Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Thomas, John (D.)
Appearing with some of the greatest names in jazz, his professional gigs since 1972 include the AACM Big Band, Stanton Davis, Carter Jefferson, Andrew Cyrille, Kenny Drew, John Lewis, Harold Ousley, and Chet Baker. Additionally, he has performed as a regular sideman with Jimmy McGriff and Joe Henderson here in the United States. Although only 19 at the time, both Henderson and McGriff enlisted his services as a sideman on recordings and concerts.
After his 1977 move to Europe, he toured the Middle East, Africa, and the Far East performing extensively with Charles Tolliver, Joe Henderson, Art Taylor, Dizzy Gillespie, Malachi Thompson, Sonny Stitt, Tony Scott and many others. He joined the Art Taylor (Coltrane's first drummer) Quartet in 1978, and performed with it until 1984. He was tapped by Charles Tolliver in 1980, with whom he continued his relationship as a sideman until 1990. "Birth of the Cool" trombonist Mike Zwerin enlisted John for two tours in Africa in 1980 and 81 respectively. Mike is also well known as a journalist for the "Village Voice" and music editor for the "Herald Tribune". He has also toured and performed with his own bands, "John Thomas and Lifeforce", "Serious Business", "John Thomas Quartet", and "Extremely Serious Business" at festivals, concerts, and clubs throughout Europe and Africa.
In 1980 he received the endorsement from the National Endowments "Arts America" program on whose active list he remained for ten years. In 1986 his group "Extremely Serious Business" traveled to sub Saharan Africa under the auspices of this US State Department program. Since his return to the United States in 1991, he has appeared with his own quartet, trio, and an updated version of "Extremely Serious Business" which performs his own compositions. It was also at this time that he began a two year relationship with organist Charles Earland. He came to Boston in 1994 where he performs regularly with his different formations. In summer 2002, drummer Kenwood Dennard asked John to join him in his "Real Thing" group, which has made TV, radio, and club dates.
In addition to his activities as a performing artist and composer, he is a veteran clinician, having done workshops throughout Europe. John is currently on the faculty at Berklee College in Boston where he holds the rank of associate professor. His teaching activities go back to 1977 when he was first engaged by the University of Duisburg's Jazz Department, where he taught until 1990. He was also an instructor at the famous "Robert Schumann Hochschule fur die Kunst" in Dusseldorf from 1979 to 1990. His teaching skills were also in demand at the "German Army School of Music" in Hilden from 1981 to 1991 where he taught jazz guitar and electric bass to students for their different big band and concert/gala band formations.
Besides working with his current groups, John has signed a deal with Berklee Press for a book entitled "Voice Leading for Guitar" to be released at the end of September 2002. He is also searching for a publisher for two more books currently in the works. The first of which is on chord scale linear improvisation for guitar, and the second on modal and polytonal improvisation and harmony for guitar.
Always interested in the latest technological innovations, John has built up quite an impressive recording studio over the years. In its current incarnation, it encompasses a 48 track "Pro Tools" setup with a complete digital signal path and full effect suite. Most of the tracks on his last CD were recorded there. Besides mixing the entire project there, he has recently mixed the CD of Avi Rothbart, one of his former students. His plans are to start his own record company sometime in the near future.
Jimmy McGriff: Fly Dude; Joe Henderson: Multiple; International Jazz Consensus: Beak to Beak; Lifeforce: Devil Dance, 3000 Worlds; John Thomas: Dreams, Illusions, Nightmares, and Other Realities; Serious Business: Serious Business; Mr. Circle: Tri Nam; Theo Joergensmann: Go Ahead Clarinet; Extremely Serious Business: Headwall