Willie Thomas (trumpeter)

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Willie Thomas
Born (1931-02-13) February 13, 1931 (age 87)
Occupation(s)musician, jazz educator
InstrumentsTrumpet (Besson tilt-bell)
Years active1945-present
LabelsMark, Vee-Jay, Atlantic
Associated actsMJT+3, Slide Hampton, Peggy Lee, Frank Strozier, Woody Herman, Al Belletto

Willie Thomas (born February 13, 1931) is an American jazz trumpeter, author and educator.[1]


Willie Thomas was raised in Orlando, Florida and started playing the trumpet around the age of 10.

In the 1950s, Willie was a member of the Third Army Band, where he met and played with pianist Wynton Kelly, which became his first real break into the New York jazz scene.[2]

In his 45 years as a jazz trumpeter, Thomas has performed or recorded with many jazz greats including the MJT+3 with Frank Strozier and Bob Cranshaw, the Slide Hampton Octet with Freddie Hubbard and George Coleman, the Woody Herman Orchestra, the Al Belletto Sextet, and singer Peggy Lee.[3][4][5][6]

Thomas created the series of jazz educational books Jazz Anyone...?. He has also an active member of the International Association for Jazz Education and was inducted into the International Association of Jazz Educators' Jazz Education Hall of Fame in 1994.[7]

Today, Thomas still plays the trumpet for an hour per day, and teaches lessons via Skype.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Willie married American jazz singer Jerri Winters.[2] Willie now lives on Orcas Island, Washington.

Selected discography[edit]

As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Woody Herman and Tito Puente

  • Herman's Heat & Puente's Beat (1958, Everest)

With Slide Hampton

  • Sister Salvation / Somethin' Sanctified / Live at Birdland (1960, 1961, Atlantic Records/Fresh Sound)
  • Two Sides of Slide (1961, Charlie Parker Records) (as William Thomas)
  • Jazz with a Twist (1962, Atlantic Records)

With MJT+3

With Peggy Lee

With Bill Henderson

With Bill Barron


The Jazz Anyone.....? series, published by Alfred Music:

  • Jazz Anyone.....?, Bk 1: Play and Learn (B Flat Tenor Sax Edition)
  • Jazz Anyone.....?, Bk 1: Play and Learn (E-Flat Instruments) (Book & 2 CDs)
  • Jazz Anyone.....?, Bk 1: Play and Learn (Teacher Edition) (Book & 3 CDs)
  • Jazz Anyone.....?, Vol 1: Play and Learn Jazz Combo Collection (Easy)
  • Jazz Anyone.....?, Bk 2: Play and Learn Blues and More (Bass Edition) (Book & 2 CDs)
  • Jazz Anyone.....?, Bk 2: Play and Learn Blues and More (Teacher Edition) (Book & 2 CDs)
  • Jazz Anyone.....?, Bk 3: Making Music -- A Simple Language System for Jazz (Teacher Edition) (Book & 2 CDs)
  • Jazz Anyone.....?, Bk 3: Making Music -- A Simple Language System for Jazz (E-Flat Instruments) (Book & 2 CDs)
  • Jazz Anyone.....? Rhythm Manual
  • Funtime Blues Pack (Student's Book) (A Jazz Curriculum for K-6)


  1. ^ Kiley, Jennifer (13 March 1996). "Jazz Great Can't Be beat". The Hour, pp. 1–2.
  2. ^ a b Willie Thomas (interview) Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man - Part 2. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  3. ^ a b Bagby, Cali "Thomas plays his mentors’ music", The Islands' Sounder, Washington, 23 August 2012. Retrieved on 12 March 2015.
  4. ^ "Willie Thomas on ear training", I Was Doing All Right, 15 January 2012. Retrieved on 11 August 2015.
  5. ^ "Willie Works" (about Willie Thomas). Retrieved on 11 August 2015.
  6. ^ Suhor, Charles (2001) Jazz in New Orleans: The Postwar Years Through 1970. p. 231. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0810839076.
  7. ^ Jazz Player (1993–94), Vol. 1, p. 80. Quote: "Willie Thomas Inducted into Jazz Hall of Fame. World-renown Boosey & Hawkes jazz clinician has been inducted into the IAJE Jazz Hall of Fame. The honor of this timely appointment underscores the importance of jazz in this country"
  8. ^ "Bunky Green Discography"
  9. ^ Billboard (22 August 1960). "Reviews of This Week's LPs", p. 27.
  10. ^ High Fidelity (1963). "Review: West Side Story Bossa Nova" Vol. 13, Part 1. p. 72.