New Orleans Jazz – News and Views – Kid Thomas

Kid Thomas Valentine – Trumpet – Vocals and a bag of tricks! Born Reserve Louisiana 3rd February 1896. Died 16th June 1987 In New Orleans.

Let’s get the history out of the way: Kid Thomas was a band leader from 1922 onward and led bands all over Louisiana, but always remained based in New Orleans.

I want to quote from “The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD” by Richard Cook and Brian Morton. Their brilliant words on the subject cannot be bettered. “He approached this awesome career with a Zen-like simplicity, reducing the New Orleans sound to its essentials and creating a lifetime’s work from them. A fascinating lead trumpeter – his method, including a strict observance of the melody, a blunt jabbing attack and a vibrato that sounds like an angry trill, managed to create high drama and lyrical depth alike. He seldom took solos, he was such a strong lead voice he tended to dominate every band he played with.”

Kid Thomas made the most amazing number of recordings, and many of them are available to you on CD right now! But first a warning: the music and these musicians produce a sound that is like fine wine or great coffee – you may take some time to acquire the taste: but when you do you, like me, will become addicted for life.

Try from 1961 “Kid Thomas – George Lewis Ragtime Stompers” on GHB bcd-5. a true classic. Try “The December Band” from 1965 on GHB BCD – 197 and BCD – 198. Then try “New Orleans, The Living Legends” Kid Thomas and his Algiers Stompers on Riverside OCJCCD – 1833 -2 from 1961.

This is one of the rare occasions when I had the great good fortune to be personally acquainted with Kid Thomas and to count Albert Burbank and Emmanuel Paul as very dear friends. In 1963- 4 I toured with Kid Thomas and Emmanuel Paul all over the U.K. on their tour with the Kid Martyn Ragtime Band. My payment for using my band bus and driving for many miles was the pleasure and yes, honour of playing a session at Studio 51 the Ken Colyer Club with my Gothic Jazz Band and Kid Thomas andn Emmanuel Paul. Much later, back in Australia it was a great joy to renew my friendship with them when they toured in a package show – sharing the stage with Dizzy Gillespie. I always remember one of these non-jazz press reporters at Sydney Airport asking Art Blakey how he felt about playing a concert with these “primitive musicians”. Art said “It’s a great honour for us to play on the same stage as these gentlemen. Let’s face it – without them we would not exist! They are the creators.”

Kid Thomas Valentine was an enigma, although I spent many hours with him his conversation was like his trumpet playing: staccato, brief and to the point. Just the melody line sparsely stated. Only one night in an hotel room in Melbourne, Australia with most of his band and some star- struck executives of the Sydney Jazz Club, including me, did he let himself go. He told us wonderful stories of his earliest days as a band leader in New Orleans and of the amazing eccentricities of those long gone musicians on the gigs. I wish that I had had a tape recorder but again thankfully we do have plenty of his music on record.

My first purchase was the Riverside Kid Thomas and his Algiers Stompers I recommended earlier. Apart from the missing Emmanuel Paul, this was a band with a long history of playing together. Put on Panama Rag, it’s hotter than a fiery furnace! Gulley House Blues can bring tears to the eyes! Sammy Penn is the true master drummer and I hope to write about him in a future article.

When the band broke into ” Smile Darn You Smile” at the St Pancras Town Hall it was ecstasy, just like the record and although Alonzo Stewart was no Sammy Penn the overall effect was electric and we knew we were in the presence of the living legends.

Kid Thomas Valentine was an entertainer, his bag of tricks was with him at all times; slap sticks, maracas, tambourines, bonnets for “Milk Cow Blues” and always the biggest New Orleans grin!

Quotes: The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD by Richard Cook Brian Morton (Penguin Press)

» Tags:

Comments are closed.