Born in Seoul, South Korea before immigrating to Toronto, Canada as a child, Tom Chang was inspired to play guitar after hearing Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. This initial flush of rock guitar attraction was followed by equally heavy concentration in the blues, then finally jazz, in the shape of guitarists Jim Hall and Wes Montgomery.
In the mid-1980s, Chang enrolled at Los Angeles’ Guitar Institute of Technology where he majored in jazz performance. He studied privately with Scott Henderson, Joe Diorio, and the late Ted Greene. Chang’s rapid advancement led to professional work with everyone from comedian (then cabaret performer) Sandra Bernhard to crooner Luther Vandross. But his background seems oddly disconnected from what was to come. Living in New York for the past 20 years, Chang immersed himself in the City’s boiling jazz scene playing with musicians including Rich Perry, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Dave Binney, Gerald Cleaver, Chris Lightcap, Tom Rainey, Joey Calderazzo and many others. Chang’s passion for music has led to studies with Southern Indian Carnatic percussion legend T. H. Subash Chandran with whom he has both recorded and performed live.
All the while maintaining an active playing schedule, Chang also successfully curates jazz for New York’s critically acclaimed Cornelia Street Cafe. Tom Chang’s debut release, Tongue & Groove (Raw Toast Records), has received rave reviews from critics and players alike. Joined by saxophonists Greg Ward, Jason Rigby, bassist Chris Lightcap and drummer Gerald Cleaver, Tongue & Groove is experimental, spacious and innovative, full of emotional solos and telepathic group improvisations. “Flawlessly executed yet effortless and natural, Chang’s compositions are boldly orchestrated and never cease to surprise. This is telepathic playing from an incredible group of musicians, not to mention beautifully inventive and nuanced guitar work.” – Mary Halvorson. “What separates these tracks (on Tongue & Groove) from other rock leaning cuts made by jazz musicians today? It’s not ironic, or cool—they’re just actually working with some sinister rock riffing. It feels authentic. . . Later, things get eerie, as if someone was mixing funk with a New York edge. That someone was Chang.” -Brad Farberman, DownBeat (Four Stars)