Edward Tomassi is an active performer and bandleader, playing saxophone, clarinet, and flute. He has performed with the Rhode Island Philharmonic, Carl Fontana, Hal Galper, Nick Brignola, Bob Mover, the Four Tops, and the Temptations. A professor at Berklee College of Music since 1976, Tomassi has taught jazz improvisation, performance, harmony, and history.
He also teaches at Brown University, and presents clinics for the Dave Liebman International Association of Schools of Jazz (IASJ), among others. He graduated from Berklee summa cum laude, with a major in composition. His mentors include Dave Liebman, Charlie Mariano, George Coleman, Joe Viola, Charlie Banacos, and Jerry Bergonzi. Tomassi created an instructional DVD called Jazz Improvisation: Starting Out with Motivic Development.
"I teach a lot of things by ear—improvisation concepts, balancing solos, different harmonic and melodic concepts. There is a key to teaching improvisation. There are five elements: melody, harmony, form, rhythm, and color. Out of those five elements, I teach different concepts, so the students get a well-balanced diet of solos, so it doesn't sound like they're just concentrating on one element. Some students are more crafted in certain areas, in form or harmony. They may need more melody or more color. It all depends on the individual."
"I have them do a lot of transcribing. In Harmonic Considerations—I coauthored that class back in 1979—the kids get a lot of the history of jazz, a lot of transcription, a lot of improvisation concepts."
"I've had some great students: Donald Harrison, Greg Osby. Branford Marsalis played in my big band. Kurt Rosenwinkel. Jacky Terrasson. All these kids were my students. It's unbelievable!"
"Back then, Berklee was a little more jazz-concentrated. Now, it's a little more diverse. A lot more diverse, actually. Students like so many different styles of music, which is great."