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Greg Thomas

Jazz Journalist, Curator, and Producer

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About Me

I caught the jazz bug as a teen and simply have never recovered.

Ironically, the fever started with fusion or R&B/Jazz--Grover Washington 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 al.

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 17, 1984. Terry and I shared a melody line, blew my mind, transforming my conception of sound and music, and of feeling in form, forever. Hosting a jazz radio show in college fueled the flames further; regular pieces in 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 (“The Black Studies War,” 1995, and “Pataki’s Man in Harlem,” 2003), Africana, American Legacy (“Ralph Ellison’s Journey to Genius,” 2004), Integral Life, The City Sun, and in the literary journal 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 Jazz at 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 Scott 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 Greg 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 music.

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.

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