16 Songs, 43 Minutes

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About Joe Thomas

The brief career of this artist, one of four different horn players in jazz named Joe Thomas, can be basically described as symposium on funky flute. He was certainly not the only flautist huffing and puffing over strong backbeats in the '70s and '80s, the era's popular players in this style including Herbie Mann, Jeremy Steig, and Hubert Laws. Thomas' masterwork in this genre might be considered to be "Funky Fever," more than ten minutes of jamming that has been described as "jazzy disco funk boogie," complete with a vocal chorus that chants "I've got this funky, funky fever."

Thomas had a relative amount of success with a series of albums released under his own name, debuting in 1975 and concluding five years later after a half-dozen sides. In terms of inspirational themes behind his music, Thomas displays a somewhat startling range compared to the competition. His first set of disco-jazz instrumentals was titled Masada in honor of one of the most serious events in Jewish history; an entire town that committed suicide rather than getting captured by the Romans. A few years later, Thomas had a hit with "Plato's Retreat" — from an album also named after the latter tune — and this time he was paying tribute to a popular New York City club specializing in orgies. A superb composer and arranger, Thomas worked for several indie R&B labels and producers such as Sonny Lester, much of his contributions to various releases going uncredited. He dropped out of sight in the early '80s but has been reinvented as a fetish for acid jazz and breakbeat enthusiasts. Other Thomas favorites include "Polarizer," heavily played in clubs at the time of its release, as well as a marvelous adaptation of "Two Doors Down" — originally a pop-country item tracked by Dolly Parton. Thomas' nickname was "The Ebony Godfather."

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