|Born||November 14, 1932
Newark, New Jersey
|Died||October 20, 2013|
|Years active||1960 - 1999|
|Associated acts||Junior Mance, The Montgomery Brothers, Dorothy Ashby, The Billy Taylor Trio, A Chorus Line|
Bobby Thomas (Robert C. Thomas) (November 14, 1932 – October 20, 2013) was a jazz drummer. A member of Junior Mance's trio in 1960, Thomas recorded with The Montgomery Brothers in New York in January 1960.
Early Life and Musical Beginnings
Born in Newark, New Jersey, to West Indian parents emigrated from the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, Bobby began his music studies at age 12. He studied drums with Al Germansky. He continued his training through high school at Central High. He performed with the Nat Phipps Band during his teenage years and young adulthood. He served in the United States Army from 1953 to 1955 where he played in the Army Band.
After his military service, he attended the Juilliard School of Music and graduated with Bachelor of Science degree. While at Juilliard Bob worked and recorded with many fine Jazz musicians: Wes Montgomery, Gigi Gryce, Junior Mance, Illinois Jacquet, Roland Hanna, Hubert Laws, Don Ellis, Wayne Shorter, Richard Williams, Richard Davis.
On August 29, 1966 he recorded on some unreleased Atlantic Records tracks with the Dorothy Ashby Octet, featuring Clark Terry (tp, flh) Hubert Laws (fl) John Patton (org) Richard Davis (b) Ray Barretto, Randall Hicks (Latin per) and on the following day, a further series of tracks, also unreleased, by the Dorothy Ashby Nonet, with the same personnel, minus Laws and with Richard Williams (tp, flh) and Clifford Jordan (ts, fl) instead.
In his years studying at The Juilliard School he often played drums for dance classes and befriended choreographer Michael Bennett with whom he later worked as musical coordinator (credited as Robert Thomas) developing the critically acclaimed and Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway show A Chorus Line. His other Broadway musical credits include “Henry, Sweet Henry”, “ Promises, Promises”, “Coco”, “Company”, “Don’t Play Us Cheap”.
Bob performed with Jerome Robbins’ Ballet U.S.A., Carmen McRae, Herbie Mann, Cy Coleman, Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Ray Charles, Jimmy Heath, Gloria Lynn, Charles Aznavour, Frank Wess, Dionne Warwick, Joe Williams, Lionel Hampton, Jerry Mulligan, Paul Desmond, Oliver Jones and The Billy Taylor Trio. As a member of the Billy Taylor Trio Bob performed two command performances at the White House for both Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and toured Europe, Russia, the United States and the Caribbean.
Wayne Shorter, Hubert Laws, Junior Mance, Dave Pike, Attila Zoller have recorded Bobby’s compositions and The David Frost T.V. Show Band led by Billy Taylor. Bob was the Musical Coordinator as well as the composer of the theme for WNET’s “Tony Brown’s Journal”.
Bobby was co-chair with Max Roach as percussion instructor at the Jazz in July Workshop in Jazz Improvisation at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He has conducted master classes at many universities and performing arts centers both in the U.S. and abroad. He was associate professor in the Jazz Faculty at Rutgers University ‘s Mason Gross School of the Arts from 1993 through 1996.
Bobby was drum teacher to his friend and former Juilliard roommate Frank Perowsky's son, Jazz and rock drummer Ben Perowsky for many years. He also gave lessons to drummer/percussionist Alphonse Mouzon.
From 1999 to 2010 Bobby and his wife Nicole lived in Montréal, Québec, where Bobby devoted his time to composing, mentoring young musicians and vocalists. The couple relocated back to Harlem in New York City in 2011. They have two children, television producer Lorna Thomas and Marc Thomas.
Note: The drummer Bobby Thomas is not to be confused with Robert Thomas, Jr., the percussionist and hand drummer of the same name who played with Weather Report, though coincidentally Bobby has been a lifelong friend of Weather Report founder Wayne Shorter, whom he met during their teenage years performing in New Jersey. Wayne recorded Bobby's original piece "Depois Do Amor, O Vazio (After Love, Emptiness)" on his album Odyssey of Iska.
- 1960: The Soulful Piano of Junior Mance - Junior Mance Trio, with Ben Tucker (b) Bobby Thomas (d)
- 1960: Reminiscin' - Gigi Gryce
- 1961: My Funny Valentine - Paul Desmond (as) Phil Bodner, Romeo Penque (woodwinds) Gloria Agostini (harp) Jim Hall (g) Milt Hinton (b) Bobby Thomas (d) Bob Prince (cond) unidentified strings
- 1961: Groove Yard - The Montgomery Brothers (Riverside)
- 1964: Many Faces of Art Farmer - Art Farmer (flh) Charles McFarson (as) Tommy Flanagan (p) Ron Carter (b) Steve Swallow (b) Bobby Thomas (d)
- 1964: Our Mann Flute - Herbie Mann Octet - Dave Pike (vib) Don Friedman (p) Attila Zoller (g) Jack Six (b) Bobby Thomas (d) Carlos "Patato" Valdes (cga) Willie Bobo (tim) Bobby Thomas (Atlantic)
- 1964: The Laws of Jazz - Hubert Laws Quartet - Chick Corea (p) Richard Davis (b) Bobby Thomas (d) (Atlantic)
- 1964: Manhattan Latin - Dave Pike Nonet - with Dave Burns (tp) Ray Copeland (flh) Hubert Laws (picc, sax) Chick Corea (p) Israel López (b) Willie "Bobo" Correa (d) Carlos "Patato" Valdes (cga) Bobby Thomas
- 1965: Flute By-Laws - Hubert Laws Orchestra
- 1966: The Tender Storm - Eddie Harris Quartet, with Cedar Walton (p) Ron Carter (b) Bobby Thomas (d)
- 1968: Manhattan Serenade - Earl Coleman - with Jerome Richardson (fl) Billy Taylor (p) Frank Foster (ts) Tom McIntosh Eddie Williams (ts) Gene Bertoncini (g) Reggie Workman (b) Bobby Thomas (d)
- 1989: "The Jazzmobile Allstars" - Billy Taylor, with Frank Wess (f, ss, ts), Jimmy Owens (t, fh), Ted Dunbar (g), Bobby Thomas (d)
- 1991: "White Nights" Billy Taylor Trio - with Victor Gaskin (b) Bobby Thomas (d)
- Feather, Leonard & Gitler, Ira The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz Oxford University Press US, 2007 ISBN 0-19-532000-X, 9780195320008 at Google Books
- Jazz Discography
- Atlantic Records discography
- The Broadway League. "A Chorus Line | IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information". IBDB. Retrieved 2014-01-20.
- "Perowsky, Ben – Jazz.com | Jazz Music – Jazz Artists – Jazz News". Jazz.com. 1966-05-12. Retrieved 2014-01-20.
- All About Jazz. "Alphonse Mouzon @ All About Jazz". Musicians.allaboutjazz.com. Retrieved 2014-01-20.
- Footprints: The Life and Work of Wayne Shorter - Michelle Mercer - Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2014-01-20.
- Riverside Records Discography
- Wes Montgomery discography