The Columbus Jazz Orchestra opens its “Swingin’ with the CJO” 2017-2018 season October 12 – 15 with a truly special event – A CJO 45th Anniversary Extravaganza! Tickets are available here, at the CAPA Ticket Office, or by phone at (614) 469-0939. These four concerts present the high-powered CJO with a cavalcade of stars – preeminent saxophonist Joshua Redman; bassist, composer, and bandleader John Clayton; and Columbus native and piano phenom Micah Thomas. Along with great standards and compositions and arrangements by Redman and Clayton, there will be a world premiere performance – Clayton’s “Tomorrow Arrived Today: The Homecoming” featuring Thomas! The performances will be paired with “a dazzling display of images by Columbus photographer, Stephen Pariser, that chronicle Columbus Jazz Orchestra performances through the years.” Micah Thomas was kind enough to answer my email questions about the show, his CJO memories and his career – Keep reading to learn more.
We’re excited for these 45th Anniversary concerts! What can you tell us about your role in the shows, especially John Clayton’s world premiere piece?
Micah Thomas (MT): I met John Clayton when I attended the Vail Jazz Workshop, which he directs, in high school. So after Byron called me to do this week, John and I talked on the phone a bit about some things I’ve been interested in musically for a while, and he incorporated some of those ideas into this work. I’ve only seen parts of it so far and I don’t know exactly how the whole thing will play out but what I’ve seen looks awesome.
Do you have any favorite memories from seeing or playing with the Columbus Jazz Orchestra?
MT: Many… Just playing with a big band of that caliber for the first time felt amazing. I’ve been doing gigs with them since my freshman year of high school. We’ve had a lot of special guests over the years that I’ve been able to meet and play alongside – Lewis Nash, Gerald Clayton, Tia Fuller, the list goes on and on. This was one of my only professional experiences before I moved to New York, and I’m so grateful Byron has been giving me these opportunities all these years.
It was great to see you and Aaron Diehl featured in this year’s Jazz at Lincoln Center’s season opening concert. What was that experience like?
MT: That was a blast. That was a special group of pianists – Aaron, Sullivan Fortner, Joel Wenhardt, Dan Nimmer. I had known all of them already for a while now. Just hanging out with them that whole week was so refreshing for me, let alone watching them and playing with them. I’m very lucky to be part of this community – they are definitely a kind of family.
What has been the greatest impact of your time at Juilliard and in New York City so far?
MT: I’d say the biggest thing in terms of my music has been playing with other people all the time and learning how to really listen to everyone else on the bandstand. In Ohio, I spent most of my musical time in the practice room and not playing with people, but now I’m playing with people every day and it’s incredible how different my approach to music is now because of that. And then there’s all the other non-musical stuff – college, living on my own, moving from a suburb to a big city, all that.
What are you working on these days? Any new projects or exciting performances coming up?
MT: I’m playing with my trio at the Jazz Gallery in New York on October 26. I’m pretty excited about that – new band, new material, first time leading a group at that venue.
Learn more about Micah at http://micah.io/.