Michael Thomas Quintet

Michael Thomas Quintet

Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1997 | INDIE | AFM

Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | INDIE | AFM
Established on Jan, 1997
Band Jazz Acoustic




"Michael Thomas Quintet Trills at Strathmore"

Michael Thomas Quintet thrills at Strathmore
By Michael J. West, Published: March 9

If the complex music theory and technique threaten to leach all the feeling and fun from jazz, D.C. area trumpeter Michael Thomas seems determined to bring it back. Thomas’s quintet — intact after 14 years — plays classic hard bop, but avoids cerebral labyrinths, relying on riffy melodies and playful but impassioned performances to hit the listener in the gut. That approach filled the Mansion at Strathmore’s music room Thursday night with a crowd that thrilled to the quintet’s every vibrant note.
Part of their excitement sprung from the lively dance in the music. Tunes like “Right up in There” and “Major’s Minor” weren’t necessarily nightclub fare, but they were packed with undeniable soul and groove. In particular, “Major’s Minor” — a call-and-response tune for Thomas and tenor saxophonist Zach Graddy — offered a relentless, irresistible sense of swing from pianist Darius Scott, bassist Kent Miller and drummer Frank Walker IV. “Right up in There,” a Thomas original, was exciting in its rhythms but perhaps more so in its velocity.
The quintet’s front line was a study in contrasts. Thomas, when he put the horn to his lips, was a portrait of shut-eyed, brooding intelligence. His solo on “Stanley and Freddie” — a midtempo elegy to two classic horn players, based on “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise” — gained momentum as it went but never lost the meditative mood in which it began. Graddy, on the other hand, played straight from the gut. His saxophone howled, shrieked and erupted (a visceral trill on the low register recurred often) on “Carolyn” and the closing “It Is What It Is,” accentuated by the undulating shoulders he threw into his performance.
There was one point, however, when the concert lost some of that momentum. Graddy left the stage during a performance of R&B singer Big Maybelle’s “Candy.” The long duet intro between Thomas and Miller, bookended by a run-on Thomas coda, begged for a return to the band’s concise, in-the-pocket grooves. Fortunately, the band was only too happy to oblige.

© The Washington Post Company - Michael J. West / Washington Post

"Live at Twins Jazz, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (review)"

Hard bop lives. You’ll find disciples in geographically diverse pockets across the United States and around the world, including metropolitan Washington, D.C., which trumpeter Michael Thomas and his long-standing band call home. Thomas released these two separate CDs simultaneously, not as a two-CD package. Together, they capture his band in full force on two consecutive nights at Twins Jazz, a club in the nation’s capital. Volume 2 includes a special guest, tenor saxophonist Andrew White. There is only one duplicate tune on the two discs, dramatically different version of Thomas’s heated “Mike’s Blues.” Volume 1 also features two staples from his repertoire: his original “Blues #9” and his take on the pop tune ”Candy,” which Lee Morgan transformed into a classic bebop cover, as well as Thomas’s poignant version of Benny Golson’s classic “I Remember Clifford.” Volume Two’s highlights include a toe-to-toe tenor battle between White and Zach Graddy on “Mike’s Blues” and White’s solo on Thomas’s “The Little Individual.” Live is the way to go when you want to absorb hard bop energy. A live recording is just right for a band that burns, and swings mightily, in the solid Jazz Messengers tradition. - Ken Franckling Jazz Notes

"It Is What It Is (review)"

Michael Thomas
It Is What It Is

DC-based, Vegas-raised trumpeter Michael Thomas skillfully pilots this rough & ready crew: tenor man Zach Graddy, pianist Darius Scott, bassist Kent Miller, drummer Frank Williams, and three cameos from the wise one, Buck Hill on tenor. The mood here is decidedly hard bop and this bunch takes no prisoners. They sample the Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, and Benny Golson bags in addition to some Thomas originals and two sweet takes on "Candy." Thomas' progression as a trumpeter is quite palpable from his debut disk and one of the most positive factors is that these guys really sound as though they're having fun, which is no minor consideration, especially when the sun shines so brightly as it does through these grooves.

Info factor: Michael Thomas too has the good sense to establish his own label imprimatur; don't forget, in the distribution game catalogue counts big time! Informative liner notes from sage Askia Muhammad illuminate these goings on, including some bio info on our leader. Tracks are listed on disk, in the booklet, and on back cover - as is personnel inside and back. Thomas includes plenty of crediting info and complete contact info in booklet and on back cover.
jazheadbookings@aol.com - Open Sky Jazz / Willard Jenkins

"That's What They Heard! (Live review)"

Summertime 09 in DC has been unseasonably pleasant, a welcome respite from the usual hot & sticky clime in this risen-from-a-swamp city. An exceedingly pleasant evening beckoned us to Twins Jazz (1344 U Street; for once a jazz club upstairs!) to celebrate the release of trumpeter Michael Thomas new (separate) discs Live at Twins Jazz - VOl. 1 and Vol. II (Jazhead - that's one z ....). Thomas is an unabashed hard bop school trumpet player straight out of the Lee Morgan/Freddie Hubbard mode who favors a briskly-blowing, Messengers-intense sound rich in the bedrock blues. Twins Jazz is one of those long, narrow rooms with a bar in the back, food & drink table service, and red walls festooned with jazz and other photographic subjects. Twin sisters Kelly and Maize Tesfaye, members of DC s thriving Ethiopian populace (reputedly second only to Addis in size), have persevered for years to build a solid jazz policy that provides a welcome stage to many of DC s finest and other vet and emerging players from around the region. Michael Thomas Quintet boasts such ruffians as house-rockin tenor man Zach Graddy, steady rollin Kent Miller on bass, articulate swinger Darius Scott on piano, and the energizer Frank Williams IV on the tubs. As if those five weren t capable of enough fluid drive to drive Twins Jazz off its moorings, Thomas invited an additional heat source onto new disc Vol. II and into the house for this weekend noted Coltrane scholar, and DC s wildly accomplished music raconteur Andrew White on tenor. We exited the joint thoroughly wrung-out. - Independent Ear (Willard Jenkins)

"MICHAEL THOMAS QUINTET "The Awakening" Jazhead"

"This is the kind of bliss you hear in the middle of the 'second set' in an evening," writes Andrew White in his liner notes to "The Awakening." The renowned saxophonist and educator is referring to the hushed silence conjured by trumpeter Michael Thomas's quintet on "Tender-Lee," a performance that quietly evokes the late trumpeter Lee Morgan's expressive way with a ballad. White thinks the music created by Thomas's band should delight any fan of '50s and pre-fusion '60s jazz, a view easily shared. After all, the group spends a lot of time here celebrating its influences, directly or indirectly, with verve and soul. Three crisply executed interpretations rank among highlights: Wayne Shorter's "Hammer Head," which vibrantly recalls the reedman's tenure with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers; Hank Crawford's "Sherri," the kind of brassy jazz strut that always sounds timeless; and Morgan's "Search for a New Land," a spiritual and fitfully spirited ode that capitalizes on the dramatic tension created by Thomas and his band mates: tenor saxophonist Zach Graddy, pianist Darius Scott, bassist Kent Miller and drummer Frank Williams IV. Among the remaining pieces, all composed by Thomas, are "Stanley & Freddie," a now leisurely, now lively homage to Messrs. Turrentine and Hubbard that radiates the intimacy and spontaneity of a live performance; "Blues #9, a chugging, late-night excursion featuring guest baritone saxophonist Whit Williams; and the album's harmonically angular and rhythmically churning title track. New ground isn't broken here, but several small gems are uncovered just the same.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Friday and Saturday at Twins Jazz. • To hear a free Sound Bite from the Michael Thomas Quintet, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8108. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.) - The Wshington Post

"MICHAEL THOMAS , The Awakening, JazHead 1001 / Cadence Magazine"

Hammer Head / Sherri* / The Awakening / Tender-Lee / No Time To Wait / Blues #9*/ Stanley & Freddie / Search For A New Land / The Awakening (alt). 60:26
Thomas, tpt, flgh; Zach Graddy, ts; Darius Scott, p; Kent Miller, b; Frank Williams, d; Whit Williams, bari s*
The Awakening is trumpeter Michael Thomas’ second offering on his own label, JazHead. This D.C.-based group follows the reliable Hard Bop formula, as the musicians wear their influences proudly on their sleeves (read: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers). In fact, the title of Thomas’ debut record, The Messenger, is a direct ode to the dean of the Hard Bop movement. Thomas and Co. are back in a similar vein here, aided on two tracks by baritone saxophonist Whit Williams, who helps to expand the group’s sound. As a player, Thomas comes straight from the Lee Morgan school, employing a confident sound similar to Mogie.
The program consists of eight compositions, five of which were written by Thomas and one “alternate take” of the title track (how apropos?). The disc begins with Wayne Shorter’s “Hammer Head,” the great soul groover from Free For All that serves as an apt calling card for the quintet. “Blues #9” is also performed with a similar mindset, a shuffling Blues that is a bit a of a time warp, in that the piece echoes the work of Horace Silver (sounding a bit like “Song For My Father”). Hank Crawford’s “Sherri” servers up a bit of soul in an easy going manner, as does the title track, a shifting funky piece that features tenor saxophonist Graddy’s robust, muscular solo that also cites “My Favorite Things.” Graddy proves to be an interesting soloist throughout, with his influences perhaps being the Texas tenor types, especially Stanley Turrentine, who is actually name-checked on the track entitled “Stanley and Freddie.” I have to admit to being a sucker for any version of “Search For A New Land,” of which unfortunately, there are few. Although Grant Green’s guitar for the original is missed, it is one the strongest numbers here, rearranged with a Latin feel during the solo sections. The group also shows its strength on the ballad, “Tender-Lee,” as Thomas’s fluid style is well served by this tempo.
There is no innovation here, but after listening to this record, one has to wonder whether Thomas would be a Jazz Messenger himself if Buhaina were still with us. Those obsessed with the Blue Note sound of yesteryear and who have worn out their copies of Moanin’ should check this out.

Jay Collins
- Cadence Magazine

"Michael Thomas Quintet / 2003 Year End review"

Michael Thomas, a pillar of the Washington, D.C. jazz scene, leads a fierce quintet on The Awakening (JazHead). Offering five originals, three jazz covers and an alternate take. Joined by Zach Graddy on tenor, Darius Scott on piano, Kent Miller on bass and Frank Williams IV on drums (with baritonist Whit Williams on two tracks), Thomas leads off with a stunningly, accurate reading of Wayne Shorter’s “Hammer Head” – a gem from the Jazz Messengers’ Free For All album. One also hears Thomas’s historically impeccable approach to hard bop on Hank Crawford’s soul-jazzy “Sherri” and Lee Morgan’s prescient “Search for a New Land” (although Thomas interprets the latter in a much faster ¾). Of the originals, the ballad “Tender-Lee” and the midtempo “Stanley & Freddie” again make the early Blue Note influences explicit, while the title track, heard in two takes, posits a more modern, off-kilter funk feel before breaking into flat-out, minor –key swing. “No Time To Wait” and “Blues #9” stir the pot with uptempo drama and greasy shuffle, respectively. Every band member is strong , but Thomas leads the pack with a piping-hot, Hubbard-esque horn. The recording is bone-dry and immediate, without a hint of studio atmospherics. - JazzTimes Magazine / Dec. 2003

"Top 20 Jazz Recordings for 2003"

WPFW (89.3 FM Pacifica, Washington, DC's station for "Jazz & Justice")
Jazz Programmers Poll

1) Wayne Shorter, Algeria, Verve
2) McCoy Tyner, Land of Giants, Telarc
3) Steve Turre, One 4J, Telarc
4) Branford Marsalis, Romare Bearden Revealed, Marsalis Music
5) Dianne Reeves, Little Moonlight, Blue Note
6) Greg Osby, St. Louis Shoes, Blue Note
7) Benny Green/Russell Malone, Jazz at the Bistro, Telarc
8) Stefon Harris, The Grand Unification Theory, Blue Note
9) Lizz Wright, Salt, Verve
10) Kenny Garrett, Standard of Language, Warner Bros.
11) Dave Holland Quintet, Extended Play, ECM
12) Jane Bunnett, Cuban Odyssey, Blue Note
13) Michael Thomas Quintet, The Awakening, Jazhead
14) Larry Willis, Sanctuary, Mapleshade
15) Jason Moran, The Bandwagon, Blue Note
16) Andrew Hill, Passing Ships, Blue Note
17) Ray Barretto, Homage to Art Blakey, Nightbird
18) Michael Brecker, Wide Angle, Verve
19) Nicholas Payton, Sonic Trance, Warner Bros.

Reissue of the Year
20) Miles Davis, In Person at the Blackhawk (Complete) Columbia Legacy

- WPFW Pacifica Radio

"Thomas Brings on the Bop"

Here's what's so striking about The Michael Thomas Quintet's latest jazz CD "The Awakening": It's a real jazz CD.

This is music deeply rooted in the jazz tradition that framed long-faded decades - shuffle beats and bop and solos peppered with dissonant squeals yearning for those smoky nights at the Village Vanguard.

This is significant. Very significant.

The very definition of jazz seems endangered these days. The growing smooth jazz genre does not boast of being traditional jazz, but, well, there is that pesky word in its title. That's a bit confusing to dial spinners who hear everything from Phil Collins to the "General Hospital" theme on smooth-jazz radio.

I, too, enjoy smooth jazz on occasion, but I shutter to think of any human listening to this mix and thinking, "Oooo. Jazz! Yeah, man. Go cat go!"

And, just hours before writing these words, I was sitting in a waiting room reading a Newsweek interview with Barry Manilow. In the article, Newsweek noted the '70s crooner has been recording jazz albums in recent decades.

Jazz albums.

Sure, Manilow and Rod Stewart - and all aging pop stars, it seems - have been reveling in old standards of late. But jazz? Now really.

So popping in "The Awakening" was a bit of an awakening itself. You just don't hear this kind of music - with this kind of approach - very much these days. Thomas, who leads the band with his trumpet and flugelhorn, is the real deal, a Washington, D.C., resident who has little use for compromise and confusion.

"We try to stick true to form," said the Gainesville-bound Thomas. "It's quite a blessing to play this music the way it should be played."

The Michael Thomas Quintet is scheduled to perform at Gainesville's Savannah Grande Wednesday. This is the June offering from the Gainesville Friends of Jazz & Blues. The concert marks Black Music Month and further spices up a week in live local shows that also includes jump-blues and a gospel superstar.

On Wednesday, the quintet will play originals and what Thomas calls "not-so-standard standards." The quintet mainly plays throughout clubs in Washington, D.C., but Thomas said the band, together for about eight years, is now focusing on spreading out across the United States.

"The response is great - just the energy. People forget the energy you have to put into this music," he said.

The band's motto: "Swing or die," Thomas said with a laugh. "Life is short."

"The Awakening," by the way, was released in 2002 and, according to the text on the back of the disc, was recorded organically - live in the studio: "No editing, no overdubs or fixing. Just good stuff."

So for those confused souls gettin' all scat and stuff with Phil Collins and Barry Manilow, know this: "No editing, no overdubs or fixing. Just good stuff" is a great definition of true jazz.

Dave Schlenker - Author
- Gainesville Sun - 6/9/2005

"It Is What It Is (JazHead)"

In an era marked by antiseptic recordings and coldly clinical compositions, long on technique and short on soul, sometimes it's nice to get down and dirty with a no-nonsense, balls-out jazz combo. Remember those? Trumpeter Michael Thomas' Maryland quintet cooks up passionate hard bop--straight, swinging and hot as hell. Pushing the band's chops to their limits at every turn, the music here is brash and messy, glorious in its imperfection, like a great night at your neighborhood bar.

JazzTimes Magazine, MAY 2007, p.153 - JazzTimes

"Quintet takes audience back in jazz time"

January 31, 2005
Quintet takes audience back in jazz time

By Johnathan Rogers
For The Charleston Gazette

I have long believed that time travel is impossible. This past Friday night, however, the Michael Thomas Quintet planted the first seeds of doubt.

In the third installment of the 2004-2005 Charleston Jazz Series, I and several others in the audience had the distinct sensation of being in Manhattan in the 1940s and 1950s on the famous jazz stretch of West 52nd Street.

This was where, night in and night out, artists such as Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus and countless others pushed and pulled themselves and the audience to new artistic heights. 52nd Street, along with Minton's Playhouse in Harlem, was the cauldron on the wizard's workshop, where sweat, booze and cigarette smoke provided the background for high art.

Subtract the cigarette smoke, decrease the booze, replace the tiny bars with the elegant confines of Wellington's, then add the Thomas Quintet's sweat, hunger and skill, and you are transported back in time to West 52nd Street.

"We were marinated in jazz,"said good friend and jazz aficionado Gary Borstein. "They were as clean and sharp as their music."

"It was so nice to see men in suits," said the always dapper Howard Kenney. "Especially when they can play."

With nicknames like "the Deacon" and "Sparkplug," there was little doubt about the group's ability to play. Yet individual excellence does not an excellent group make.

Fortunately, after seven years together, the Thomas Quintet played with the confidence and fluidity that comes when individual mastery unites with group cohesion. The group displayed the same prowess whether the song was a ballad, straight-ahead bebop or honky-tonk blues.

And it is this, perhaps more than anything, that makes jazz such a uniquely American art.

In jazz, a person's individual creativity is never sacrificed for the sake of the group. In fact, if the group is to flourish, the individual must contribute more to the group.

When this happens, even the supposedly impossible becomes possible.
- The Charleston Gazette


- "25" - JazHead Entertainment LLC 
  New 2024 release celebrating the Quintet's Twenty-Fifth year as a band

-"Live at TWINS JAZZ -vol. I & II" (JazHead Entertainment 2009)
2010 First Round GRAMMY Ballot Entry
Top Ten Jazz Playlist!

- "It Is What It Is" - JazHead Entertainment
(July 2006)!!!. "Organinc!!!"

- "The Awakening" (2003) - JazHead Entertainment
"Voted Top 20 of Year 2003 -
WPFW Jazz Programmer's Poll"

- "The Messenger" (2000) - JazHead Entertainment

Radio Play:
- XM Radio(Real Jazz ch.67)
- Music Choice (Jazz station)

Terrestrial Radio:
WPFW(Wash., DC), WEAA(Baltimore, MD), WCLK(Atlanta), WBEE(Chicago), WBGO(New Jersey/New York), WWOZ(New Orleans), KUNV(Las Vegas, NV), WRTI(Philadelphia), KUVO (Denver), WUCF (Orlando),



The Michael Thomas Quintet is a powerful and energetic group that is deeply rooted in the rich tradition of jazz. The quintet, now celebrating a historic twenty five years together, has the unique capability to capture an audience and take them on an excursion to where "Hard-bop and Blues" swing joyfully, prayerfully, and soulfully. The group consists of members that know jazz, respect jazz, and love jazz. There is nothing "laid back" about this group.
The Quintet has been recording and performing together for twenty five years and has been recognized as one the leaders for music groups in the mid-Atlantic area.
The group is PROFESSIONAL and brings a lot of experience to the table. Members of the group have work with many jazz legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, James Moody, Keter Betts, Betty Carter, Buck Hill, Andrew White, Frank Foster, Count Basie Orchestra, Houston Person, & Jimmy Heath.
The main influences for the group are Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, Lee Morgan, John Coltrane, Stanley Turrentine, & Freddie Hubbard.
Band members are from the following cities:
- Las Vegas, NV (Michael)
- St. Louis, MO (Kent)
- Atlanta, GA (Zachery)
- St. Petersburg, Fl. (Frank)
- Ithaca, NY/ Boston, MA (Darius)

Michael Thomas - 
(Las Vegas, NV) a multi-faceted performer, attended Grambling State University where he majored in music performance.  Michael‘s interest in Jazz developed in the latter years at Grambling and really came into fruition when he moved to New York State.  While in New York, he met Bill Saxton and Hugh Brodie, who were both instrumental in his development process in terms of encouragement and advice.   Michael relocated to the DC area, where he has become an ardent participant on the DC’s  jazz scene. To date, he has played with a number of notable musicians such as Betty Carter, Jimmy Heath, Larry Willis, Shirley Scott, Slide Hampton, Buck Hill, Webster Young, Gary Bartz, Joe Williams, and others.  Currently,  The Michael Thomas Quintet performs regularly both in and out of the DC area.  Michael is an alumni for The World Famous Count Basie Orchestra.  Michael's travels also includes Russia as a featured performer. Michael currently records for his own label, JazHead Entertainment LLC, with his Quintet.  Six CDs have been produced for the Quintet.  The CDs ("Live At TWINS JAZZ – vol. I & II") feature the incredible past master saxophonist Mr. Andrew White.  “Vol. II”  has the received First Round GRAMMY nomination. The QUINTET is now celebrating an incredible TWENTY-FIVE years together with a new CD (“25”). 

Darius Scott - Piano
Pianist/composer Darius Scott has performed  the past 25 years with D.C.'s First Round Grammy nominated Michael Thomas Quintet.  Continually inspired by the important role that comping plays in a solid and sensitive rhythm section, Darius has drawn heavily upon the styles of legends Horace Silver, Red Garland, Wynton Kelly, Bobby Timmons, Bud Powell, Bill Evans, Barry Harris, Thelonious Monk as well as a host of local Baltimore and D.C. musicians who share the “joy of comping”. 

Kent Miller - 
Its President and founder Kent Miller is a jazz bassist and a native from St. Louis Mo.  He is a graduate of Rockhurst University, and studied at the University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) Conservatory of Music.  He has studied with some of the most renowned jazz bassists in the jazz industry such as Wendell Marshall, Milt Hinton. Rufus Reid, and Ron Carter.  He has performed with many national and international artist.

Zackery Graddy -
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Zach began playing the Saxophone in 1976, learning the fundamentals in grade school and continuing through high school. His introduction to jazz began at Clark Atlanta University where he studied and performed with the world renowned Clark Atlanta University Jazz Orchestra. Continuing his studies on his own, Zach performs with his own band in the Atlanta area with established ATL musicians, namely pianist Johnny O'Neal and Bassist Taurus Mateen.

Frank T. Williams IV -
Born in St. Petersburg, Florida, Frank Tecumseh Williams, IV was introduced to the world of music at an early age by his father who is a music educator. At the age of 5, he was given his first drum set and had been in love since. John Lamb, the bassist for the legendary Duke Ellington, introduced a young Frank to his first view of JAZZ in 1981. Years later, while nurturing that first glance into the world of Jazz, Williams witnessed the unparalled sounds of the Wynton Marsalis Quartet. As a Result, Frank's passion to create and perform Jazz was forever ignited.