, "sure." i came down to cherokee studios and did "baby snakes" that night about six times, my own voice on one line, no harmonies, just a straight linear thing.

q:were the original live keyboard parts augmented or substituted for, or what?
tm:i would say that a lot of times, they were reinforced and new material was added. say, on an orchestrated section of the song "yo' mama," the actual things that were reinforced happened at different times. on that guitar solo, there are three different sections from three different concerts, and frank just juxtaposed them. it was an augmentation of what happened at a live performance, but an actual arrangement that evolved in the studio. certain things that were on the piano, frank wanted on the emu with a large brass-type sound; then different little countermelodies evolved out of that. he'd say, "go free, interpret it," and all these countermelodies evolved out of the arrangement that was there. frank wrote that song at the very beginning of the '77 european tour, and it has a personal relevance to me. we were doing this rehearsal in london and frank was getting very tense. he expected certain things to be there when we got to rehearsal, and certain things were not there. we were gonna do the song "zoot allures," and he started playing this 11th chord and got very angry at everybody because nothing was happening right. i got fined because i hadn't memorized this little piece called "little house i used to live in." i hadn't realized he wanted it totally memorized. so this rehearsal ended in a total fiasco. the next day, he came in with these lyrics: "maybe you should stay with yo' mama. . . " it was really autobiographic; that's how things evolve with frank.

q:does frank also play a big role in the evolution of the solo concepts of the other players?
tm:sure. say a solo on a particular night was semi-arranged, but things happened during it. he'll take those precise moments into the studio and reevaluate them and expand and augment them. that's how he orchestrates in the studio. then things happen live in the studio that he'll use. i can remember on "yo' mama," there is this french horn sound that goes, " uh-uh-uh-uh-ehh, dittle-dittle-dun, dittle-dittle-dun," and he would say "just start it right there." he always picks the really off-beats to go on and you have to go right there, whatever he does. it's always exciting, but you have to watch him really closely. and then there's the usual, "double that." you have this thing that is nearly impossible to do one time and you have to do it two or three times. but that's his sound, and he gets that exactness: you do it until it's right.

q:what were the differences in preparing for the road and preparing for the studio?
tm:on the road with frank, you have an incredible amount of memorizing to do. i'm fortunate in that i can read well, and that helps me out. i can say, "frank, i'm not going to spend the time learning my part by rote from you if you can write the chart out for me, and i'i1 play it like that." somebody else might have to listen to a cassette and rewind and rewind. i like to learn by having an arrangement there and having a cassette of a rehearsal tape so i can get the little stylistic idiosyncrasies as well. in the studio, you're doing essentially what you've been doing on the road, so there's no preparation at all unless he'll say, "i want you to take this home and play it in a certain way tonight and get a feel for it; then tomorrow, we'll come in and do it." i've yet to have him give me a spontaneous chart in the studio. it's either been things we've done on the road, or ideas he gets in the studio that are not that complex. you're usually very prepared for what he's going to do in the studio. he might say, "play this a little differently than you did on the road," and that's your facility at being flexible that comes into play there, keeping cool and just playing it the way he does.

q:does frank allow you to do your own patches once he gives you a basic idea?
tm:yeah, it's to his advantage to have you experiment. but as soon as he says, "don't touch it!" it's there. he heard it and you heard it and you've got to remember that. that's crucial with frank; as soon as he knows you can do something, he won't expect you to do anything less than that.

q:how do you go about creating horn-like patches?
tm:i try to take into account every variable of the brass instrument, all its idiosyncrasies and all the fine points. not just the resonant frequency: you have to take into account how a player punctuates it, the range of the horn, the tessitura, every idiosyncrasy of the sound. the synthesizer doesn't necessarily hit it right on the money; sometimes it misses that kind of a pitch change you hear on a horn player's attack. so you compensate for that by using, say, an envelope generator that has a time control, that will add a very tiny pitch change when you hit the note. so i have my own way of synthesizing sounds and frank seems to coordinate with it. one day, the people from e-mu came down and totally hard-soldered a patch that i had used on my small synthesizer for this polyphonic synthesizer. my electrocomp patch was used with the e-mu.

q:what are your thoughts on the e-mu?
tm:that e-mu is microprocessed to death. i have a story about that. frank loaned it to me at my house for about three weeks so i could get really close to the instrument. and i believe that deep down, that e-mu has a personality of its own. one night, i was up about 4:30 or five, playing and getting different colors and textures; i had a tremendous rapport with the instrument. it has a microprocessor sequencer, a very complicated thing; it has a touch keyboard on it, and when i pushed the stop on it, the thing didn't stop! it just kept playing; it was like twilight zone or something. i had to pull the plug on it in the end, saying, "jesus, i hope this thing stops playing." it was getting very touch and go there, psychokinesis up the ass. and then frank laughed at me. "you're full of shit -- this thing has no personality," he told me. but i really felt close to that instrument; it was extremely expressive and it had tone qualities that i had never used before. the e-mu components are real topnotch, state-of-the-art equipment.

q:when you go from a duophonic to the poly e-mu, you have a lot more to work with. do you just concentrate on trumpet sounds, or do you combine the trumpets with other brass sounds?
tm:i can play a middle line on the electrocomp and have the e-mu play the full chord and have it totally reinforced. and if you're doing, say, a low trombone sound with a piccolo trumpet type of effect, it'll be a totally different sound texture that you're going to get. that's why the e-mu is so great. now the yamaha cs-80, even though it's not as flexible as the e-mu, is certainly more reliable on the road. the e-mu sometimes starts talking back when you're not playing it, spitting back all these digital farts and vomits all over the place. it happened to be something in the cord that they couldn't figure out. that's why frank had to get the yamaha in the end; i really like its touch-sensitivity, but you don't have as much control over each individual voice. it's kind of a dry, flat, bland sound compared to the e-mu, where you can set up each particular voice a little bit differently.

q:are you going to be doing anything more for zappa in the future, or do you know at this point?
tm:that's the story; you never know. ever since i've met the guy, i never know when or if he's gonna call. if he wakes up in the morning and says, "i want to go back out on the road," i go with him. i really like the guy even though it's hard to learn what he's all about. it's hard to second-guess and say, "i think he wants that," because he might change his mind. it's kind of like cinderella on the event horizon of a black hole. you have all these great instruments to work with, plus the people he picks to play with, let alone his own genius, and you have to be ready to change course, swirl around, and experiment and be naked.



the bath tub ring: pity me / country girl city man
    (1968, 7", usa, sparky 1940-41) - feat.tommy mariano (= tommy mars)

26 frank zappa: sheik yerbouti
   (1979, 2lp, usa, zappa records)

28 frank zappa: joe's garage act I
   (1979, lp, usa, zappa records)

30 frank zappa: tinseltown rebellion
   (1981, 2lp, usa, barking pumpkin)

31 frank zappa: shut up'n play yer guitar
   (1981, lp, usa, barking pumpkin)
32 frank zappa: shut up 'n play yer guitar some more
   (1981, lp, usa, barking pumpkin)

33 frank zappa: return of the son of shut up 'n play yer guitar
   (1981, lp, usa, barking pumpkin)

34 frank zappa: you are what you is
   (1981, 2lp, usa, barking pumpkin)
  frank zappa: shut up 'n play yer guitar - box set
    (1981, 3lp, eur, cbs)
35 frank zappa: ship arriving too late too save a drowning witch
   (1982, lp, usa, barking pumpkin)

36 frank zappa: the man from utopia
   (1983, lp, usa, barking pumpkin)


frank zappa: baby snakes
   (1983, lp pict.disc, usa, barking pumpkin)


frank zappa: them or us
   (1984, 2lp, usa, barking pumpkin)


frank zappa: thing-fish
   (1984, 3lp, usa, barking pumpkin)


frank zappa: frank zappa meets the mothers of prevention
   (1985, lp, usa, barking pumpkin) american version
   (1985, lp, eur, emi) european version


frank zappa: jazz from hell
   (1986, lp, usa, barking pumpkin)

  western vacation: western vacation
    (1987, lp, usa, akashik records) - feat.steve vai, tommy mars, bob & suzannah 'thana' harris, scott thunes


frank zappa: guitar
   (1988, 2cd, usa, ryko)

51 frank zappa: you can't do that on stage anymore vol.1
   (1988, 2cd, usa, ryko)

54 frank zappa: you can't do that on stage anymore vol.3
   (1989, 2cd, usa, ryko)


frank zappa: you can't do that on stage anymore vol.4
   (1991, 2cd, usa, ryko)  
  frank zappa: as an am
    (1991, cd, usa, rhino foo-eee records r2 70537)

fooeeerecordsr270537_c.jpg (133936 bytes)

  frank zappa: anyway the wind blows - disc 1
    (1991, cd, usa, rhino foo-eee records r2 70541)

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  frank zappa: anyway the wind blows - disc 2
    (1991, cd, usa, rhino foo-eee records r2 70541)

fooeeerecordsr270541_2_c.jpg (133317 bytes)

  frank zappa: saarbrucken 1978
    (1991, cd, usa, rhino foo-eee records r2 70543)
  frank zappa: at the circus
    (1991, cd, usa, rhino foo-eee records r2 71020)

fooeeerecordsr271020_c.jpg (127542 bytes)


frank zappa: you can't do that on stage anymore vol.5
   (1992, 2cd, usa, ryko)
59 frank zappa: you can't do that on stage anymore vol.6
   (1992, 2cd, usa, ryko)
  peter tork: stranger things have happened
    (1994, cd, usa, beachwood br2522) - feat. tommy mars
peter_tork_strangercd.jpg (28225 bytes)
  the band from utopia: tribute to the music of frank zappa - live vol.1 & 2
    (1994, cd-pro, muffin records) - all compositions by frank zappa; feat.various zappa alumni

  the band from utopia: the band from utopia (1)
    (1995, cd, usa, muffin records productions)  - all compositions by frank zappa;  feat.various zappa alumni

various artists: supper's ready
    (1995, cd, usa, magna carta / road runner rr8912-2) - feat. tommy mars

suppersready.jpg (22829 bytes)


frank zappa: the lost episodes
   (1996, cd, usa, ryko)
  ed mann: have no fear
    (1996, cd, ger, cmp) - feat.tommy mars


frank zappa: frank zappa plays the music of frank zappa
   (1996, cd, usa, barking pumpkin)


frank zappa: have i offended someone?
   (1997, cd, usa, ryko)

  freebo: the end of the beginning
    (1999, cd, usa, poppabo) - feat. albert wing, tommy mars, mike miller

freebo_theendcd.jpg (20847 bytes)

  the band from utopia: a tribute to the music of frank zappa
    (2001, dvd, ger, tdk dv-jtbfu) - all compositions by frank zappa
  the banned from utopia: so yuh don't like modern art  (2)
    (2002, cd, usa, favored nations) - various compositions by frank zappa; feat.various zappa alumni


frank zappa: halloween
    (2003, dvda, usa, dts entertainment 69286-01101-9-9)


frank zappa: quaudiophiliac
    (2004, dvda, usa, dts entertainment 69286-01125-9-9)


frank zappa: trance-fusion
    (2006, cd, usa, zappa records)

  various artists: the frank zappa aaafnraa birthday bundle
    (2006, itunes, -) - feat. frank, moon, dweezil, ahmet & diva zappa

  bob harris: the great nostalgia
    (2007, cd, usa, crossfire publications) - feat. various zappa alumni

  jon larsen: strange news from mars - the session with jimmy carl black
    (2007, cdr-promo, norway, zen 2002) - feat.jimmy carl black & tommy mars

jlarsen_jcblack_session.jpg (20712 bytes)

  jon larsen: strange news from mars - the unabbreviated session with jimmy carl black
    (2007, download, norway, hot club records hcrcd217) - feat.jimmy carl black & tommy mars


frank zappa: buffalo  (80)
    (2007, 2cd, usa, vaulternative records)

  jon larsen: strange news from mars
    (2007, cd, norway, zonic entertainment) - feat.various ex-zappa bandmembers

  jon larsen: the unabbreviated session with jimmy carl black
    (2007, download, norway, hot club records hcrcd217) - feat.jimmy carl black & tommy mars


frank zappa: the dub room special
    (2007, cd, usa, zappa records)
  bob harris: the great nostalgia
    (2007, cd, usa, crossfire publications) - feat. various zappa alumni


frank zappa: one shot deal
    (2008, cd, usa, zappa records)

  jon larsen: the jimmy carl black story
    (2008, 2cd, norway, zonic entertainment) - feat.jimmy carl black & tommy mars

  various artists: the frank zappa aaafnraaa birthday bundle 21 dec 2008
    (2008, itunes, -) - feat. frank, dweezil, ahmet & diva zappa

aaafnraaa2008.jpg (24142 bytes)


the mar vista philharmonic: no forest fire
    (2009, cd, norway, zonic entertainment) - feat. t.mars, w.fowler, b.fowler, k.mcgettrick, a.barrow, v.colaiuta

marvista_noforestfire.jpg (24335 bytes)

robby krieger: singularity
    (2010, cd, usa, oglio ogl89160-2) - feat. bruce fowler, sal marquez, arthur barrow, vinnie colaiuta, walt fowler, tommy mars and albert wing

krieger_singularity.jpg (28504 bytes)


frank zappa: hammersmith odeon
    (2010, 3cd, usa, vaulternative records 20101)

fz_vr20101.jpg (24690 bytes)

  various artists: the frank zappa aaafnraaaa birthday bundle 21 dec 2010
    (2010, itunes, -) - feat. frank, dweezil, ahmet zappa

aaafnraaaa_2010.jpg (22223 bytes)

  jon larsen: a portrait of jon larsen
    (2010, cd, norway, zonic entertainment)
= compilation / feat. jimmy carl black; rommy mars and bruce fowler

hcrcd_224.jpg (19611 bytes)

  jon larsen / tommy mars: willie nickerson's egg
    (2011, download, norway, hot club records / zonic entertainment)
larsen_mars_willienickersonsegg.jpg (9858 bytes)
  frank zappa: aaafnraa - 21 december 2012
    (2012, itunes, --, --)
aaafnraa2012.jpg (32945 bytes)
  jon larsen / terje stromdahl: willie nickersons egg
    (2013, cd, norway, zonic entertainment zen 2011) - feat. tommy mars, arthur barrow, jimmy carl black / artwork by cal schenkel  (= the norwegian version) / includes frank zappa theme
  frank zappa: puttin on the ritz
    (2014, 2cd, ??, goldfish records)
fz_puttinontheritz.jpg (24918 bytes)
  frank zappa: puttin on the ritz
    (2014, 4lp, uk, moonunit records) = 1981/11/17 concert  //  vinyl reissue of the 2 cd set
fz_ritz_4lp.jpg (28740 bytes)

wolfram klug: burt, the nerd
    (2014, cd, switzerland, private release)
- feat. ike willis, tommy mars, arthur barro, robert martin, albert wing, ed mann  //  incl. 'chunga's revenge' (frank zappa)

wolframklug_burtthenerd.jpg (53044 bytes)

  various artists: the frank zappa aaafnraa 2014 birthday bundle
    (2014, download, --, barfko-swill)
aaafnraa2014.jpg (34969 bytes)
  frank zappa: teenage rockin' combo - dumb all over live 1981
    (2015, 2cd, uk, broadcasting radio records brr5011) = 1981/11/17 new york city concert
zappa_rbr5011.jpg (30898 bytes)
  frank zappa: puttin on the ritz - volume 1
    (2015, 2lp, uk, let them eat vinyl letv206lp) = 1981/11/17 concert  //  vinyl reissue of the 2 cd set
fz_lp_letv205lp.jpg (26062 bytes)
  frank zappa: puttin on the ritz - volume 2
    (2015, 2lp, uk, let them eat vinyl letv206lp) = 1981/11/17 concert  //  vinyl reissue of the 2 cd set
fz_lp_letv206lp.jpg (29227 bytes)
  frank zappa: teenage rockin' combo - dumb all over live 1981
    (2015, 3lp, uk, broadcasting radio records brr4011) = 1981/11/17 new york city concert  //  vinyl reissue of the 2 cd set
zappa_rbr5011.jpg (30898 bytes)
  steve vai: modern primitive / passion & warfare (25th anniversary edition)
    (2016, 2cd, usa, sony music) - feat. tommy mars, mike keneally, bob harris

stevevai_modernprimitive.jpg (42101 bytes)

  steve vai: modern primitive
    (2017, cd, usa, favored nations / sony fn2930 / 88985435672) - feat. tommy mars, mike keneally // album #7 of "the secret jewel box"

  documentary: frank zappa - eat that question
    (2017, dvd, ger, arsenal filmverleih) - includes interviews with frank zappa, tommy mars, arthur barrow, bruce fowler, tom fowler, ed mann, kurt mcgettrick, chad wackerman and robert martin

fz_eatthatquestion_dvd_ger.jpg (36144 bytes)

  frank zappa: poughkeepsie
    (2018, cd, uk, smokin' smcd963) = 1978/09/21 poughkeepsie concert
  frank zappa: berlin 1978
    (2018, 2cd, uk, leftfieldmedia lfm2cd575) = 1978/02/15 berlin concert


1984 vai, steve- flex-able

1987 mothers of invention- uncle meat (cd reissues only, on "tengo na minchia tanta")

1987 frank zappa- the guitar world according to frank zappa

1988 hamm, stuart- radio free albemuth

1988 frank zappa- guitar

1988 frank zappa- you can't do that on stage anymore (sampler)

1988 frank zappa- you can't do that on stage anymore, vol. 1

1989 frank zappa- you can't do that on stage anymore, vol. 3

1989 guitar's practicing musicians

1991 hamm, stuart- urge

1991 frank zappa- as an am

1991 frank zappa- saarbrucken 1979

1991 frank zappa- you can't do that on stage anymore, vol. 4

1991 frank zappa- any way the wind blows

1992 frank zappa- at the circus

1992 frank zappa- you can't do that on stage anymore, vol. 5

1992 frank zappa- you can't do that on stage anymore, vol. 6

1995 vai, steve- alien love secrets

1995 band from utopia- plays the music of frank zappa

1995 frank zappa- strictly commercial

1996 frank zappa- the lost episodes

1996 frank zappa- frank zappa plays the music of frank zappa

1996 western vacation- western vacation

1997 frank zappa- have i offended someone?

1998 frank zappa- cheap thrills

1998 steve vai- flex-able leftovers (cd re-issue)

1999 frank zappa- son of cheep thrills

1999 various artists- '80s new wave - millenium party

2000 bob harris- the great nostalgia (remaster with bonus tracks)





1979 baby snakes


random notes

     from: jim is cnc (
tommy mars was born in waterbury (i think), raised in naugatuck and went to harrt school in west hartford.

tommy mars appeared on steve vai's flexable/leftovers. i haven't heard from him since. i too am interested in news about him as i think he and george duke have been zappa's best keyboard. players. i read in a long ago article that zappa said, "tommy mars definitely has his own harmonic concept."

toured europe with ed mann in 1992 and was talking about making an album with him. never happened as far as i know. shame. makes brief appearance on vai's 'flex-able leftovers' or the us 'flex-able' cd, playing violin (what a talent!).

he recently finished recording and touring with mona lisa overdrive. he is now working on his first solo album for stone records. (source: keyboard magazine, april 1994)

i was going through some old tapes the other day and noticed an appearance by tommy mars on stuart hamm's album "radio free albemuth" ('88). only one song (title track) and he's just playing a semi-complex melody. nothing spectacular, but interesting. there are musicians from vai's flexable on it as well.

just a word or two about mr. mars. i saw him a couple months ago and he was all excited about going up to portland and seattle to do some shows with the band from utopia. if you don't already know, this is a zappa alumni kind of thing featuring (among others) arthur barrow, ralph humphrey (i think) and a whole mess o' fowlers. ray white and/or ike willis are there, too. the band is accompanied (at these shows at least) by a 48-piece orchestra. tommy was bummed that a bunch of (weasel) east coast promoters pulled out. they wouldn't have any trouble in europe, that is for sure!   apparently, they are doing vocals only on songs that frank did not sing originally...and when he told me about the first rehearsals, tommy said "he was in the room, man, he was in the room!"

hi. i'm jon.  i graduated from the hartt school of music in 1974 with tom mariano (aka tommy mars).  he was a very close friend of mine.  i've only seen him once since 1974 - when zappa played the hartford civic center.  fyi - musically speaking - believe it or not, tom's style has not changed radically since i first heard him in '70.  he solos with a brilliant eclectic mixture of jazz (mccoy tyner was one of his favorites), classical (you'll hear hindemith and bartok sprinkled liberally throughout his solos), and rock (everything and anything - good).  tom's among the most interesting individuals on the planet.  i'd love to talk to him again - although - he says most of what he needs to say through his playing.

 tommy mars also appears on steve vai's alien love secrets ep. he plays the impressive backing track from the beautiful song tender surrender. don't miss this explosive combination of genius.
tommy para siempre!!!

     jon d_az sez:
tommy also plays keys on the beautiful tender surrender from the steve vai's alien love secrets work.

     ben sez:
both tommy mars and mike keneally appear on "suppers ready" a genesis tribute disc put out by magna carta records.  not on the same song though. (mike also appears on "tales from yesterday" a tribute disc of yes songs from the same label).

      from: jon march (
     subject: tommy mars's next door neighbor - circa 1957-1977
my name is jonny swing, and tommy mars was my next door neighbor growing up. i was one of his first students, and i personally watched the tommy mars "sound" evolve from grand piano and upright bass, thru hammond/leslie, to fender rhodes, to early analog synthesizers. although he was older, he was very friendly to me growing up. he showed me how to skateboard, ride a bike, smoke my first cigarette, choose bellbottoms, and scat - which totally threw my 6th grade classmates. scat and "space-talk" are big parts of tom. he and his broher dave would enjoy making cheeseburgers in the kitchen with their own secret spices and ingredients, and while in the kitchen would, without warning, bust out with their own scat-language discussion, argument, etc,... each trying to come up with more original, totally unique sounding paragraphs - to hear them would totally break you up laughing, because it sounded so real, and never repeated itself - but went on and on and on. it sounded like a real foreign language, but was totally improvsed. and when speaking to him, he uses cosmic references freely; this open/ expanded style evolved as he would sit alone for hours and experiment with chord, mode ,and scale improvisation - as time went on he began to develop singing with his playing as a second instrument  - i well remember his own free-form vocals and "word sounds" soaring in the backyard - playing a fender rhodes all alone. tommy is to this day, the best keyboard player i have ever seen. i was in his basement one day when lady madonna was a pop hit on the radio, he'd never played it, so i brought over my 45, played it for a minute. after he had a minute to hear the structure of the song, he said stop, and launched into an exact flawless rendition  - playing both upper & lower organ manuals with his hands, and doing mcartney's walking bass line with both feet. my jaw dropped. even back then a total genius. in 68 the beatles white album came out, and i my buddies and i wanted to start a "group". we asked tom if he'd help us - and although he wanted to show us "everybodys got something to hide except me and my monkey" (more his style)- it was beyond our beginner abilities, and he was patient beyond belief as he showed us 5 kids our parts to the nauseating  "ob la di ob la da"!

tom gave me lessons, but i was a distracted highschool kid at the time, and didnt practice like i should have. even so, the little that i bothered to pay attention to at the time is more that i learned in 4 years of lessons with a previous teacher. tom is a world class talent of his own very unique mutation. he can out-play probably anyone, but the combination of sense of humor, originality/improvisation, and his special perception of the world put him in his own very special category.
jon march

Jon March /


what's tommy mars up to now?

     from: robotwms ( - date: 15 aug 1998 
tommy is my girlfriend's keyboard instructor. she's a classical pianist from japan and one of the members of my current band. she's had around ten lessons from him and her playing improved dramatically. he lives in venice, ca and is definitely cool!


from Robert Foetsch, February 2006:

if you want to hear the "prodigy" genius of Tommy Mars,  get your hands on a 45 rpm record on SPARKY label, when he(Tommy Mariano) was a member of "The BATH TUB RING".  Tommy played keyboard and sang backing vocals on Side A; 'PITY ME'  and sang lead vocal, alternating with Walt Sorrentino and played a VICIOUS OUTRAGEOUS SOLO on 'COUNTRY GIRL CITY MAN'.  The Members of the BATH TUB RING, also known as the INTRIGUES, at times consisted of JOE "SQUAW" ADAMAITAS - vocals, BOBBY FOETSCH - guitar, TOMMY EDMONDS - drums, WALT SORRENTINO - guitar, and JERRY JOHNSON - bass.  they were out of Naugatuck, CT. 

the bath tub ring: pity me / country girl city man
    (1968, 7", usa, sparky 1940-41) - feat.tommy mariano (= tommy mars)

from Robert Foetsch, March 2006 - after I asked him for some extra info regarding the Bath Tub Ring

we were a VERY good band at the time and played throughout CT, MA and VT.  we spent the summer of '68 in Vermont, rented the entire "Highgate Springs Hotel" and had a remarkable summer, playing 5 nights a week.  Tommy was always FABULOUS and as friendly as a young kitten.  you couldn't help but love him.  Of course, at that time, we were doing all the 60's tunes.  Our 3rd set ALWAYS opened with Tommy going out alone playing "Whiter Shade Of Pale" by Procal Harem and he sang in in his own made up Japanese language.  jesus he was funny and i am certain that the crowds , and there were crowds, always believed he was truly singing in Japanese.  The group WE stole him from was "The Minute Men".....another Naugatuck garage band.  I am certain that they did not record.  Tommy was thrilled to come on with us.  As an aside to all of this, Walt Sorrentino and I, along with 2 other locals, went on to be "PASTRAMI MALTED", the weird band that did "Wiwwian Wevy" on Metromedia in 1969.  You can key the song title into Google and look at the VAULT site, scroll to PASTRAMI MALTED and see our sheet music.  i am the goofy skinny one in the 'Seymour 69' tee shirt.  thanks for your interest.  i will zip off a current song, by me, on MP3 this week-end.  Take care,  Bob


The picture on the right was sent along by Bob, showing Tommy Mars in 1968!

From: Jonny Swing - 2006 09 01

Yes - The Minutemen and Bath Tub Ring were the groups that often practiced at Tom and Dave Mariano's next door, and sounds of those bands of Tom's are what sparked me to ask him to help start my own band, and he very generously did. ....Thanks to his helpful start and influence, I went on to play in the groundbreaking punk scene in New Haven CT, first with the very excellent Disturbance (see myspace), and then with Future Plan, led by Cleveland's "Rocket from the
Tombs" bassist Craig Bell. (RFFT also spawned Pere Ubu & the Dead Boys)

A couple interesting Tommy Mars trivia points when my band needed a bass amp to match the blue sparkle padded Kustom guitar amp we had, we found the exact match padded bass amp and bought it from none other than the Minutemen's old bassist!

AND - Speaking of loud bands practicing - first at Tom's, and then MY house next door - ....I am fully convinced that a lot of the lyrics and funny interjections in the title track "Joe's Garage"
(ex: I'm calling THE POLICE! I did it...they'll be here...shortly) are DIRECT contributions from Tom Mars, and are in fact a permanent tribute to the rock and roll-hating backyard neighbors Tom & I shared, Dr & Mrs Philip Paul, god rest their souls!
Not only would they constantly "call the police" when Tom's or my music got too loud, but they went so far as to walk the neighborhood to get petition signatures to "turn it DOWWN!!" (no one signed it - they recognized talent when they heard it!)
No question about it, much to their dismay I'm sure, the Pauls made rock history.

and speaking of Tom's style, in a conversation with his mom, she and I agreed that although the song is attributed to FZ (as all compositions under his direction usually were), the beautuiful "Lucille" , on the otherwise quite for-fun LP Joes Garage, is actually a Tommy Mars composition. If you want to hear a little of the chord, key and melody experimentations in Tommy Mars's head, its a great start, and the tip of the iceberg begins there - because he just as assuredly was the major force behind the bands wild, fast, seemingly random-note, yet assuredly in-key expansive leads and solos, hooks, riffs and improvisations in the glory days of FZ..
.....Brought to you straight from Mars, via Dayton Road, Naugatuck CT!

Thanks Tom!
-- Jon March




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