b. 23 June 1950, St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Principally active from the late 60s, alto saxophonist Thomas played with other like minded free spirits of jazz associated with the Black Artists Group in St. Louis and the Art Ensemble Of Chicago. He was an integral part of the Human Arts Ensemble, playing avant garde music that attracted considerable underground attention but largely failed to win over major label executives. In common with many of his associated players, Thomas was obliged to find independent label interest. His major work of the period, the three-track, two-volume epic released as Funky Donkey, was recorded in a Saint Louis, Missouri church in 1973 but was not released for four years and then, apart from a fleeting reissue in the early 80s, vanished until 2001. It was then re-released on CD by another independent, Atavistic Records of Chicago. This time, previously unissued material was added, bringing to light the full extent of the power and drama of this overlooked and frequently misunderstood music. The album exhilaratingly displays Thomas’ powerful blend of raw funk, avant garde and free jazz and features trombonist Joseph Bowie, trumpeter Lester Bowie and multi-saxophonist J.D. Parran. Thomas made few recordings in later years, and when he returned to the studios in the 90s his performances appeared to be somewhat mired in musical concepts that had drifted too far from their original dynamism. It is unfortunate that a musician of Thomas’ calibre should have remained for so long in relative obscurity.
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