Encouraged to pursue a musical career by a father who played jazz trumpet before turning to pharmacy, Jay Thomas has become a major multi-instrumentalist, equally at home on both brass and reeds. He started on trumpet, but while playing in dance bands that often had a tenor-trumpet front line requiring him to practice regularly with a tenor player, Thomas, on a whim, borrowed the sax and tried it out. Within a month he was playing gigs on tenor and picked up alto and soprano along the way. Thomas took up the flute while living in Boston because he wasn't allowed to practice on any of his other instruments in his apartment.
On the scene since the 1960s, Thomas began his career playing in rhythm & blues bands. In 1968, after moving to New York City, he studied with Carmen Caruso and gigged with such outfits as Machito's band where he got an on-the-job education in Latin rhythm from lead trumpet player Mario Bauza. During the '70s, Thomas resided in San Francisco where he worked with West Coast favorite Jessica Williams, among others. Returning to Seattle in the '80s where his father had opened a jazz club, Thomas became a member of the house band sitting in with such jazz greats as Zoot Sims, Sonny Stitt, and Chet Baker.
Thomas has guested on over 50 recordings, including sessions with Barney McClure, Slim Gaillard, Herb Ellis, Milo Peterson, David Friesen, and singers Katie King and Becca Duran. He continues to be in demand as a sideman not only because of his facility with several instruments, but also due to his ease in playing in groups representing diverse jazz genre, from swing to acid jazz. In addition, Thomas has five albums as a leader, one each for the McVouty, Jazz Focus, Hep, Stash, and Discovery labels. He was the winner of the 1996 Golden Ear Award for Best Instrumentalist, sharing the honor with bass player Phil Sparks. Thomas still lives in Seattle, where he plays with a number of Northwest-based jazz groups and tours regularly with his wife, singer Becca Duran ~ Dave Nathan