Kenne Thomas

Drummer, Composer, Author

About Me

Drummer, composer, and author, Kenne Thomas is the son of Chicago saxophonist, Jimmy “Bouncy” Whitehead. Influenced by family friends, Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt he began his musical career in his hometown of Chicago performing with notable musicians, Jodie Christian, Ari Brown, Adam Rudolph the Charles Walton Big Band, and the progressive jazz group, LIFEFORCE. In the early 70’s Kenne moved to Minnesota where he performed with pianist, Jimmy Bowman Trio. Attending Moorhead State University, he played around the region with the R & B horn band, AIRTIGHT. After graduating with a degree in Music Education, he joined the Jerry Lakes Memories of Elvis Supershow which toured throughout the US and in Europe. Kenne went to Japan, in 1979 to perform, with the Pullman-West Band, out of Detroit. In the early 80’s he toured with King Records artist, jazz organist, Toshihiko Kankawa, featuring guitarist, Kiyoshi Sugimoto, renown Tokyo bassist, Yoshio Ikeda group and Japanese rock band, MAYA. Kenne later joined the house band at the Jazz Club, DIARY, in Osaka, where he worked with pianist, Hideyuki Naruse and bassist Kazuo Setoyama. They collectively formed The Osaka Trio and became the nucleus of the jazz fusion group, AIRTIGHT, renewing the name from the 70’s band. Kenne recorded the song, White Christmas, for the TEICHIKU label, in the mid 80’s and later recorded his own original song, Graduation Day [Sotsugyo no Hi], released on 45 RPM, in Japan. The trio of Naruse, Setoyama and Thomas performed regularly on radio and SUN Television shows. They recorded several jazz tracks released, on an EP. Further expansion of Kenne’s musical career after returning to the US includes playing with the Fargo Moorhead Symphony, St. Paul Civic Symphony, Roseville Big Band, River City Jazz Orchestra and LeValle Jazz Cats. Kenne has authored numerous percussive education books and articles, including Drum Circle Cookbook, Hand Drumming Independence, Jembe Gems, and Dumbek Dance, and The Clave, for P.A.S. Magazine. In recent years Kenne has recorded three albums with guitarist, Pat Surface. His current projects are recording and performing his compositions with his jazz trio and his progressive jazz group, LIFEFORCE.

My Jazz Story

Published on: 2017-08-27

I was first exposed to jazz through my parents and their friends. My father, James S. Whitehead played alto saxophone in Chicago in the late 1940s and early 50s. His record collection exposed me to the great sounds of Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt and others. I carry on that hard edge, but progressive sound in jazz with my playing, in my own group and recordings.