Drummer, Composer, Author
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
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,
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.