Life Builders: Tom Borling

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Tom Borling Bebop Band

Tom Borling is one of Houston’s top jazz pianists. As a local jazz player, he sort of flies beneath the radar in that you really don’t hear much about him. That makes him one of those players deamed “deserving wider recognition.” This Life Builders series is where I acknowledge the people who have contributed to my success in life and there is absolutely no doubt that Tom Borling played a very big role.

In the early 1990’s Tom approached me about playing in a combo that would rehearse weekly and perform a few times per year. He said we would be doing mostly Art Blakey, post bop tunes and I jumped on that right away. The other members of the band included David Caceres on sax (tenor and alto both), Ed Lowe on trombone, Lex Valk on bass and Mike Lefebvre on drums. The band rehearsed regularly for about five years.

These rehearsals were, in and of themselves, a wonderful opportunity for me. To rehearse once a week with a band of that level of musicians on difficult tunes gave me something to strive for each week. I grew so much as a jazz player over those five years and I really don’t think I would have experienced the same growth without playing in the Tom Borling BeBop Band.

BeBop Band CD

Fortunately, Tom’s influence in my career did not just stop there. In the mid 90’s, Tom told us that he wanted to do a recording and we ended up recording mostly my compositions. This was a dream come true for me. What a wonderful opportunity!

We went into the studio (Sugar Hills) and laid down ten tracks, nine of them were my originals and one was a tune that Tom wrote. I used to tell people that this recording put me on the map as a jazz player in Houston. Yes, I had been hitting jam sessions around town and people knew who I was. But playing a couple of choruses on Autumn Leaves doesn’t really give people the full picture of what you can do. But this recording, because it was my own compositions, showed everyone all of my best qualities as a player at that time.

It is no coincidence that my career as a jazz musician went into “full swing” (ha! pun intended) after that CD was released. Up until that time, I made the majority of my income as a salsa player. That changed in the late 90’s and I am certain that it is all thanks to Tom and his generosity for not only including me in the group in the first place, but for also choosing to record my original tunes.

The Tom Borling BeBop Band CD is still available online at CD Baby:

Fitness Influence

Another way that Tom Borling influenced my success in life was by setting an example on the fitness front. Tom used to run triathlons and was (and still is) in such very good shape. There are a few people like him here in Houston who have inspired me like this, but I think Tom inspired me more than the rest mostly because I saw him more often when I was fat.

Yes, I was fat. For those who don’t know me from the 90’s, I was over 250 lbs the entire time I played in the Tom Borling BeBop Band. And even though I didn’t do anything about it at the time, Tom set an example for me in a way that made me feel like exercising and achieving fitness goals was a cool thing, not just something to be endured over the long term. It was something a person could actually enjoy.

So yeah, I didn’t live like that in the 90’s. I do now.

Thank You Tom

The more I write these Life Builders posts, the more I realize that most of what I write are things that I have never told the people who deserve to be thanked. Writing these Life Builders posts has really taught me a lot about who I am and how insignificant I would have been if these people had never lifted me up. These are things I should have told them long ago.

Tom, I know I never thanked you enough for all you did for me. Please know that I do appreciate what you’ve done. I appreciate you and who you are. You do inspire me! So thank you!

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