The trumpeter Joseph Eli Thomas — fabled but truly little-known — is almost always confused with his higher-profile namesake, who played tenor sax and sang in the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra. 

But a quick scan of the people our Joe Thomas played with should suggest that his colleagues thought very highly of him.  How about Fats Waller, James P. Johnson, Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson, Johnny Guarneri, Earl Hines, Fletcher Henderson, Sidney Catlett, Coleman Hawkins, Jack Teagarden, Bud Freeman, Ed Hall, Vic Dickenson, Red Norvo, Roy Eldridge, Emmett Berry, Cozy Cole, Lil Hardin Armstrong, Claude Hopkins,  Buddy Tate, Pee Wee Russell, Tony Scott, Buck Clayton, Woody Herman, Trummy Young, Rudy Powell, Eddie Condon, Benny Carter, Jo Jones, Benny Morton, Al Hall . . . . ?  Clearly a man well-respected.  But he is an obscure figure today. 

He can be seen as a member of Art Kane’s famous 1958 Harlem street assemblage.  Shirtsleeved and hatless, he stands with Maxine Sullivan and Jimmy Rushing to one side, with Stuff Smith on the other.  Fast company, although the sun must have been bothering him, for he looks worried. 

In another world, Thomas would have had little reason to worry, but he came up in jazz when hot trumpeters seemed to spring out from every bush.  To his left, Red Allen and Rex Stewart; to the right, Bill Coleman, Emmett Berry, Bobby Hackett.  Rounding the corner, Buck Clayton, Cootie Williams, Benny Carter, Frank Newton.   So the competition was fierce.  And Thomas often had the bad fortune to be overshadowed: in Fletcher Henderson’s 1936 CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS band — the one that recorded extensively for Victor and Vocalion — his section-mate was a fireball named Eldridge.  In Fats Waller’s big band, Thomas played section trumpet and the prize solos in Fats’ Rhythm went to Herman Autrey or Bugs Hamilton.  And then there was a colossus named Armstrong, apparently blocking out the sun.  John Hammond was busy championing other players, all worthy, and never got around to pushing Joe Thomas into the limelight.  Although he recorded prolifically as a sideman, he never had a record date under his own name after 1946. 

But Thomas got himself heard now and again: his solos shine on Decca recordings (alongside Chu Berry) under Lil Armstrong’s name, and on a famous Big Joe Turner date for the same label that featured Art Tatum and Ed Hall.  On the much more obscure Black and White label, he recorded alongside Tatum and Barney Bigard; for Jamboree, he was captured side-by-side with Don Byas, Dave Tough, and Ted Nash. 

Later in his career, the British jazz scholar Albert McCarthy featured him on a Vic Dickenson session (Vic, like Tatum, seems to have admired Joe’s quiet majesty), and he popped up on sessions in the Fifties and Sixties in the best company.  Whitney Balliett celebrated him in an essay, and the drummer Mike Burgevin used him on gigs whenever he could.

Thomas’s most important champion has to have been the Javanese jazz enthusiast and record producer Harry Lim, whose biography should be written — producing jam sessions and heading one of the finest record labels ever — Keynote — then shepherding another label, Famous Door, through perhaps a dozen issues in the Seventies.  I gather that his day job was as head of the jazz record section in the Manhattan Sam Goody store: probably I saw him, but was too young and uninformed to make the connection. 

Lim loved Thomas’s playing and featured him extensively on sessions between 1944 and 1946.  Regrettably those sessions were reissued in haphazard fashion in the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies — vinyl anthologies on the Emarcy and Trip labels — then in a wonderful box set first appearing in Japan, then briefly in the US, then disappearing for good.  A number of compilations drawn from that set — featuring Hawkins, Eldridge, Norvo, and Young — made it to CD but seem to have gone out of circulation.  And wise collectors aren’t putting them up on eBay.  Thomas also appears on a few sessions for the HRS (Hot Record Society) label, and those sessions have been collected in a Mosaic box set, which I believe is still available — although the Keynotes show him off far better. 

What made Thomas so special?  His tone was luminous but dark, rich — not shallow and glossy or brassy.  His notes sang; he placed his notes a shade behind the beat, giving the impression of having all the time in the world at a fast tempo.  Like Jack Teagarden, he wasn’t an improviser who started afresh with every new solo.  Thomas had his favorite patterns and gestures, but he didn’t repeat himself.  Listening to him when he was on-form was beautifully satisfying: he sounded like a man who had edited out all the extraneous notes in his head before beginning to play.  His spaces meant something, and a Thomas solo continued to resonate in one’s head for a long time.  I can still hear his opening notes of a solo he took on CRAZY RHYTHM on a New York gig in 1974. 

What made his style so memorable wasn’t simply his tone — a marvel in itself — or his pacing, steady but never sluggish.  It was his dual nature: he loved upward-surging arpeggios that spelled out the chord in a gleaming way, easy but urgent.  Occasionally he hit the same note a few times in a delicate, chiming way (much more Beiderbecke than Sweets Edison) — and then, while those notes rang in the air, he would play something at one-quarter volume, which had the shape of a beautiful half-muttered epigram, something enclosed in parentheses, which you had to strain to hear.  That balance between declarations and intimacy shaped many a memorable solo. 

And when Thomas was simply appearing to play the melody, he worked wonders.  I don’t know where a listener would find the Teddy Wilson V-Disc session that produced only two titles (and one alternate take) with a stripped-down version of Wilson’s Cafe Society band in 1943: Thomas, Ed Hall, Wilson, and Sidney Catlett.  I mean them no disrespect, but Benny Morton and Johnny Williams may have wanted to go home and get some sleep.  The two titles recorded were RUSSIAN LULLABY and HOW HIGH THE MOON — the latter of interest because it is one of the first jazz recordings of that song (including a fairly straight 1940 reading by a Fred Rich studio band with Benny Carter and Roy Eldridge as guest stars!) that I know of.  But RUSSIAN LULLABY is extra-special, taken at a slow tempo, enabling Thomas to illuminate the melody from within, as if it were a grieving anthem. 

Alas, there are no CD compilations devoted to Thomas; someone eager to hear him on record might chase down the Keynotes in a variety of forms.  One session finds him alongside Eldridge and Emmett Berry, and it’s fascinating to see how easily Thomas’s wait-and-see manner makes his colleagues seem a bit too eager, even impetuous.  His playing alongside Teagarden and Hawkins on a session led by drummer George Wettling couldn’t be better, especially on HOME and YOU BROUGHT A NEW KIND OF LOVE TO ME. 

But he came to prominence, at least as far as the record studio executives were concerned, most often in the years of the first record ban, during World War Two.  After that, he emerged now and then in a variety of Mainstream revivals — he played at Central Plaza on an elusive “Dr. Jazz” broadcast; he was a member of an Eddie Condon troupe in the Forties that did a concert in Washington, D.C.  

I was lucky enough to hear him a few times in the early Seventies, primarily because of the enthusiastic generosity of Mike Burgevin, a classic jazz drummer whose heroes were Catlett, Tough, and Wettling — someone who also sang now and again, his model (wisely) being early-and-middle period Crosby. 

For a time, Mike took care of the jazz at a club named Brew’s — slightly east of the Empire State Building — that had a little room with tables and chairs, a minute bandstand, a decent upright piano.  His sessions usually featured himself and the quietly persuasive stride pianist Jimmy Andrews (or Dill Jones), perhaps Al Hall on bass, and a noted horn player.  It could be Ruby Braff or Kenny Davern, but often it was Max Kaminsky, Herb Hall, Herman Autrey, or Joe Thomas.  (One week, blessedly, Vic Dickenson played three or four nights with a shifting rhythm section: glorious music and a rare opportunity to observe him on his own.) 

The sessions were even noted in The New Yorker.  I remember noting that these players — people I had heard only on record — seemed to be gigging about ten minutes away from Penn Station.  When Joe Thomas’s name came up in print, I was nearly-incredulous.  Could this be our Joe Thomas, the trumpeter who was nearly luminescent on his choruses on SHE DIDN’T SAY YES?  I think I prevailed on my friend Stu Zimny to come into the city and see whether this was miracle or mirage, and I remember one brilliant set — Joe, Waller-altoist Rudy Powell, Herb Hall, Jimmy Andrews, and Burgevin — that featured Rudy on WHERE OR WHEN and there was a closing CRAZY RHYTHM for the whole band.  Of course I had my cassette recorder, but where these tapes are I cannot say.  Joe’s chorus, however, is fresh in my mind’s ear.  

We struck up a friendship with Mike Burgevin, who was thrilled to find college-age kids who were deeply immersed in the music he loved, and he told us that Joe and he would be leading a quartet for an outdoors concert in a park at the very southern end of Manhattan.  I remember that Stu and I brought a heavy reel-to-reel tape recorder, the better to capture Joe’s golden sound, and set it up in the shade, near a tree.  This provoked the only conversation I remember having with him.  Understandably, perhaps, the sight of young strangers with a big tape recorder made him nervous, and he kept on telling us that we shouldn’t do this, because “the union man” could come by.  Perhaps impatiently, we assured him that Local 802 representatuves didn’t seem to be hiding in the bushes, and that we would take the blame if anyone came around.  He could pretend that he had no knowledge of our criminalities.  It was a less memorable occasion: the quartet was filled out with someone of moderate abilities on a small electric keyboard, the bassist played an over-amplified Fender.  Joe fought his way upstream, but it was difficult.  In retrospect, I feel guilty: was he worrying about the union man all the time he was playing?  I hope not. 

He also got a chance to shine twice at the 1972 Newport in New York concerts, once at an affair devoted to Eddie Condon and his music.  It was a characteristically uneven evening.  The sound engineer at Carnegie Hall amplified the piano so that it sounded other-worldly, and Thomas (perhaps playing the role of a more modest Hot Lips Page) was brought on, along with J.C. Higginbotham, for a closing version of IMPROMPTU ENSEMBLE.  Of that occasion, I remember a stunning Bobby Hackett chorus and break, but Thomas didn’t get the space to do what we knew he could.  He also was a member of Benny Carter’s SWING MASTERS big band — its rhythm section featuring Teddy Wilson, Bernard Addison, Milt Hinton, and Jo Jones (!) and Thomas took a wonderful solo on a very fast rendition of SLEEP.

I don’t know what kept him out of the limelight after that, whether it was ill health or tiredness?  Was it that more showily assertive trumpeters (and there were plenty) got the gigs?  Whatever the reasons, he seems to have faded away. 

Ironically, Mike Burgevin had issued three vinyl recordings on his own Jezebel label that featured Herman Autrey, Jack Fine, Rudy Powell, and Doc Cheatham . . . which, in a way, led to Cheatham’s rediscovery and second or third period of intense (and well-deserved) fame.  Had circumstances been different, perhaps it would have been Joe Thomas playing alongside Nicholas Payton, and that is to take nothing away from Cheatham.

I had begun to write a post about Joe Thomas very shortly after beginning this blog, but shelved it because so little of his work is now available on CD.  But the impetus to celebrate him came in the past few days when the Beloved and I had the great good luck to hear Duke Heitger on a brief New York City tour.  I have admired Duke’s work for a number of years, and think of him as one of those players who honors the tradition — subtly yet passionately — without imitating anyone.  But on a few occasions this last week, Duke would get off a beautiful phrase that hung, shimmering in the air, for a second, and I would think, “Who does that remind me of?”  And the answer, when it came, startled me: the last time I had heard something quite so lovely was in listening to Joe Thomas in his prime.  Duke is too much his own man to have copied those Keynotes, but it’s an honor (at least in my estimation) to come close to some of Thomas’s quiet majesty. 

One other person who thought Joe Thomas was worthy of notice was the esteemed photographer William P. Gottlieb.  In this shot, taken at the Greenwich Village club “The Pied Piper,” sometime between 1946 and 1946, Thomas is third from the left, the only African-American.  To his left is Harry Lim:

Joe Thomas 1

Here he is playing alongside pianist Jimmy Jones, at the same club:

Joe Thomas 2

Ultimately, Thomas got a number of opportunities to record and to perform, so that a few people still remember him, but it’s sad that his work is so difficult to find.  He deserves so much more.


  1. A-MEN!!

    Joe’s solo on ‘How High the Fi,’ in one of the Buck Clayton’s Jam Sessions, is one of the most noble moments in jazz. Pure majesty, backed up by a great rhythm section and Trummy’s riffs. Nobody said so much with so few notes!

  2. Michael

    Thanks a lot for that wonderful portrait of the great and sadly underrecorded Joe Thomas!

    Regarding post-1946 sessions leaded by Joe Thomas, the Atlantic 1958 session promoted by Albert McCarthy that you mentioned, which produced the LP called “Mainstream”, has one side by Joe Thomas & his All Star Group: Joe Thomas, Johnny Letman (tp) Dickie Wells (tb) Buster Bailey (cl) Buddy Tate (ts) Herbie Nichols (p) Everett Barksdale (g) Bill Pemberton (b) Jimmy Crawford (d). The other side has a group leaded by Vic Dickenson, with Buck Clayton and Gene Ramey.

    Also, Bruyninckx lists two 78 rpm discs on a Seeco label (10-001 & 10-007) by Joe Thomas & Babe Matthews, with Lem Davis on alto sax, Ken Kersey on piano, Billy Taylor on bass and JC Heard on drums, recorded c.1953.

    Best regards,
    Agustín Pérez

  3. Chris Albertson


    Let me echo Augustín’s thanks for the Thomas piece. BTW, the man on Thomas’ right (in the first photo) is my old room mate, Timme Rosenkrantz. In the Sixties, Timme and Harry Lim worked together as sales clerks in the main Sam Goody store. Neither man belonged there and I used to wonder if jazz customers were aware of the expert help they were getting.

  4. I do not have the Keynotes but do have one 45 RPM Mercury EP-1-3101 Roy Eldridge and his Trumpet Ensemble which included Eldridge plus Thomas and Berry doing four extended play tunes………..I haven’t listened in years trying to keep this old 45 in good shape……..

  5. I have a 45 RPM from Mercury…EP-1-3101 Roy Eldridge and his Trumpet Ensemble which was Roy plus Thomas and Berry with Guarnieri, piano, Israle Crosby, bass and Cozy Cole, drums. No date but I would guess it to be mid-fifties. St Louis Blues, Don’t be That Way, I Want to be Happy and Fiesta in Brass. Looks like it was part of a series becausee the EP is called Vol 8 ??

  6. yeahyeahyeah, what he said!

    (which he? take your pick.)

  7. You don’t identify the others in the 1st photo, but Harry Lim is 4th from left, next to the would-be drummer (who resembles bassist Red Mitchell). The man on left about to tap cymbal looks a little like trumpeter/arranger Neal Hefti. Could it be?

  8. Well, anything is possible. One of the men in the photo is a Belgian, Yannick by name, whose identity I omitted — with apologies. The photo comes from the William P. Gottlieb collection at the Library of Congress, which has minimal and occasionally inaccurate identifications. What matters is how young and cheerful Thomas looks!

  9. Extended Play recordings like that hail from the middle Fifties, during the battle of the speeds and sizes between record companies, but the music itself is from 1944. And wonderful, too!

  10. You roomed with the Baron? I am sure that there’s a chapter in there somewhere, Chris. Are you writing an autobiography or might I ask you about Timme for a future posting?

  11. I had forgotten about MAINSTREAM, which is a serious error, as it’s the only post-78 session under Thomas’s name, even though he shares credit with Vic Dickenson (not a bad thing) for the other part of the lp. Incidentally, more titles were recorded by Vic’s band — among them the naughtily titled UNDER PLUNDER BLUES — but a fire in the Atlantic vaults, I am told, destroyed them. A pity! As far as the Seeco sides are concerned, I think that the dating is in error and that they come from 1946. I once heard them, courtesy of the late Bill Coverdale, who loved Joe’s playing as much as I did and very generously made tape copies available of his substantial JT collection.

  12. Chris Albertson

    I am writing an autobiography, but don’t let that hold you back if you wish to ask me questions about Timme.

  13. Dear Michael. Wonderful that you write about this great trumpeter who was also such a kind, gentle man. Sitting behind him nights, which was something special in itself, I could see a very deep scar on the back of his neck and I believe this was from the taxi cab accident he and Bud Freeman were in. I remember Herb Hall telling me this story and the fact that Joe was never quite the same after that shake-up. I think Herb was referring to things other than his playing. Jimmy Andrews loved his playing as I did. In that trio at Brew’s, when Joe was guest there for the week, it was very different! He could/would use one note and say a whole sentence. To hear him play/sing “Talk of The Town” or “People Will Say Were In Love”– well it was just marvelous! Like nothing else! He was a gift to us all.
    Patty and I went to see him at Newport in New York where the setting was a big band and if my memory serves me right Benny Carter was the leader and Maxine, vocalist. There was Joe up in the trumpet section and the back up “rolls” he put down behind her were so beautiful. Ed Beach broadcast that later during his show. Heading out to gigs with him he’d have some homemade chicken sandwiches– with mustard. Well, I’ll sign off here– Take care MS– mb

  14. One of the great pleasures of blogging is being able to share ones joys . . . and having old friends come in to join the discussion. Michael Burgevin, for those not in the know, is one of the finest jazz drummers I’ve ever heard — the sound of his four-bar hi-hat introduction and dramatic rimshot to bring in a performance is something I hear as I write these words. A witty, generous man in many ways (along with his gracious wife Patty!) — ways I haven’t forgotten. Hats off to you!

  15. Joe Muranyi

    Got the nice article on Joe Thomas from a friend. I played with Joe many times- adored his playing. I hired him for my gigs around NYC. Joe or Johnny Windhurst (George Wettling on the drums). He sometimes subbed for Roy Eldridge at Jimmy Ryans In that case I led and picked the tunes. Sober, Joe was up to anything. But after a few drinks he got reticent and didn’t seem to want to play; though he still was in pretty good playing shape. Never saw him get nasty or anything- he just didn’t seem to want to play. The phenomenon was very noticeable.
    I heard that story about an accident changing him. Since I didn’t know him before it I can’t say if there was something to it.
    He said a lot with very few glorious notes. He really trumpeted those strong and true ones. Could he edit himself! Perfection.
    I remember a gig for some big Wall Street type in a private suite of a Fifth Avenue hotel. It was an annual affair and since Omer Simeon had passed I inherited the gig. The others were Joe Thomas, Benny Morton (or was it Vic Dickenson?), Sonny White-pno, Al Hall-bass. and Manzie Johnnson-dms. Quite a band. We played some ballad and I did my best on my chorus. Joe followed me and blew about one twnty fifth the number of notes than I had. Gloriuos. I felt the fool; quite a lesson. Joe was so good- consumate! When he was on he was on.
    The Babe Matthews referred to in one of the comments was Joe’s wife. She sang. He talked a lot about her. I never heard her sing.
    I’m just delighted to hear that there are others who dug brother Joe! A talent like his will never be forgotten.
    Joe Muranyi

  16. Good to see your tribute to one of my favorite trumpet players, Joe Thomas.
    I have identified two more people in the picture from “The Pied Piper” with Joe Thomas and Harry Lim. Second from left is the Danish baron, jazz producer etc Timme Rosenkrantz, and the drummer is Frank Bode. The picture was published in Timme’s autobiography “Dus med Jazzen”. According to the author, it was taken at “Cafe Bohemia”, but his memory for details was not always accurate. Frank Bode (1923-1980), whose original name was Uffe Baadh, was born in Denmark and emigrated to USA in the summer of 1947. He played in a trio with Benny Goodman and Jimmy Rowles, with the Swedish clarinet player Stan Hasselgard and with the orchestras of Claude Thornhill and Harry James, among others. Later he played in studios and local gigs in Southern California.
    Bo Scherman
    Stockholm, Sweden

  17. Michael,

    I’ve just discovered your website as a result of seeing the post “Joe Thomas Remembered”.

    For many years now Joe has been my favourite trumpet player. I bought the record “Mainstream” second-hand from a little record and bookshop in Glasgow in the early 1960’s and have loved his playing ever since.

    I was lucky enough to acquire the Keynote box set issued by PolyGram in the 1980’s as this contains the best playing of Joe’s career. There are so many wonderful sides in this set featuring Joe that it is difficult to pick one over another. My personal favourite is the wonderful version of Ellington’s “Black Beauty” recorded in August 1946 with Tyree Glenn, Hilton Jefferson and Jerry Jerome with Bernie Leighton on piano Billy Taylor on bass and Lee Abrams on drums. A close second would be “Pocatello” (based on the chords of “Idaho”) from the same session. There are however many more wonderful moments in the Keynote set including the George Wettling’s New Yorkers session with Hawk and Jack Teagarden. He is also featured in Little Jazz (Roy Eldridge) Trumpet Ensemble with Roy and Emmett Berry in January 1944.

    I was lucky enough to visit New York in 1972 for the first Newport in New York festival. A group of us from London, mainly associated with Dobell’s Jazz Record Shop in London’s Charing Cross Road, stayed at the Edison Hotel and attended many concerts. One of these was the Benny Carter Swingmasters band at Carnegie Hall on the 2nd July 1972. The personnel is worth repeating:-

    Benny Carter ( leader and alto); Harry Edison, Joe Thomas, Jimmy Nottingham, Carl Warwick (tpts); Earl Warren, Howard Johnson (altos); Budd Johnson, Buddy Tate (ten); Haywood Henry (bar); Dickie Wells, Benny Morton, Tyree Glenn, Quentin Jackson (tmbs); Teddy Wilson (pno);
    Milton Hinton (sbs); Bernard Addison (gtr); Jo Jones (dms).

    We sat through both sets at the Carnegie Hall and it was one of the most wonderful evenings of jazz I have ever experienced. After I returned to London a friend of mine gave me a copy of a cassette of part of the concert which was apparently taped off Swedish Radio. The sound is not particularly good and Joe Thomas is not featured as a soloist on the tracks on the cassette. I do remember him in the actual concert on “Sleep”.

    When I was in New York I had the good fortune to meet Don Redman’s widow and also Joe’s wife Babe Mathews at Cecil’s Tavern near Jimmy Ryans at the top of West 57th Street,( if my memory serves me correctly). Babe was a lovely lady. She recorded with Joe on two sides on the HRS label on the15th February 1946 with Joe, Lem Davis (alto), Ted Nash (ten) Jimmy Jones (pno), Billy Taylor (sbs) and Denzil Best (dms). The sides were “No Better For Ya” and He’s Got So Much”

    Thank you again for evoking wonderful memories of a great trumpet player with a wonderful tone and an elegant simplicity of ideas.

  18. Dear Robin,

    You are someone after my own heart — BLACK BUTTERFLY was and is perfection (passion and control together) and I was at both shows of the Benny Carter Swing Masters. And (as we say) how about Joe on the Tatum Decca session? He was a great player who should be better known.

    Do you have the English RCA Vic Dickenson lp (produced by Albert McCarthy) that includes Joe? He sounds fine there . . .

    Happy to have you as a reader and thanks for sharing your memories! Michael

  19. Michael,

    Thank you for the welcome. Regret I don’t have the English RCA of Vic Dickenson with Joe.
    Apologies for my error. Of course it is “Black Butterfly” not Black Beauty!


  20. Apologies not necessary — it was a sbuliminal wish that Joe had played that Ellington song, too. But his melody statements on BLACk BUTTERFLY are imperishable singing utterances, aren’t they? And there’s SHE DIDN’T SAY YES and his work on the Little Jazz Trumpet Ensemble . . . and SHOULD I with Don Byas. Bless Harry Lim, though — he loved Joe and Sidney Catlett and as a result the Keynotes are touching monuments to the true Swing feel. Cheers, Michael

  21. Jack Rothstein

    I was an avid listener in NYC in the 50’s and early 60″s. Then, the only trumpet player around who could match Joe Thomas on a ballad was Bobby Hackett.
    Joe Thomas was also Frankie Newton’s favorite jazz trumpet player.

  22. Thank you so much for this wonderful article on my Great Uncle, Joe Thomas. I shared this article with my family, and we were so excited to find out the details of his recorded work. We had no idea where to start to obtain his music until you provided us with such valuable information. I cannot wait to start the search and put together a full compilation of tracks from our beloved Uncle Joe.
    Even though I was young when he passed, I still have fond memories of my Uncle Joe and Aunt Babe when they would come to St. Louis. My sister, brother and I would listen absorbedly to their electrifying tales of New York and all it had to offer.
    Thank you again from me and my family for sharing your memories.

  23. Joe Thomas was my great uncle, not only was he a great musician he was a great man!!

  24. Sorry for my French accent, even in typing English :_) , but I can’t resist adding a few lines to this wonderful tribute to one of my prefered trumpet men! Black Butterfly is one of my all times favorites, too, and I could not praize highly enough his work with Art Tatum, but I’d like to underline a session it seems nobody else mentioned:The Big Reunion,- Fletcher Henderson All Stars in Hi Fi, a 1957 (or 58) star-studded big band, pushed by the infectious rhythm of james Crawford drums,and directed by Rex Stewart, including such former Henderson Alumni like Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster, Buster Bailey, on trombone Higgy and Benny morton and Dicky Wells,also Hilton Jefferson, Al Casey…and a trumpet line of Rex, Emmett Berry, Taft Jordan and…Joe Thomas. In this hard swinging and greatly recorded session in Hi Fi, Joe Thomas blows some of the best solos in his immediately recognizable style and gorgeous tone.
    Thanks to all you bloggers, who had me listening again to all these gems!

  25. Oh, and I forgot to say that I think the Belgian guy mentioned by Jazzlives in the Library of Congress Pic with Joe Thomas, is likely to be Yannick Bruynoghe, a great Jazz and Blues fan who wrote many texts in magazines, and also co-wrote Big Bill Blues, Broonzy’ s autobiography as told by himself..

  26. Thanks so much for this article, Michael. A labor of love. — Joe Thomas, a very delicate trumpeter indeed; reminds me a lot of Buck Clayton.


  28. This is my Uncle joe he was married to my aunt babe Thomas such a wonderful and talented couple so many storys of their music careers all I can say is wow to them both

  29. Pingback: “POCATELLO,” or SWING LYRICISM, 1946 | JAZZ LIVES

  30. Pingback: “POCATELLO,” or SWING LYRICISM, 1946 | TiaMart Blog

  31. Hello ! Is this horn player Joseph Eli Thomas, the sitter of that trumpet player Joe with his wife May, taken by the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson in 1935 in New York?

  32. Hello ! Is this horn player Joseph Eli Thomas, the sitter of that picture featuring thetrumpet player Joe with his wife May, taken by the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson in 1935 in New York?

  33. I’m not sure what photograph you are referring to. Joe’s wife was the singer Babe Matthews. Do you have a Cartier-Bresson photo of Joe?

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