Small town saxman enamored by the Beat of the City
Michael J Thomas will release his debut soul-jazz album, City Beat, March 2nd; lilting title track is the first radio single
Growing up in Cecilia, Kentucky, a small town outside of Elizabethtown, Michael J Thomas was surrounded by country music, which easily could have become his muse. Instead his parents reared him on a steady diet of Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire and Prince. Thus the saxophonist-songwriter learned how to write potent pop hooks set amidst funky and soulful R&B grooves. Thomas wrote or co-wrote all but one song for City Beat, his debut album, which will be released March 2nd on Harbor Breeze Records. Shannon Wallace produced the record with Thomas. Celebrating the vibrant energy and excitement of the city, the title track will preface the album release at radio, which was serviced the single in pursuit of advance airplay.
City Beat is an instrumental R&B-pop collection that chronicles Thomas’ joyful discovery, eager exploration and adventurous wanderings in sprawling metropolises such as New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Bangkok, Thailand. Sophisticatedly cool and cosmopolitan, “Midtown Manhattan” opens the album on which Thomas wields a tenor, alto and soprano sax. A gorgeous melody laid over the pitter-patter of a gentle brushed drum beat, “Wedding Song (Forever Always)” poignantly pledges eternal love. Thomas is backed on the record by a taut rhythm section comprised of bassist Eric Lampley and drummer Jonathan Davis who laid down the funk on “30-A Degrees.” A huge Michael Jackson fan, Thomas decided to cover the gloved one’s most famous song, “Billie Jean” a year ago. Aside from adding a haunting ambient intro, the track is faithful to the original version. Thomas’ lustful soprano sax seduces on the sensual “Pretty Skin.” On “Mind Your Step,” Wallace’s electric guitar riffs combine with the rhythm section to create a deep-pocketed groove that is ignited further by the gritty urban sound of turntable pyrotechnics. Thomas indulges his newfound love for wine on “Amante Del Vino.” Keyboardist Diki Ross helps welcome Thomas “Back Home,” a warm and cozy ballad. Closing with “Cali Trippin’,” Wallace’s wailing electric guitar and Paul Scurto’s classy trumpet solos spark the journey piloted by Thomas’ tenor.
“After growing up in a small town in Kentucky, I’ve fallen in love with visiting some of the world’s largest cities, which is what inspired City Beat. My hope is that the music will travel the world-over enabling me to travel the world performing my songs,” said Thomas. “As an artist, I think what makes me unique is my songwriting. Although the sax is the lead instrument on the tracks, it’s more about the songs and melodies as opposed to prolonged solos. Shannon (Wallace) and I kept the production organic in the studio, which resulted in a true live sound.”
Initially Thomas studied piano at the age of seven and didn’t pick up the saxophone until seventh grade. Early in high school, he suffered a setback when rejected by the high school band because his play wasn’t proficiently enough. Undeterred, Thomas committed himself to mastering the instrument. By his senior year, he redeemed himself by winning talent shows, performing in the All-State Jazz Band, and was honored with a John Philip Sousa Award. He earned a music scholarship to the University of Kentucky, but left school early to pursue a career as a performer. Thomas was 19 when he joined the Jive Rockets, which opened for the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Big Bad Voo Doo Daddy and Bill Haley’s Original Comets. After moving to Destin, Florida in 1999, Thomas began cultivating a following by performing at local venues, private shows, festivals and concerts. He shared the stage at the Sea Breeze Jazz Festival with luminaries including Dave Koz, Richard Elliot, Boney James, Brian Culbertson, Kirk Whalum, Peter White, Rick Braun, Joyce Cooling, Steve Cole, Euge Groove, Mindi Abair, and Nick Colionne. In 2006, Thomas was named Best of the Emerald Coast in the “Best Musician/Vocalist/Band” category. He commenced composing the material that comprises City Beat in 2008. Additional information is available at www.michaeljthomas.net.
Thomas’ City Beat contains the following songs:
“Midtown Manhattan” “Pretty Skin”
“City Beat” “Mind Your Step”
“Wedding Song (Forever Always)” “Amante Del Vino”
“30-A Degrees” “Back Home”
“Billie Jean” “Cali Trippin’”
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