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The Road to Santiago Suite for Piano and Symphony copyright 2005.
Jazz Credits include over 100 compositions all published on either independent labels (Canada) or on the Arkadia Jazz Label (USA). For complete catalogue google Paul Tobey.
Pianist Paul Tobey was born the son of Rev. Arthur and Joy Tobey; the middle child of three siblings. Living on a minister’s salary meant a tough go for this young family and with no record player in the home; popular music was simply not a large part of Paul’s formative years. At the age of eight, church organist and pianist Mark Perry agreed to give Paul piano lessons. Paul’s mother would save up .50 cents so that every Friday evening the aspiring pianist could buy a hamburger after school on his way to his piano lesson – a boyhood memory he still cherishes to this day.
Without a doubt, Paul was immediately absorbed by the piano, and by age nine he’d already developed a competitive spirit and won many pianist performance awards at the local Kiwanis Festival. His mother never had to remind him to practice as his own self-discipline and love for the piano kept him going.
During a field trip to Toronto to see jazz pianist Oscar Peterson perform, Paul connected with jazz and he quickly switched gears leaving behind his classical pianist training. After graduating from the Concordia University with a Degree in Music, Tobey chose Montreal as the home base to launch his career. The next 15 years on the Canadian jazz scene would become fertile grooming grounds to polish a young virtuoso pianist. Not only would Paul be hailed for his mastery as a pianist, he would become what the media dubbed “a legend in the making”.
From classical to jazz to popular piano music, Paul has always charted a distinctive path. As a young emerging artist and pianist, he accepted jobs as Musical Director on various Cruise Lines to make ends meet. In 1993, he met and married a Montréal native, Nancy, who eventually took the reins of his career. As an emerging manager, Nancy booked Paul to major contracts headlining in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Successfully fostering relationships with Arab Royalty, Tobey would be the first prominent jazz pianist in the Middle East with appearances in Bahrain, Fujairah, Al Ain and Abu Dhabi. Paul and Nancy’s partnership proved to be a successful one, as she continued to book Tobey at home and abroad in countries such as The Netherlands, United States, Europe and Japan.
In 1994 Paul Tobey’s first jazz piano album “Orpheus” was released through the Hilton Hotel Chain in the Middle East. His second album “Wayward” distributed by Fusion III would propel the jazz pianist in front of Canadian audiences and critics, garnering him numerous favourable reviews. However, it wasn’t until his third Album “Street Culture” did Tobey get the attention of the international Jazz Media, garnering him rave reviews, a Juno Nomination, an 8 record deal with Arkadia Jazz in New York, and airplay on radio stations and airlines around the world.
Unfortunately, the couple’s mounting success turned into a personal nightmare, when in early 1999, Paul awoke one day with a severe case of Tinnitus (Ringing in the Ears). This form of chronic tinnitus would change both of their lives forever. Paul’s constant physical suffering led him on a downward spiral into chronic depression. The pianist sought medical attention and he and Nancy scoured the globe to find a cure but, there was none to be found. At the same time, a political rift was developing in the jazz industry between Nancy and two key prominent figures in jazz. As the fight escalated Paul grew more and more disillusioned with the jazz music scene. Eventually, in support of his wife, and to give himself time for personal healing, he made the choice to walk away from his jazz career completely.This was a bold move at the time, but it would eventually open many doors which led to even greater musical opportunities.
Paul’s personal healing journey of mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health was just beginning. In addition to Paul’s ongoing struggle with tinnitus, he and his wife were having some very tough legal battles in their professional lives. There were three defamation suits pending against leading jazz industry giants. Also, in the wake of 9/11, Paul’s New York based record label, Arkadia Jazz, was reneging on its contracts. During this difficult time Paul recorded his first jazz solo pianist CD “Live at the Glenn Gould.” It is very introspective account of Paul’s state of mind at the time. Though funded by the Ontario Arts Council, the album has never been released to the mainstream public.
Then, in the face of complete uncertainty, in a move that showed newly aquired confidence and inspired living, the Tobey’s decided to drop their law suits. They were quoted as saying “In order to attract the new, you must be willing to let go of the old”. Excited about letting go of the negative energy, they refocused their attention to doing what they love and began to reinvent their lives and forge new more mainstream audience.
Paul’s next self produced album, Live at the Sanderson, featured a whole new side to his music. Under the direction of veteran Producer Bruce Davidsen (best known for his work with pianist Frank Mills, pianist Haygood Hardy and Anne Murray), Tobey worked at becoming much less cerebral in his playing style. He adopted an entertainment style that would showcase a collection of popular instrumental pianist pieces using a mix of jazz, classical and popular music.
The critics began to rave about the pianist’s “entertainment style” and “technique”. It was the birth of a whole new showman! Both the album and live concerts garnered new fans, magazine covers and more sales. This album was awarded Pianist of the Year, and ironically Jazz Album of the Year. But, the ultimate reward was Paul’s growing audiences and sold-out performances.
In the spring of 2004, Paul achieved a personal triumph when he trekked a spiritual pilgrimage on the Road to Santiago. While walking the 850 km across Northern Spain, Paul composed 22 new compositions including 9 for himself on piano and full symphony orchestra. Paul is currently perfecting these arrangements for his World Premiere of the Road to Santiago Suite to be performed with the Brantford Symphony February 18th, 2007.
In addition to the music created during his pilgrimage he and his partner, documentary filmmaker Drew Dekker, shot over 60 hours of film. Paul has so far produced 2 short documentaries from the footage: The Brotherhood about the famous Gregorian Chanting Monks of the Benedictine Order from Santo Domingo de Silos, and Oh Ye of Little Faith, which tells an inspiring personal journey of faith and creativity.
As fate would have it, and because of his growing notoriety, Paul started getting numerous requests to give motivational and inspirational seminars. With over 30 speaking engagements booked, he decided to acquire some training skills and became a certified trainer. He also started adding motivational products to his catalogue. Fans can now download online seminars, meditation recordings, films and books. Paul’s subscription list has grown to over 10,000 people in under a year. His journey with tinnitus became very public as Tinnitus Today the journal of the American Tinnitus Association published his story.
However, Tobey’s resurgence into the limelight was to be sidelined once again as his mother was diagnosed in the advanced stages of Multiple Myeloma and kidney failure. Joy Tobey, also affectionately known as Mrs. Clause, was an avid lover of Christmas music. In late 2005, with time quickly running out for his mother, the pianist set up an impromptu recording session and recorded “Christmas at the Piano”; with the arrangements and production taking less than 10 days to complete.
Paul also mounted a Christmas concert at the same time which was to be the last time his mother ever saw him perform. The community responded in numbers to the live concert, and over 600 tickets were sold in less than 10 days.
Ball Media delivered the CD to the concert hot off the presses only one hour before curtain call. More than 320 CD’s were sold during the 15 minute intermission, and the morning paper headlines read “A Frenzied Mob Right About New Tobey CD”. But the best part is that Paul had granted his mother’s final Christmas wish as she was wheeled into the concert hall for one last concert.
She died only a few short weeks later and as she lay in the hospital emergency room she requested a CD player from the staff so she could pass away while listening to her son’s music. With her favourite piece “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” playing in the background she slid into a coma and died the same day Jan. 25th 2006. Paul’s Christmas at the Piano remains a deeply personal project with enormous amount of love poured into each and every Christmas medley.
And for many of these reasons, pianist Paul Tobey has learned to be a multi-dimensional artist. From jazz, classical to popular music performance, from filmmaking, composing for cinema to public speaking, he’s an artist that crosses all demographics in his appeal. Recently, in June 2006 he triumphed at the Montreal Jazz Festival which was his first return to jazz audiences since 2002.
On Feb. 18th 2007, Paul debuts his Road to Santiago Suite with Symphony – an eclectic mix of inspiring instrumental pianist music utilizing all his styles including Spanish folk, jazz, classical and popular piano. To be continued…