The Chris Thomas Band Is Sending Jazz To Europe

Big things are on the horizon for The Chris Thomas Band. Next month, the 19-piece jazz ensemble embarks on its first ever tour thousands of miles away in London. Everything is happening at warped speed and Thomas is juggling the logistics of touring overseas with a healthy appreciation for what’s in store.

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The Chris Thomas Band will perform a hometown show July 22 at the Times-Union Center to help fund the travel expenses. Thomas says he hopes the benefit fundraiser will give the band the final push it needs to meet the final goal. The band also established a Go Fund Me page to help raise money.

Thomas says the tour came to fruition after the band’s debut CD caught fire across the pond thanks to the global reach of social media. The release hit #11 on the jazz album charts last fall and two tracks reached #6 and #38 on the jazz singles charts.

It’s an exciting milestone any artist and Thomas says he is still gobsmacked by the unlikely turn of events.

“I’m over the moon with the reaction to it,” says Thomas. “It wasn’t what I was expecting by any means.”As a ballroom dance instructor with a wide reach of friends in the international dance community, Thomas often he shared his musical milestones with his connections who, in turn, funneled those milestones through a myriad of creative channels including fellow dancers, musicians and other industry professionals. One of those professionals was Sydney Homes, who co-owns Red Carpet Entertainment and hosts a radio show with Jenny Green.

“It started getting shared and we developed a relationship with a woman named Sydney Homes and Jenny Green, and they own Red Carpet Entertainment. They really dug what we do and they have a radio show on Meridian FM 107 called the Jen and Sooz Jazz Mix Up,” says Thomas.

The weekly radio program features a variety of jazz with recordings from the great interpreters of the Great American Songbook to the best in modern Jazz sounds, acid, funk, soulful and electro swing. The show also spotlights new albums from rising stars in the Jazz scene.

CTB will perform four nights at various venues between Aug. 30 to Sept. 4 throughout the Chelsea/Kensington area as well as outside the city. Among the members making the tour are vocalist Thomas, pianist Jonah Pierre, guitarist Jarrett Carter, bassist Cody Wheaton, saxophonist Sarah Lee, Steve Strawley on trumpet and Lance Reed on trombone. Travel costs will include air fare, lodging and transportation.

The band will play its first show Aug. 30, the day it arrives in London. Despite the looming threat of jet lag, Thomas says he’s up to the challenge. “We started to promote all the other shows we had booked when this other venue inquired if we had any availability. They responded that the only night we had was on this night and they came back and said ‘we’ll take it’,” says Thomas. “It’s going to be really interesting. The band will sleep in the whole next day but I won’t. I’m doing radio and [press] in the morning and afternoon then gigging at night. It’s full tilt. It’s pretty fierce.”

The Chris Thomas Band was founded on the pursuit of dreams. A chance encounter with bandmate Sarah Lee at Starbucks in 2014 led the two second-career professionals on a musical journey. Lee earned a music performance degree from Jacksonville University after leaving the I.T. field. Since joining forces, CTB blossomed into a 19-piece big band, along with several smaller combos and recently celebrated its three year anniversary.

“We have aspirations to something greater and we’re getting to do what we love so there’s no bitching allowed.”

With the tagline “Sinatra to Soul… That’s How We Roll,” the CTB covers the Rat Pack era through Motown, putting its own stamp on current pop music to give it a soul or swing vibe. The band has performed at numerous local venues, including at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival and a New Year’s Eve concert with the Jacksonville Symphony and recently performed at the Florida Theater’s anniversary event and the Ocala Jazz Festival.

Thomas is thrilled with the all of the British buzz and he is committed to sharing his appreciation of jazz and swing tunes on a regional level. It takes a village and the band is grateful for the support of those who go out of their way to share the music  along the way.

“There are a lot of people who live here. We’re just busting out at the seams so if people can take 10 second to share a post on Facebook, that’s always such a big push for us,” says Thomas. “We’re not afraid of doing the work. So many bands are afraid to work and that’s okay. They’re going to be playing music in their living room for their girlfriend. There is nothing wrong with that. We have aspirations to something greater and we’re getting to do what we love so there’s no bitching allowed.”

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