Big Charlie Thomas was one of many cornetists who recorded as sideman and accompanist during the 1920s, and have since drifted to the margins of jazz history. Like Ed Allen, he worked in groups that often had something or other to do with pianist and music publisher Clarence Williams. If Thomas' brief recording career is mapped out in discographical relief, the details are sketchy but fascinating. During the years 1925-1926 he is believed to have recorded with vocalists Rosa Henderson, Bessie Brown, Sara Martin, Mandy Lee, and Clarence Williams' wife Eva Taylor. In addition to various backing units, he blew his horn with the Dixie Washboard Band, the OKeh Melody Stars, Thomas Morris & His Seven Hot Babies, Buddy Christian's Jazz Rippers, and of course Clarence Williams' Blue Five. His involvement with this last ensemble places Thomas in the same circle as Morris, Sidney Bechet, and Louis Armstrong. So elusive are the recordings of Big Charlie Thomas that were it not for an album of rarities assembled and released during the '90s by the Timeless label, it would be difficult to access his legacy at all. What he did manage to accomplish places him in league with Louis Metcalf, Johnny Dunn, Gus Aiken, Ernest Coycault, Hunch Vines, George Mitchell, Oliver Cobb, and dozens of other worthy cornetists who made their mark on the musical landscape of the '20s.
Share this page