Andre Thomas has appeared at major music festivals, concerts and club venues for almost three decades. He's played sideman for a host of musicians such as Big Joe Turner, Jimmy Witherspoon, Don Ellis, Art Pepper, Clark Terry, Herb Ellis and more. During the late 1990's, he hosted the jam session at Tula's where living legends such as Wynton Marsalis, Joey DeFrancesco, Freddy Cole and Herlin Riley would sit in. Hear Andre Thomas and his group in this all-favorable circumstance, with an involved audience, a reputation, and a license to burn.
"I prefer jazz because the music is so expressive," says Thomas. "The musicians feed off each other's energy, so it's impossible to play the same way each time. I try to communicate. That's what drums were for originally. They're the oldest instrument—the heartbeat of the music. You can tell the origin of the music in the drums. Knowing different styles helps to create your own style. As a drummer, you need to know where you are and who you are when you approach a gig."
What does it take to be a military musician? "Versatility is the first requirement," says Thomas, who came from Japan to Seattle in 1987 with the Navy Band. "We played a lot of ceremonial music for formal military occasions and dance music for events like Seafair. We also did special performances for schools, featuring everything from Mancini to rock 'n' roll. For years I played 8:30 a.m. high school assemblies!"
Schooled in his native town Baltimore and studying music in San Diego, Thomas also completed six months at the Armed Forces School of Music, a requirement for all service musicians. But Thomas' real love is jazz, even though he grew up on '60s soul music. "My father was a jazz drummer and my biggest influence.
Thomas has found plenty of opportunities to play locally, beginning at Lofurno's where he met his "musical father," Buddy Catlett. After 20 years serving in several ports, Thomas appreciates Seattle's jazz scene