Igmar Thomas, Kendrick Oliver & The New Life Jazz Orchestra
January 1, 1970The newsletter is going out a day late this week, but then so did Friday's column. Friday's big Globe cover package on "the Good Girl" (Carrie Underwood), "the Bad Girl" (Pink), and "the New Girl" (Letia Larok) took up so much space that Jazz Notes had to be held and run Saturday. Which was okay, in the editors' eyes, because its subject, young trumpeter Igmar Thomas, wouldn't have his pair of gigs until Wednesday.
Even when the column did run, though, there was less space for it than usual. Among the good stuff deleted was a quote from Thomas's sometime boss, the veteran drummer and Berklee professor Ralph Peterson. The missing paragraph read as follows:
Rochelle, it turns out, was one of two Berklee percussion students to have hooked up Thomas with Peterson. "When I asked Lyndon and Dana Hawkins, who's now with Mshell Ndegeocello, who the baddest trumpet player is around here, they told me, 'You've got to get Igmar,'" recalls Peterson. "He reminds me of a still developing [cornetist] Graham Hayes, whom I consider to be one of the most imaginative trumpet players since Woody Shaw."
There was also something missing from the Calendar picks this week, but in this case I was resonsible. Somehow I neglected to include a mention of when and where the duo of Jim Hobbs and Jeff Galindo would be playing. And somehow my editors didn't notice. The gig was at Brookline Tai Chi on Friday ... not that knowing that will do anybody any good now.
I also heard Gonzalo Rubalcaba's side of last week's story about him canceling his solo piano dates at the Regattabar. The information came secondhand, but the gist of it was that the Regattabar and Rubalcaba's management bounced responsiblity for bringing a special piano to the club back and forth. By the time Rubalcaba's people realized that the responsibility had reverted to them, it was impossible to find a moving crew to get the piano to the room. (This was happening, remember, at the start of a month, and during the July 4 holiday week on top of it — hardly a good time to go looking for a mover on short notice.) Rubalcaba, in this version, is obviously less fully culpable than he looked earlier. But neither side comes up looking very good.
The Globe didn't look great, either, as it reported the story without getting Rubalcaba's side of it. Apparently there wasn't space and time enough to do so and still accomplish my reason for having tipped my editor to the crisis-in-progress: i.e., to let Globe readers intending to see Saturday's shows that they should make other plans.
My editor asked if I had Rubalcaba's manager's number. I told her I thought I probably did, but if so, it was at home in my laptop, and I was an hour away at the Regattabar, about to head off with my wife for dinner. I told the editor she might get through to Rubalcaba's room if she tried calling the Charles Hotel. But I wasn't willing to make the call myself — I was paying a baby sitter to have a rare night out with my wife, and I knew I'd be paid little or (more likely) nothing for dropping our plans and having my wife stand around waiting with nothing to do while I tried chasing down Rubalcaba's side of the bruhaha for the Globe.
My editor, meanwhile, had only a very small news hole to work with, and needed to file whatever got filed immediately in order to make the next day's paper. And her husband showed up to pick her up and head off somewhere while she and I were talking. So she ran with what she had, and the news that Rubalcaba wouldn't be playing Saturday ultimately included just the Regattabar's side of the reason why.
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He's dressed — and ready — to impress
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | July 15, 2006
The fast track that trumpeter Igmar Thomas is riding requires a flexible wardrobe.
Leading his young, hip-hop-and-soul-injected jazz band J4DA in its weekly Wednesday-night gig at Wally's Jazz Cafe last week, Thomas, 24, resembled a rapper in his jeans, baggy white T-shirt, and long-billed San Diego Padres baseball cap. A few days earlier, when he'd played weekend dates at Sweet Rhythm in New York as a member of Ralph Peterson's straight-ahead sextet, Thomas had been wearing a suit.
That was nothing. Some days turn Thomas into a virtual quick-change artist. "In the same day," he says, "I'll have three gigs, where I have to wear a tuxedo [to the first job], and then I'll have a gig with J4DA, and I can just wear, you know, jeans. And then that night I'll go play at a wedding."
He'll be nearly that busy on Wednesday. First comes his 6:30 performance at Mothers Rest Playground, where he'll lead his own straight-ahead band as part of the Swingin' in Mothers Rest summer concert series. Joining Thomas at Mothers Rest will be his sometime boss Peterson on drums, bassist Luques Curtis, pianist Victor Gould, and tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard.
Three hours later, Thomas and J4DA will play their usual Wednesday-night session at Wally's. That group's lineup consists of Donald Lee on tenor sax, Tuffus Zimbabwe on keyboards, Frank Abraham on bass, Lyndon Rochelle on drums, and Brian "Raydar" Ellis as "floet" (an amalgam of "flows" and "poet").
Thomas inherited his love of music from his father. "He has a huge record collection," says Thomas, "and he's always playing music — a whole different bunch of types of music. But he loves jazz. He loves Art Blakey and Jimmy Smith and all those cats."
Thomas grew up a self-proclaimed "music head" as a result, and began playing trumpet around age 12. He didn't get serious about jazz until he was 17, but his progress from then on was rapid. Within a year he'd earned the first Lionel Hampton Scholarship by improvising alongside the great trombonist Al Grey during a clinic at the University of Idaho. He'd also auditioned for Berklee, and nailed a second scholarship offer.
But Thomas was more interested in moving to New York than coming to Berklee. He wound up spending his freshman year at Idaho and occasionally joining Hampton's big band as a guest soloist. He then took a year off to return home to California, gig, and contemplate what to do next. Thomas spent the final few months of his time off living in New York, "just trying to learn as much as I could and be exposed to as much as I could." And then he decided to return to school — this time in Boston.
Thomas began sitting in on sessions at Wally's, and within a month or two had been offered his own night as a leader. That led to his getting more serious about blending hip-hop rhythms and attitude with jazz.
"There's many more opportunities for the stuff [J4DA plays]," says Thomas. "That group has been very busy."
They've played all over the city, but Wally's has been J4DA's primary testing ground. It will remain so for only a few more weeks. Now that he has graduated, Thomas will soon be making good on his earlier ambition and relocating more permanently to New York in a month or so. But his time here won't be forgotten.
"Most places we've got to keep it really soft, or we've got to keep our solos pretty short, or I can't play too high — you know, different things like that," says Thomas. "And Wally's is the place where it's like going-home week — you just go there and lay out, loosen up. That's why I'm able to wear my Padres hat."
Igmar Thomas performs at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Mothers Rest Playground in the Back Bay Fens. Free. Visit www.berklee.edu . Thomas’s band J4DA performs at 9:30 that same night at Wally’s Jazz Cafe. Call 617-424-1408 or visit www.wallyscafe.com.
© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
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Calendar Jazz Picks
Kendrick Oliver & The New Life Jazz Orchestra
Regattabar, Charles Hotel, One Bennett St., Cambridge. 617-395-7757. 7:30 & 10 p.m. $25.
Boston is blessed with an abundance of top-notch, experimental-minded big bands. The Either/ Orchestra, the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra, and Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra are four that spring to mind; that list ignores others associated with the city's leading music schools. Yet another outstanding big band, Kendrick Oliver & the New Life Jazz Orchestra, has collegiate roots. Oliver put an early version of the group together in the mid-'90s while a sophomore at Berklee College of Music, to back guest trumpeter Roy Hargrove in a celebration of Black History Month. But Oliver (above) held the band together post-graduation, captivating listeners with joyful, hard-driving arrangements of classic swing and gospel. It's become an incubator of solo careers in the process; alumni include trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and saxophonist Miguel Zenon.
Sat 7/ 15 Arturo O'Farrill and the New Hampshire Music Festival Big Band The New Hampshire Music Festival kicks off its three-concert big-band series with a tribute to Duke Ellington. Arturo O'Farrill, Grammy-nominated music director of the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra at Jazz at Lincoln Center, will direct the festival's big band. Silver Center for the Arts, Plymouth State University, 17 High St., Plymouth, N.H. 603-279-3300. 8 p.m. $20-$65 (buy one, get one free for opening concert; series discounts also available).
Fri 7/ 14 Jim Hobbs and Jeff Galindo For worthy jazz this weekend not involving a big band, consider this duo. Saxophonist Hobbs is best known for leading the playfully misnamed Fully Celebrated Orchestra, which is neither an orchestra (it's a quartet) nor as fully celebrated as it ought to be. Galindo doubles as a Berklee assistant professor and a much-in-demand trombonist.