Jazz Journalist, Curator, and Producer
I caught the jazz bug as a teen and simply have never recovered.
Ironically, the fever started with fusion or R&B/Jazz--Grover
Jr., Earl Klugh,
Chuck Mangione, Earth, Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder, Ronnie Laws.
These were the main artists I
listened to at the age of 15 while helping my dad paint houses in
Waycross, GA. Hearing my high school stage band back in 1978
inspired me to take up the alto sax.
My mom's eclectic collection was another source of early grounding:
Roberta Flack and
Donny Hathaway, Chicago, Wes Montgomery, Blood, Sweat and
Tears, Stanley Turrentine, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, et
The late great tri-state FM radio station, WRVR, was central to my
learning too, as they would play all from straight-ahead swing, bebop,
and hard bop to the fusion of the 70s. WRVR helped me make crucial
connections between eras and styles, and gave me a familiarity with
the giants of the jazz idiom. The long tributes on WKCR gave me a
sense of an artist's oeuvre, and WBGO became part of the soundtrack
of my life too.
A few years later, as an undergraduate, I had the distinct honor of
playing first alto sax chair in the Hamilton College big band when the
uniquely masterful stylist Clark Terry came to play a concert on April
1984. Terry and I shared a melody line, blew my mind, transforming my
conception of sound and music, and of feeling in form, forever.
a jazz radio show in college fueled the flames further; regular pieces
the now-defunct City Sun newspaper based in Brooklyn in the
early '90s paved the transition from fan to writer and critic.
My byline has appeared in Salon (“Invisible Man at 50,”
2002), London's Guardian Observer, the Village Voice
Black Studies War,” 1995, and “Pataki’s Man in Harlem,” 2003),
Africana, American Legacy (“Ralph Ellison’s Journey
Genius,” 2004), Integral Life, The City Sun, and in the literary
Callaloo (“The Canonization of Jazz and Afro-American
Literature,” 2002). I was founding Editor-in-Chief of Harlem
World magazine (2003-2006). The online magazine The
Root has published my analysis of the cultural politics of the
Lincoln Center Orchestra's 2010 residency in Cuba, as well as
interviews with Sonny Rollins, Roy Haynes, Wynton Marsalis,
Audra McDonald, and tributes to Dr. Billy Taylor, Joe Wilder, Jimmy
and Horace Silver.
I penned Playbill copy for the opening of Jazz at Lincoln
Center's facilities at the Time Warner Complex in 2004. Over several
seasons since, JALC has hired me to compose concert program notes. In
2011, I began writing for the New York Daily News, and became the
official jazz columnist from March 2012 to April 2013.
I was a producer and consultant for the National Jazz Museum in
Harlem for 8 years, and co-produced more than 100 events for
the institution. I've also led workshops at the Museum on the work of
Jon Hendricks, Dr. Billy Taylor and Albert Murray (August 2008).
My experience as a broadcaster includes three years with the WBAI
radio show Keep Swingin’, and the online video program
Jazz it Up!. I also recently hosted a weekly show, JazzPlus with
Thomas, on WVOX 1460 AM (Westchester, NY) on Sundays.
While doing graduate work in American Studies at NYU, I became a
member of the Jazz Study Group at Columbia University, where from
1997 to 2006 I joined scholars from across the country who gathered
for sessions attempting to extend and refine the academic discourse
on jazz. I've also taught courses on jazz appreciation at the Brooklyn
Academy of Music, the Thurgood Marshall Academy and the Frederick
Douglass Academy in Harlem.
My essay, “Greg Thomas and the Professor,” appeared in Albert
Murray and the Aesthetic Imagination of a Nation (University of
Alabama Press, 2010) and elaborates my personal relationship with
Murray and touches upon the profound effect of “Cosmos Murray” on
the course of my intellectual development.
In March 2011 I launched a periodic column here at All About Jazz
under the banner Race and Jazz. The intent was to shed light on the
way that race has bedeviled the jazz discourse (and the actual lives
of jazz musicians), while pointing the way to culture as a much better
basis of understanding the dynamics of jazz as an American and global
I'm also a jazz concert producer via G&J Productions. At Ginny's
Supper Club in Harlem, my partner Jewel Kinch-Thomas and I presented
four signature series: Jazz Masters, JazzPlus, Jazz Serenade, and
Cuttin' Up! (based on the cuttin' contest tradition.) We've also
produced regular jazz series at venues in Westchester and Harlem.
Jazz, a way of life and thought as well as a musical genre, is beloved
across the globe. I'm proud to share its wonder, beauty and power in
as many ways as I can.