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Musical Sanctuary

by Dan Thomas

Post modern and hard bop with influences of Kenny Garrett, Vincent Herring and Jim Snidero
Genre: Jazz: Bebop
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Toubanrut
4:44 $0.99
2. Professor RMW, Jr.
6:28 $0.99
3. Folktale From Far East - Segment 1
1:21 $0.99
4. Expressions
6:32 $0.99
5. Love Everlasting
5:56 $0.99
6. Folktale From Far East - Segment 2
3:07 $0.99
7:21 $0.99
8. Musical Sanctuary
2:29 $0.99
9. Selflessly Assured
6:12 $0.99
10. Musical Sanctuary - Reprise
1:51 $0.99
11. Blues for BLT
3:40 $0.99
12. Folktale From Far East - Segment 3
1:14 $0.99
13. Walt's Bop Inn
4:07 $0.99
14. With Two Endings
4:21 $0.99
15. From Within
8:15 $0.99
16. Folktale From Far East - Segment 4
0:50 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Dan Thomas - Saxophones

A dedicated performer, composer, bandleader and educator, Dan hails from Canada, and has been in the United States for more than a decade. Dan was a regular on the West Coast jazz scene before arriving to Kansas City. Besides being a busy performer, Mr. Thomas teaches Jazz Studies, alongside Bobby Watson, in the music department at the University of Missouri - Kansas City, where he teaches Improvisation, Jazz History, Jazz Pedagogy, Coaches Combos and gives private lessons. Mr. Thomas has also taught at Penn Valley Community College, and Rockhurst University. He has taught music at Middle School, High School, Community College and University levels, where his ensembles have all received high praise. Dan has earned numerous awards for both jazz and classical performance as well as twice receiving the "Who's Who Among America's Teachers" award.

Dan Thomas is capable of performing in all styles from his Hard-Bop focus to sounds from around the globe. Capable of satisfying the most discriminating tastes, Dan has delighted audiences at jazz festivals, clubs, political functions, corporate events, and private performances.

Mr. Thomas, performs regularly in the Kansas City metro area, and can be seen at Jazz Festivals throughout the United States and Canada. He performs regularly in a variety of settings from small jazz combos, classical chamber groups, to big bands. He is a frequent clinician and guest artist at High School and University Jazz Festivals. Dan's Quintet cd's as a leader "City Scope" and Musical Sanctuary" are receiving critical acclaim.

Dan Thomas plays and endorses Vandoren products.

For more information visit Dan on the web at http://www.danthomasjazz.com



Dan Thomas Quintet
Musical Sanctuary

Reviewed by: Rich Hill

Jazz Ambassador Magazine - October/November 2005 Issue

The affable, energetic and intense jazz saxophonist Dan Thomas is an native of Canada who made Kansas City his home a few years back, having landed a teaching job in the UMKC jazz studies department now headed by Bobby Watson. The decision to come here has apparently worked out well, as Thomas seems to be settling into a period of great creativity. The release of his second compact disc “Musical Sanctuary” marks his continued evolution as a player, composer and bandleader since his 2003 offering entitled “City Scope”.

“Musical Sanctuary” features fresh compositions and arrangements, a tight ensemble, and muscular solos. It is comprised entirely of invented, original tunes--eleven by Thomas and another by pianist Roger Wilder. These are delivered in a style centered about bop ( RSVP , Blues for BLT , From Within , the Brubeckian Walt's Bop Inn ) but which widens to explore more open, freer forms ( Musical Sanctuary , Folktale From Far East , Professor RMW, Jr.) .

The first track , Toubanrut , an up-tempo bop conception based on the chord changes to Indiana displays Thomas' brainy compositional style. Is the title (an anagram of “turnabout”) a sign that playful spirits are restless? Hmm... In the introduction the rhythm sets up a pulsing hemiola figure suggesting a meter contrary to what will eventually prevail. Next, the horns buzz the tricky head melody which twists back on itself like the flight of a bumblebee that's had too much nectar (or espresso). As the harmonies underpinning all this unfold, the form of a 32-bar song is revealed. Musicians, artists and mathematicians have loved this sort of thing since antiquity: an illusion whereby patterns appear strange or incoherent but suddenly are revealed as familiar. It's a nice trick and Thomas and his band mates pull it off well, not just on the opener but in From Within , his interesting re-working of “Cherokee”.

Other tracks are more exemplary of Thomas' interest in freer forms. Professor RMW, Jr . (dedicated to Bobby Watson, who has mentored Thomas and generally helped revivify the local jazz education and performance scene since his coming here five years ago) is a pensive 3/4 melody in an abstract, floating style that might be said to search, probe and find resolution.

Joe Parisi's lyrical flugelhorn introduces the melody of the serene ballad Love Everlasting (dedicated to Thomas' wife Monica). Its phrases evoke simple declarations of deep devotion in a mood of quietude.

Parisi's sparkling trumpet solos on tunes like Toubanrut and With Two Endings reflect the influences of Woody Shaw and Lee Morgan. Although he is an important faculty member in the “legit' arm of the UMKC Conservatory, one imagines he could hold his own on the NYC jazz scene.

Thomas' onstage band is a quintet but in this recording he uses two bassists, Bram Wijnands and Craig Akin . Each functions in the group admirably. Akin is equally impressive on electric bass (his approach to the funky Expressions recalls James Jamerson or Jaco) or upright (listen to his duet with Thomas opening Walt's Bop Inn ). He's got enormous technique, great imagination and an approach to his instrument that is unusual and fresh. Wijnands, who's best known to KC jazz fans as the resident weekend pianist-magician at the Majestic Steakhouse, is also an accomplished jazz bassist with a rich bass sound and unerring time. As he is arguably the world's greatest pianist playing in the Errol Garner-Fats Waller tradition it's rather amazing he doubles on bass this well.

Mike Shanks (drums) is a young master of time who responds with the right answer to each musical challenge Thomas' book and band offer him. He seems capable of driving any musical situation with interestingly layered, technically polished and solid rhythm textures. His work shines throughout.

Roger Wilder's enigmatic and riveting With Two Endings (the only non-Thomas composition on the disc) is one of the recording's many highlights. It leaves you wanting to hear more of his tunes. His playing is always ingenious, surprising and musical. His Rhodes piano contributions (on Selflessly Assured , for example) widen the quintet's timbral pallete. Whether comping or soloing he's perfectly on or off the beat as he pleases no matter how tricky or convoluted the musical challenge at hand may be.

I could go on about this very successful project but a review provides limited space. To sum up, I recommend JAM readers buy this CD and plan to see Dan Thomas Quintet right away! Bios of the band and a more detailed look at DT's background and projects are at www.danthomas.info

— Rich Hill



Musical Sanctuary

Berman Music Foundation: November Issue

By Tom Ineck

After experiencing a life-threatening health crisis in 2004 (see the August 2004 issue of the BMF newsletter), Kansas City saxophonist Dan Thomas was newly inspired to write music. The result, aptly named, is “Musical Sanctuary,” a generous 68 minutes of new music.

Retaining much of the same group of KC musicians who have comprised his quintet over the last few years, Thomas has assured that not only is this aggregation musically compatible, but also capable to carry out his often-complex musical assignments. Stalwarts Joe Parisi on trumpet and flugelhorn, Roger Wilder on Fender Rhodes and piano and bassist Bram Wijnands are joined by new drummer Mike Shanks. Craig Akin occasionally subs for Wijnands on the electric and acoustic basses.

“Toubanrut,” a nearly unpronounceable reversal of “Turnabout,” opens the recording in typically challenging—but swinging—fashion. Thomas and Parisi (on muted horn) dart in and out of the blazing melody line in perfect unison before allowing each of the principals to state his solo case. “Professor RMW, Jr.” is, of course, a tribute to friend, mentor and fellow University of Missouri-KC professor Bobby Watson, who also wrote the liner notes, confirming their mutual admiration.

The searching “Expressions” takes on a fusion sound with Wilder’s electric keys and Akin’s electric bass. By contrast, “Love Everlasting” is a tender acoustic ballad that brings out the best in everyone, especially Thomas on sax and Wilder on piano. “RSVP” revs up the band again in hard-bop style, with Thomas firmly asserting his leadership on tenor. Using mallets on tom-toms, Shanks establishes the mystical quality of the title track, which segues into “Selflessly Assured” and back to a reprise of the title theme for a fascinating, 10-minute excursion.

Thomas shares the glory of “Blues for BLT,” a driving bop tune with brief, but effective solos by Thomas, Parisi and Wilder. “Walt’s Bop Inn” further reinforces the band’s hard-bop credentials, as do the tricky “With Two Endings” and the eight-minute “From Within,” a sleight-of-hand masterpiece that showcases Parisi’s muted-trumpet pyrotechnics.

A series of brief “Folktales from Far East” are interspersed throughout the recording, as though contrasting two of the world’s most important musical traditions and inviting listeners to further explore this “musical sanctuary.”


Jazz professor finds his 'sanctuary'

By Jennifer Bhargava

Published: Monday, August 29, 2005

University News - University of Kansas City - Missouri

Musical talent runs in Dan Thomas' family. The UMKC jazz studies professor was inspired to take on the performing arts by his piano-playing parents. However, it was a simple twist of fate, brought upon by a sibling, which led him to his destiny.

"I had picked up a saxophone that my brother had quit playing," said Thomas. "Since all younger brothers want to walk in the footsteps of their older sibling, I took to it. I found it to be a very rewarding experience and hence have not put it down."

The saxophone became a staple in Thomas' life. His passion for the instrument was nurtured by the education system in his native Canada, which heavily supports the performing arts. He then studied music at the University of Mary, in North Dakota, and at UMKC.

Since then, the acclaimed saxophone player has spent years making a name for himself in Canada and the United States.

After hitting the West Coast jazz scene, the UMKC alumnus headed back to Kansas City-a move he does not regret.

"It will always be important for me to be able to teach in a sizable metropolitan center that affords me artistic performance opportunities," said Thomas. "The rich jazz tradition that exists here in Kansas City was also a significant part of my decision. To share the stage with guys who played with the 'Who's who' of KC swing will change you. Just sitting on break and listening to the stories they tell-the history really comes alive."

In 2003, Thomas released his first CD, "City Scope," which he created to document his compositions and share his music.

His second CD, "Musical Sanctuary," is now available for purchase online.

Motivation for the songs on his new CD came during an unexpected health crisis. In 2004, Thomas became sick with Type 1 diabetes and was unable to practice or perform for many months. Writing songs during the healing process helped Thomas recuperate

"Inspiration comes at strange times," said Thomas.

The ailing musician was also supported by members of his jazz quintet who appear with him on the CD and remain his closest friends. The members include Bram Wijnands (bass), Roger Wilder (piano), Joe Parisi (trumpet), Mike Shanks (drums) and Craig Akin (bass).

"When we perform, my band keeps a close eye on me," said Thomas. "They make sure I don't forget my medicine."

Thomas is grateful for their support and considers himself extremely lucky because they also have tremendous talent.

"My quintet has been a true joy for me," said Thomas. "The guys are all very committed to the group and the music. They are creative, inspired musicians that are not afraid to take risks. These guys make me want to write, grow and play from the heart."

The feeling is mutual.

Parisi, a music education professor at UMKC, joined the quintet after his fellow faculty member saw him play at a private gig. The trumpeter connected with the other jazz musicians instantly.

"It has been inspiring to be associated with such a forward moving group," said Parisi. "We have developed a chemistry that I have never experienced with any other group. Having the opportunity to work with such great musicians, and especially a great leader, is something every musician aspires to do."

Friendship and loyalty are important to the band, because it helps them connect with each other during performances.

"I have the feeling that my band is having a conversation with each other on stage and that the audience is eavesdropping on our conversation," said Thomas. "Our emotions are constantly changing. Thoughts generally come in the form of reflection. We enjoy what we are doing, so there is a sense of pleasure."

Although he enjoys performing and practicing with his quintet, Thomas makes time for the most important aspect of life: his family.

Saxophone comes second to his wife and two-year-old daughter.

The balance impresses his colleagues and friends.

"I respect [Thomas] as a teacher, performer and composer," said Parisi. "He is able to do all of it well, while focusing the majority of his energy on being a loving husband and father. Who would not respect that?"


jazz town

Sax man playing first-rate jazz

By JOE KLOPUS The Kansas City Star

Posted on Thu, Jul. 21, 2005

For about five years people have been noticing an enthusiastic young sax man-about-town.

His name is Dan Thomas. He has worked hard and played hard in the groups of pianists Tim Whitmer and Bram Wijnands, plus Michael McGraw’s Boulevard Band. And now he’s making his own musical statements at the helm of his own quintet.

This weekend Thomas is celebrating the release of his second CD as leader, “Musical Sanctuary,” a set that he hopes represents a big advance over his first CD — which was pretty impressive itself.

Thomas, 29, comes to us from Winnipeg, Manitoba. (This makes him the second Winnipeg sax man to make a big impression on the Kansas City scene; the first was Jim Mair.) In the fifth grade, Thomas picked up a tenor sax that his brother had quit playing. He didn’t put it down.

After studying jazz performance and music education at the University of Mary in North Dakota, Thomas took a job teaching band in southern Washington state. This got him noticed on the Seattle and Portland, Ore., jazz scenes and brought him into contact with great players such as bassist Leroy Vinnegar and reed man Hadley Caliman.

Then came the move to Kansas City, for graduate studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and to polish his playing skills. Now Thomas is passing his knowledge and skills along on the UMKC faculty, teaching jazz history and jazz pedagogy and coaching combos.

And he’s moving forward with his own music. His first CD, “City Scope,” emerged in 2003. “I’m pleased with the first CD, but the new one’s so much better,” he says.

There might not have been a second CD. In March 2004, undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes landed Thomas in the hospital. His weight dropped down to just 100 pounds on his 6-foot, 1-inch frame.

“While I was sick, it inspired me to write a lot of music,” he says. “Like I say in the tag on the back of the new CD, I found solace in my sanctuary of music.”

He’s playing and writing differently now: “I’m taking a lot more chances than I used to. I’m not taking anything for granted. I’m taking the bindings off, taking the safety net away.”

The new disc reflects that, he says. It’s all original compositions, with the exception of one from pianist Roger Wilder, “With Two Endings” (the most accurate title since Thelonious Monk’s “Played Twice”).

“The writing’s a lot more angular, and the changes are more difficult,” Thomas says. He experiments with longer forms; one piece appears in four segments throughout the disc. But the music’s still user-friendly.

Along on the CD are trumpeter Joe Parisi, another relatively recent arrival on the UMKC faculty; pianist Roger Wilder; bassists Craig Akin and (on his other instrument) Bram Wijnands; and drummer Mike Shanks.

Most of those players will be along for the CD release party Sunday, from 6 to 10 p.m. at Jardine’s. (Wilder has to be elsewhere; pianist Harold O’Neal will sub for him.) Thomas will be moving between his alto and tenor saxes, checking his blood sugar between sets and loving every minute


Performance Review

Dan Thomas Quintet concert brings changes

By Tom Ineck

TOPEKA, Kan.—For the inaugural concert of the first Berman Jazz Series, the Dan Thomas Quintet dared to be different, leaning heavily on a repertoire of bold originals rather than familiar standards. The Sept. 19 performance served notice that a new jazz breeze is blowing in Topeka, where too often the prejudices of the past have stifled the creativity of the artists.

To survive as a viable art form in the 21st century, jazz must continue to evolve. In the hands of saxophonist and composer Thomas, that future is assured. He and his Kansas City-based colleagues brought a wealth of talent and material to the stage, in the lower-level Hussey Playhouse at the Topeka Performing Arts Center.

Sensitive to older audience members who may be reluctant to change, the quintet began with the standard “Bye Bye Blackbird.” With Joe Parisi on flugelhorn, Roger Wilder on piano, Bram Wijnands on bass and Jim Eriksen on drums, Thomas faithfully addressed the melody on alto sax and gave everyone a chance to make a solo statement.

Wijnands, widely known for his talents as a stride pianist, also proved himself an able and authoritative bassist, opening the Thomas composition “Green Card” with a solo introduction before Thomas on alto and Parisi on trumpet stated the melody. A Parisi solo displayed a crystal-clear tone and a penchant for taking risks. Eriksen’s waltz-time ballad “Ernestine” was a beautiful contribution with Thomas switching to tenor sax and Parisi returning to flugelhorn.

Thomas soared on tenor on his “Life with Nedaj,” a reversal of his daugher’s name, Jaden, and Wilder’s keyboard solo offered inventive variations on the theme. Short solo statements by all gave urgency to “Leading the Blind,” and “Blues for BooDee” put a new twist on an old set of changes.

Returning briefly to more familiar territory, the quintet performed “Dear Old Stockholm,” associated with versions by Miles Davis, Stan Getz and others. On the lesser-known “Beatrice,” by saxophonist Sam Rivers, Wijnands held down a solid, swinging bass line, allowing Thomas on tenor and Parisi on flugelhorn to improvise freely.

Wordplay again entered the program with “Tuobanrut” (“Turnabout” backwards), a new uptempo composition by Thomas that spotlighted some imaginative drum breaks by Eriksen. While not exactly a standard, Frank Rosolino’s jazz waltz “Blue Daniel” is familiar to fans of the great trombonist and was an especially good vehicle for Wilder, who quoted “If I Only Had a Brain.”

Eriksen also contributed the lovely “Silent Summer Storm,” a ballad with Thomas taking the lead on alto sax and Parisi taking the bridge on flugelhorn. “ An original blues shuffle called “Upbeat and Busted” completed the concert with a rousing and playful “conversation” between tenor sax and trumpet.

Whether original or standard, the tunes that Thomas and his cohorts chose for the concert were accessible to all listeners who keep their ears open to change. The quintet was a joy to watch in performance, taking chances and feeding each other's ideas. Thomas fronts the same group on his debut recording, “City Scope,” and it is obvious that they possess a rapport that is both musical and personal.

City Scope
The Dan Thomas Quintet | Independent

Jack Bowers – All About Jazz, 4-19-04

City Scope is the debut album as leader for Dan Thomas, a Canadian-born saxophonist who now lives in Kansas City, MO. His talents as player and composer are lavishly praised in the liner notes by friend and colleague Bobby Watson, whose influence is readily apparent in Thomas’s music, especially in his approach to the alto sax, wherein Thomas borrows a few of Watson’s licks but avoids sounding like a carbon copy of his better-known comrade. Other likely role models who spring to mind include Kenny Garrett, Antonio Hart, Vincent Herring and Greg Abate. Thomas plays alto on seven selections, soprano on drummer Jim Eriksen’s “Sertan to Amsterdam” and “Ernastine” and his own “Life with Nedaj” and “Upbeat & Busted.”

The largely bop-based program is comprised solely of original compositions, eight by Thomas, the other three by Eriksen. The time-keeper, a transplanted Chicagoan, is an accomplished musician, as are the other members of the quintet—trumpeter Joe Parisi, pianist Roger Wilder and bassist Bram Wijnands. As for Thomas, he validates his credentials from the outset with an earnest soprano solo on “Sertan,” then reinforces them by solidly nailing every other shot, whether on alto or soprano. Parisi is an able sidekick, soloing with assurance on every track but “Ernastine,” on which the quintet is pared to a quartet, and Wilder is consistently brilliant when given an opportunity to shine, as he is on a number of occasions.

Although unfamiliar, the music is quite pleasant and well-written with enough variation in mood and tempo to nourish almost anyone’s interest. If I am partial to the burners (“Wablin’,” “City Scope”), that’s only because I grew up listening to Bird, Diz, Clifford, the Messengers and other exponents of chops-busting calisthenics, not because anything else on offer is less than agreeable. In fact, there are pleasures of many stripes from blues (“For BooDee”) to ballad (“Silent Summer Storm”), gospel (“Upbeat & Busted”) to Latin (“Life with Nedaj”) and even a hint of the Middle East on “Temple of Faith.” In sum, an absorbing discourse among five talented musicians with many provocative things to say.



Butch Berman - Musical Director Topeka Performing Arts Center, Founder Berman Music Foundation 2003

I get a lotta mail, and I’m getting older (maybe wiser, too), so it’s not like I forget… but sometimes I just can’t remember. So…that what haps yesterday when I received “City Scope,” the debut of Dan Thomas and his quintet. It all came back to me after the first spin, and again today when I shared my first steamin’ cup of joe with this mighty fine piece of work. I will now always remember Dan Thomas.

Yea, I get stuff sent to me daily, and I probably wouldn’t have gotten to it so soon if I hadn’t noticed that the liner notes were written by one of my very favorite musicians… let alone his saxual magic, I’m talkin’ ‘bout Bobby Watson, of course.

I couldn’t help draw parallels in recognizing a similar projection of flu-idity within their hallowed tones, shapes and phrases, but this story is about Dan Thomas. Of Canadian origin, Dan displays ample chops and composing skills on both the alto and soprano saxes. His spirit, his obvious driving leadership and his passion surge to the forefront throughout this solid effort.

Either Thomas or drummer Jim Eriksen penned all the selections. His ballad numbers are as lovely in their romantic leanings as the upbeat tunes reflect their infectious stylings. This CD represents a showcase of some classic jazz, and superlative playing.

My friend Roger Wilder plays his piano parts as creatively and smartly as I’ve ever heard him live, and he’s always on the money. Pianist Bram Wijnands is no slouch on the bass either, in blending comfortably with Eriksen and in his “bright moments” solos, as well.

Trumpeter and University of Missouri-Kansas City educator Joe Parisi, along with Thomas, demonstrates some great front-line excursions and blows most admirably.

“City Scope” is both hot and cool in the right places, and should be received well and played in EVERY city. Check this one out, and spread the word. Dan Thomas is on the move.


City Scope - Dan Thomas Quintet

Tim Whitmer - Owner Phoenix Piano Bar and Jazz Club, Performer

Dan Thomas is an artist at an exciting moment in his craft.

With City Scope, he emerges with confidence, class, style and a refreshing sense of joy in his playing, writing and overall presentation of his formidable talent. Upon repeated listening, City Scope shows Thomas at the top of his game, both comfortable and adventurous in his musical exploits and dynamic releases.

His artistry hearkens back to an older era yet still sounds fresh and new. Spend some time with this disk and you will be rewarded with music and spirit that shows not just where jazz has been but contains moments and hints where jazz is headed. Dan Thomas is a talent to enjoy now and continue to watch (and listen to!) in the years and notes ahead


City Scope-Dan Thomas Quintet

Kerry Strayer… Band leader, Composer & Performer

“Echos of the classic Blue Note Era as well as late 60’s, early 70’s Impulse.” I really enjoyed the compositions. Great improv….. an excellent first release.


Dan Thomas overcomes illness to play again

By Tom Ineck

At age 28, Kansas City saxophonist Dan Thomas is feeling reborn since his recent recovery from a diabetic coma. As he regains his lost weight and learns to manage the disease, he is playing with renewed vigor and making plans for a second recording.

Thomas first appeared on the Berman Music Foundation radar in January, when Butch Berman wrote a glowing review of “City Scope,” the young saxophonist’s debut recording as a leader. The Dan Thomas Quintet will launch the Berman Jazz Series Sept. 19 at the Topeka Performing Arts Center in Topeka, Kan.

Just a few months ago, it was uncertain whether Thomas would live to see September. In early March, he began to exhibit flu and cold symptoms. He made an appointment to see a doctor, also asking for a blood sugar test for diabetes.

He never made the appointment. He suddenly lost more than 70 pounds—dropping 50 pounds in two days. He eventually lapsed into a coma, unable to either talk or walk. There were no vital signs. He remained in intensive care for five days before being moved into the hospital’s general population.

Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, Thomas gives himself daily insulin injections and maintains a healthy diet. Bottoming out at 105 pounds, the 6-foot, 1-inch Thomas has since regained most of the weight he lost. He’s philosophical about his life-changing experience.

“It’s been a life adjustment, but I’m eating healthier now,” he said. “I feel strong. For disciplined folks, you can lead a relatively normal life. Being a musician, there are a lot of temptations out there that can send your diabetes spiraling. I’m very disciplined, so I just cut out the alcohol and live straight as an arrow. I feel great.”

A native of Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba, Canada, Thomas left home when he was just 17 to pursue a music education and a career in music. He taught in the Portland, Ore., area and played regularly in Portland and Seattle before heading east to finish his graduate work and serve as a graduate assistant at the University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC). He currently holds the position of adjunct professor in the school of music, where this fall he will teach jazz pedagogy and jazz history, as well as some administrative duties.

He was recruited with the promise that the school was scouting a “heavyweight” to revitalize the jazz program. A year later, the legendary Bobby Watson was hired to fill those shoes.

“Bobby’s a real blessing in the community,” Thomas said. “The man has got the biggest heart of anybody you’ll ever meet, and he doesn’t have a head to match, so that’s great. He’s a wonderful human being.” When the life-threatening diabetic reaction landed Thomas in the emergency room, Watson soon appeared at his bedside.

“That’s the type of guy he is,” Thomas said. “It really speaks to his desire to know people and care for people as individuals, not just as musicians.”

Thomas also counts Watson among those jazz saxophonists who most influenced his playing style, along with Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter and Kenny Garrett.

As on “City Scope,” the stellar bop quintet that Thomas will front in Topeka consists of fellow UMKC educator Joe Parisi on trumpet and flugelhorn, Roger Wilder on keyboards, Bram Wijnands on bass and Jim Eriksen on drums. Some fans of KC jazz may be unaware that Wijnands is equally adept on the bass as he is in his stride piano technique. He also provides what Thomas refers to as “another leader.”

“His leadership helps the ensemble. He plays real fundamental, rock-solid bass. He makes things easy. He’s a very easy guy to play with.”

Thomas wants to take the quintet into the studio by October, anticipating a release before year’s end. A distributor already is interested in picking up “City Scope” and the new CD.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, Kansas City jazz musicians—as in other cities—struggle to land gigs in a climate of fiscal restraint and public caution. Clubs that previously hired quartets and quintets have pared down to duo and trios, often leaving horn players out in the cold. Only recently have some venues begun to expand their visions once again.

“One of the strengths in this city, and it may not last long, is that a lot of us young guys read about the history of the music and listen to the records, and in this community you can get tied into that history with these living artists.” Thomas is thankful that he has had the opportunity to play with local veterans like Rusty Tucker and Lucky Wesley, whose careers reach back to the city’s golden age.



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