Opportunities

Corrections or additions?

This article by Deb Cooperman was prepared for the February 9,

2005 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Lazlo: Homeward Bound Rock

What young man hasn’t dreamed of making his living playing music?

Writing songs, inspiring crowds and selling CDs? And how many actually

make it happen? Lambertville resident Jon Thompson, of the band Lazlo,

is just a few steps away from making that dream a reality.

Lazlo performs on Friday, February 11, at John & Peter’s, in New

Hope, to celebrate the release of their second CD, "Old Steel

Company."

Offering up a blend of immensely listenable alternate-country tunes,

the four members of Lazlo could easily be the offspring of Neil Young

and Emmy Lou Harris, Wilco and Lucinda Williams, or Shawn Colvin and

Michael Stipe.

To write the songs for "Old Steel Company," Thompson digs into his own

experience to create eight catchy tunes with themes of family and

friends, love, loss, and longing. The upbeat tempo of "Thousand

Failures" belies the more thoughtful themes running through the

lyrics. "I was just taking a walk one day near where I live, and I was

walking by a stream," says Thompson. "I’m following the stream and

realizing how beautiful it is, and I was thinking about all the things

I’ve done wrong in my life. It’s about goals and I’m working toward

that goal, but I keep falling." Still,Thompson is hopeful, as the

lyrics reveal: "My hands are tied, my tongue is twisted/but I know I

will go on/I hope I find the end of you until a thousand failures

gone."

"Pink and Blue" features Shannon Sanderson (who sounds like Edie

Brickell), sharing the lead vocals with Thompson. It is a loving look

at a summer day at the Jersey Shore, the lyrics playful and poetic:

"Tangerine, pleasant dreams/ barefoot on the boardwalk/Jersey girls

melt the sand/sugar love in their lotion/let’s fly." The title of the

CD, "Old Steel Company," comes from a line in the song "Golden Age," a

tribute to Thompson’s grandfather, a career Navy man who died a few

years ago – "Old Steel Company work the bladed saw/kept your hope in a

bottle and you threw it into the sea." "It’s about him as a young man

and his hopes and dreams," says Thompson.

Thompson, 28, was raised in Titusville by his mother, a teacher’s aide

in special education at Bear Tavern Elementary School, where Thompson

went as a child, and his father, who works in facilities management at

Princeton Day School. "My parents weren’t big music lovers," he says.

"I had a best friend who lived down the street whose dad gave me a

bunch of albums and tapes."

But a visit to Thompson’s elementary school by Hopewell Valley High

School’s jazz ensemble was the thing that turned the then

nine-year-old’s head toward a future in music. "They brought in a

bunch of instruments, and we got to try them all," he says. "And there

was this one guy who played a tenor sax, and he had this big afro. I

thought he was so cool." It wasn’t long before Thompson was taking

saxophone lessons at school. Bear Tavern music teacher and band

director Gary Suabedissen saw something in the fledgling musician, and

gave Thompson a solo in the school concert his first year. "That

really inspired me," says Thompson.

When Thompson turned 14, another instrument caught his attention.

Influenced by Neil Young and Bob Dylan, Thompson got the guitar bug,

and learned to play. He began writing songs on his guitar at 17.

After graduating from Hopewell Valley High School in 1995, and

convinced that his future lay in music, Thompson went to the

University of the Arts in Philadelphia for two years, then transferred

to Temple, where he earned a degree in music performance. There he

concentrated on the saxophone, playing mostly what he calls "straight

jazz," but became proficient at flute and clarinet as well.

Thompson lived in Brooklyn after graduation, but soon moved back to

New Jersey where he has been building a career as a performer. But not

quite enough to give up his day job yet. Thompson teaches two days a

week for the Musical Arts Academy in Bucks County, and he also teaches

privately. "It’s hard to make enough money just performing," he says,

but teaching music fills the gaps.

He used to teach for Westminster Conservatory, but it was constraining

on the schedule with all his performing. And he does a lot of

performing. Although Lazlo is Thompson’s "baby," he also performs in

several other bands, including Ocean Exposition, which plays a fusion

of jazz and psychedelic rock; popular Princeton-area ska band Bigger

Thomas, and the Philadelphia-based Aerial Photograph.

Being back in the Lambertville music scene re-energized Thompson’s

desire to write music. "I became really inspired by some songwriters

around here," he says, "and that really got me back into songwriting.

I wanted to write music that came from my roots, the music that

influenced me. I wanted to write songs that I really loved, like

alternative roots country." So while his date book was full from gigs

performing in other people’s bands, Thompson was longing for more.

Thompson had been playing with guitar player Andy Keenan. "He was

playing lap steel guitar, and he turned me on to some country

roots-oriented stuff that he had been listening to – Ryan Adams, David

Van Ronk, who was a big influence on Dylan – and I started writing

songs geared to this new sound."

Drummer J.P. Wasicko joined forces with Thompson and Keenan and a band

was born. Originally they called themselves Lazlo Toth – after one of

comedian Don Novello’s alter ego’s (Novello is best known as Father

Guido Sarducci from Saturday Night Live).

Thompson says the band started seriously rehearsing about two years

ago, and it didn’t take long for the regular gigs to start coming.

"Our first CD came out in January, 2003, and we have been playing

pretty consistently since."

Bassist Keith Snyder joined the band in 2004, replacing Michael Taylor

(who replaced Todd Lanka). Former part-time backing vocalist (and

full-time architect) Shannon Sanderson left the group six months ago.

Featured on one song on the "Old Steel Company" CD, Sanderson sounds

eerily like Natalie Merchant. After her husband got into Harvard,

Sanderson moved. Snyder is taking up the vocal slack in her absence.

For the "Old Steel Company," the band pulled out all the stops. "We

put all our money together from all the gigs we did to make the CD,"

Thompson says. And even so, there is still some debt after the

recording sessions and the manufacturing. "We made 1,000 CDs," he

says. "If we sell half of them we will make our money back." The CD is

available for $10 at their performances and for $13 on their website,

www.lazlomusic.com and also on www.CDbaby.com.

Thompson says that the other half of the CDs, the ones not earmarked

for sale, are being sent out to radio stations in the hopes of getting

reviewed and put into rotation. The band is also sending CDs to record

labels, but Thompson says he doesn’t actually want to be "discovered"

by a big label. "Maybe a small one, if they could help with

distribution," he says, "But the larger record companies? I don’t

really have faith in them. You can get burned by the industry."

The big dream for the band, he says, is "to be able to write and

perform and really concentrate on that and not have to worry about

money. Tour the country, have great audiences with fans all over. And

have our stuff on some reputable stations like XPN (WXPN, 88.5 FM, the

independent radio station that is affiliated with the University of

Pennsylvania)." But for now, Thompson and his band mates stuff

envelopes with sample CDs.

A cousin of Thompson’s is a piano player and a sound man for Grammy

Award Winning singer/ songwriter Sarah McLaughlin, and even though

connections can’t hurt, Thompson knows they are no guarantee. He

wouldn’t mind giving up the day job in the future and taking Lazlo on

the road, but for now, he is happy to be making his living making

music.

Lazlo, CD Release Party, Friday, February 11, 9:30 p.m.

John & Peter’s, 96 South Main Street, New Hope. $5 cover charge.

Opening act: One Star Hotel. 215-862-5981.

Top Of PageOpportunities

Auditions

Middlesex County College has auditions for "Laughter on the 23rd

Floor" on Tuesday, February 15, 4 to 7 p.m. and Wednesday, February

16, 6 to 9 p.m. at the studio theater on the Edison campus. The show

will be to be presented April 15 to 17. For information call

732-906-2589.

New Jersey Performing Arts Center announces auditions for the Young

Artist Talent Search. Application deadline is Tuesday, March 1. $20

fee. Visit www.njpac.org or call 973-353-8009 for information.

Villagers Theater has auditions for Martin McDonah’s dramedy "A Skull

in Connemara" on Tuesday and Thursday, March 1 and 3, 7:30 p.m. 415

DeMott Lane, Somerset. Three men and one woman with Irish accents are

needed. Readings will be from the script. Visit

www.villagerstheatre.com.

Art

The Arts Council of Princeton is accepting submissions for its 17th

annual "Small Works" show on Saturday, March 5, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The

juried exhibition is open to all artists, high school age and above,

and encompasses painting, drawing, mixed media, printing, photography,

clay, and sculpture. Works cannot exceed 15 inches in any dimension.

Artists may submit up to three pieces at $10 entry fee per piece.

Visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.org for application or call Maria

Evans at 609-924-8777.

Scholarship

Junior League of Greater Princeton seeks scholarship applications for

two $1,000 scholarships to students planning to college or vocational

school. Applicants must be female and live in Mercer or Bucks

counties. Visit www.jlgp.org. Deadline is Friday, March 18.

Volunteers Needed

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) seeks volunteers for the

non-profit organization committed to speaking up in court for the best

interests of abused and neglected children who have been removed from

their homes. There is an informational session on Tuesday, February

15, 7 p.m. The 30-hour training begins in March. Call 609-636-4910 or

E-mail staff@casamercer.org.

Central Jersey Dragon Boat Club seeks men, women, and young adult

members for the new season. On the water practice begins in April.

E-mail princetondragoneer@verizon.net or call 732-329-0888 for

information.

Donate Please

Wild Oats Natural Marketplace requests prom dresses for girls in need.

Dresses may be brought to Wild Oats or Princeton YWCA. Deadline is

Thursday, March 24. For information visit www.wildoats.com.

Sports

Amateur Baseball Association of New Jersey seeks players and teams,

ages 18 and up, for the spring season. Visit

www.allstarteamstats.com/aba or call Jason at 201-873-3349.

Princeton Family YMCA seeks girls in grades 3 through 8 interested in

spring lacrosse. Practices in March with games on weekdays and

weekends beginning in April. Y provides uniforms. Call 609-497-9622.

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