Jazz Legend, Icon, The Ebony Godfather, passes away at age 84 on July 26, 2017
Joseph Samuel Thomas was born to Frank Thomas and Sarah Pryor Thomas on May 31, 1933 in Newark, New Jersey. Born with extraordinary musical talents, Joe was blessed by God with the gifts of the spoken and written word.
After witnessing his older brother Frank play musical instruments, Joe realized one of his many callings in life. He learned how to play alto and soprano saxophone, trombone, flute and piano organically, by eye and by ear. He taught himself how to write music. At fifteen, with his older brother’s guidance, he began to play professionally in small local clubs. He met the fabulous James Moody, who was playing with the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band. Moody told Joe to pursue his craft and Joe did just that, going on to play with some of the world’s most iconic jazz legends.
A three-year stint in the United States Army interrupted his career. Wounded in combat in the Korean War, Joe was awarded the Purple Heart in honor of his service to this country. Returning to his purpose and passion in the United States, Joe helped form a group called “The Rhoda Scott Trio.” Along with Rhoda and Joe, drummer Bill Elliott was featured in that group. The group stayed together for three years, making two albums together.
Joe then formed his own group and made nine albums. He was featured on the flute and saxophone. He appears on several other albums including some of Jimmy McGriff’s. Two of his albums have been re- issued as CD’s: “Plato’s Retreat” and “Masada.” His entire catalog of exemplary work will be released for the Joe Thomas Legacy.
To many musicians and artists, Joe was affectionately known as “The Ebony Godfather.”
Joe performed at venues all over the world, including the prestigious Blue Note, Birdland, The Key Club, Carlos One, The Cave, Count Basie’s, La Détente, Smalls Paradise, and multiple cruise lines. Joe was one of the “All-Stars” invited to play at the Pythodd Club in Rochester, New Yorkand at Pine Grill Buffalo, New York reunions. Other notables who performed at these jazz festivals were: Charles Erland, Hank Crawford, Jimmy McGriff, Nat Adderly, Houston Person, Etta Jones, and many others. Joe performed with the legendary Carrie Smith, blues and gospel singer on three jazz festival cruises.
The funeral services are
Sat, August 5, 217 1pm
Woody Funeral Home
163 Oakwood Ave,
City of Orange, NJ 07050
For further information, please contact:
THE JOE THOMAS LEGACY
Elissa Gabrielle of Elissa Gabrielle Entertainment