A Musician on the Move

Instrumentalist Christian Tamburr, who once wowed Orlando jazz fans, is in demand.


Christian Tamburr

While most of us aren’t aware there is a jazz scene in Bora Bora, to vibraphonist, pianoist and percussionist Christian Tamburr, the Pacific island is just another stop in a career that has taken him to Russia, South Africa, Europe and South America in the past two years. Not bad for someone who’s all of 28 years old.

“The thing that’s so exciting for me is the traveling,” Tamburr says after returning from a recent world tour with his quartet. “I remember going to California for the first time and seeing the Hollywood sign. I still get those feelings, even this trip. It’s really intoxicating. I love to play music and travel.”

And yet his home is Merritt Island. “I’ve lived in a lot of places, but my family is here. I’m an only child.”

Orlando jazz fans have been watching the prodigy since he hit the stage at 15, performing in the 1996 play Mickey Swingerhead and the Earthgirls written by local singer and bandleader Michael Andrew.

Andrew was writing his bachelor pad sci-fi play when he spotted Tamburr playing at a Central Florida Jazz Society concert. After the show, Andrew asked Tamburr if he would like to play in his band, Swingerhead.

Tamburr’s reply: “You really should talk to my mom.” The sight of the then-diminutive whirlwind rushing about, playing every instrument on the stage, delighted audiences at what is known today as the Orlando Repertory Theatre. “He’s got a feel for chords and progressions, but he also likes banging on stuff,” Andrew says. “It’s a gift.”

Always a surprising talent, his mastery of the vibes can stop conversation in the noisiest club. Whether playing with Dave Brubeck, ’80s funk group the Dazz Band or Las Vegas magicians Penn & Teller, Tamburr has a sophisticated feel for being able to bridge many styles. “I’m a musician,” he says. “I can’t close my eyes to making a living. When the phone rings, if they need a funk drummer, or a classical vibraphone player, I say, ‘Great, I can do that.’ ”

Tamburr met Penn Jillette (he’s the one who talks) on a road trip with Andrew’s touring band. “They came to Vegas and he killed me,” Jillette says. “I was just getting into jazz, and it was wonderful to see someone that young with such incredible skills.” Tamburr spent four years as creative musical director for Penn & Teller’s nightclub act and TV specials.

For the past two years, Tamburr toured the world with international star Julio Iglesias, and he’s just signed a contract with Cirque du Soleil as musical director for a new international traveling show opening in 2010.

“It’s always been my dream to work with Cirque,” he says, “and play the kind of music I love. I need to get back to my jazz roots, which is a funny thing to say at 28.”

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