Sean Thomas is one of the country's best-known drummers and has been head of the Jazz Alliance of T&T (Jatt) for the past six years.
Recalls Thomas, considered a music child prodigy: "A friend of mine, Dave Surajdeen, put the idea in my head to form a jazz entity back in 2007, and we thought that we'd form an organisation which would spearhead the art form. Basically, this is how Jatt came into being. What I initially wanted to do was create something that would bring musicians together."
Thomas had his earliest beginnings in music at the age of seven. "I began as a pannist, playing with 3rd Dimension, located in Tunapuna, and led by my father Leroy Thomas," he revealed.
"Dad took my elder brother, Roger, and I to the panyard because he was in need of players. This led to my learning about jazz through my dad. From a young age, I began playing with jazz greats like Clive Zanda and Michael Boothman. I also got the chance to play in Panorama with Phase II, Exodus, and Pandemonium steel orchestras, as well as in the classical Pan is Beautiful music festival."
While pan was Thomas' initial instrument of choice, fate decided that he'd become a drummer. He said: "The drumming thing actually began in the panyard as 3rd Dimension needed a drummer and there was some difficulty in finding one. So, I went on the drum set to start keeping time for the band, and the rest is history.
"Through drums I began playing with the Ruiz Brothers. My eyes were then opened to the Theolonius Monk Institute of Jazz in the New England Conservatory in Boston, to where I was awarded a two-year scholarship to study with icons like Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock and Max Roach, to name a few."
In an amazingly short span of time Thomas matured musically to become an accomplished drummer: He recalls: "It was an incredible experience. When I got to Boston, I thought I knew what jazz was. I was so wrong. It's when I got there that I realised that jazz was something I knew very little about, despite playing so much of it in Trinidad. Having met those guys and being able to study and perform with them, in places like Thailand and Aspen, Colorado, the intensity of the programme placed a solid foundation under me, hence my drive to return home in Trinidad, to do what they did for me for the children and young musicians in Trinidad."
Upon his return home, Thomas decided what his mission and vocation would be; propagating jazz musically, and making it premier genre on the local and regional music scene.
"My return in 1998 led me to start an organisation named ST Jazz Inc which is responsible for reviving jazz locally. This introduced Jazz on the Avenue, and the Jazz Artistes Workshop at UWI which ran for seven years. After the very first of these workshops, in 2002, Jazz Artistes on the Greens was born in 2003. All this dovetailed into JATT.
"When we began we initiated a programme aimed at attracting the younger musicians. One of our first programmes was the Summer Holistic Jazz Workshop, held at Nalis in Port-of-Spain. It was a week-long workshop which brought in a diverse array of educatiors, in calypso, opera, gospel, fine art, business etiquette, etc.
The Jazz Alliance of T&T (Jatt) will honour Fitzroy Coleman during its initial observation of International Jazz Day 2013. Trinidad & Tobago Jazz Week, scheduled for June 24 to 28, is being held under the theme, The Bridge Between Their Soul & Our Music.
Thomas explained: "We originally had planned to have this celebration to coincide with International Jazz Day on April 30 but, due to financial constraints, we are only now able to produce it.
The big show is on June 28, at Central Bank Auditorium, and will be headlined by a stellar cast of artistes, including Mungal Patasar & Pantar, bassist Brandi Disterheft, alto saxophonist Grace Kelly, pianist Brianne Ford, and the Sean Thomas Quartet.
"I expect that I'll be the envy of the male patrons at this show as I will be the only man to play with three women at the same time," Thomas said.