Arts and Entertainment

Jazz artist goes to unexpected places

Jazz player Jay Thomas plays the  Bainbridge Commons Sunday as part of the First Sunday at the Commons series.  - Bruce C Moore/ Courtesy Photo
Jazz player Jay Thomas plays the Bainbridge Commons Sunday as part of the First Sunday at the Commons series.
— image credit: Bruce C Moore/ Courtesy Photo

For a man who’s been playing jazz since he was “bit by the jazz bug at 14 or 15,” – that’s 40-some odd years ago – keeping it fresh is a full-time job.

“I’m constantly trying to learn, to add new repertoire, memorize, make progress,” he said on the phone from Seattle Tuesday. “Information is a low-hanging fruit. As long as I’m learning new things, I can stay in a fresh frame of mind.”

That fresh frame of mind helps him take his music to unexpected places, both figuratively and literally. In the past week, he’s jammed with two floutists and a cellist, played with the “Red Hots,” sat in with a 16-piece band and taught private lessons.

He’s pieced together a career that way, performing on more than 60 recordings, weaving himself in and out of the Northwest jazz scene.

There have been lean times he admits, but he’s managed to stay with his first love.

“If I would have been wise about money procurement, I might have tried my hand at something else. Jazz has ruined me for all other work,” he said.

In October, he’s headed somewhere really unexpected when you think of jazz – Japan.

“I love the culture; I’ve met some great musicians. It’s just different enough,” he said. Suprisingly, he said Japan has “astute listeners.”

On Sunday, he’ll perform with John Hansen on piano, Chuck Kistler on bass and Phil Parisot on drums, all of whom he’s played with for more than 10 years.

“Even though my name is on the band, it’s more of a co-op band,” he said. “Everyone has an equal hand in how and what’s played.”

How it’s played, the way Thomas prefers, is to let his sound lean into the blues.

“It’s a rich art form,” he said. “When you mix it with jazz, it has a certain quality. You can feel it.”


Jay Thomas and friends play the Bainbridge Commons at 4 p.m. Sunday as part of the First Sundays at the Commons series.

Admission is $20 /General, $15 /Senior, $10 /Youth.

Tickets are available in advance at or at the door.

For more information go to:

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