Kid Thomas Valentine – Trumpet – singing and a bag of tricks! Born Reserve Louisiana February 3, 1896. He died June 16, 1987 in New Orleans.
Let’s get history out of the way: Kid Thomas has been the band’s leader since 1922 and led bands throughout Louisiana, but has always been based in New Orleans.
I want to quote from “The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD” by Richard Cook and Brian Morton. Their brilliant words on this subject cannot be improved. “He embarked on this amazing career with Zen-like simplicity, reducing the sound of New Orleans to its essence and making it a lifelong work. Fascinating lead trumpeter – his method, including strict adherence to the melody, blunt strike and vibrato, which sounds like an angry trill, was able to create a high drama and lyrical depth. He seldom took solos, he was such a strong leading voice that he tended to control every group he played with. “
Kid Thomas has made the most amazing number of recordings and many of them are now available on CD! But first a warning: music and these musicians produce a sound that is like good wine or great coffee – it may take some time to get a taste: but if you do, like me, you will be addicted to life.
Try “Kid Thomas – George Lewis Ragtime Stompers” on GHB bcd-5 from 1961. a real classic. Try “The December Band” from 1965 on GHB BCD – 197 and BCD – 198. Then try “New Orleans, The Living Legends” by Kid Thomas and his Algiers Stompers on Riverside OCJCCD – 1833 -2 from 1961.
This is one of the few exceptional situations where I was very lucky to meet Kid Thomas in person and consider Albert Burbank and Emmanuel Paul to be very dear friends. In 1963-4, I traveled with Kid Thomas and Emmanuel Paul throughout U.K. on their tour with the Kid Martyn Ragtime Band. My payment for using my bus and driving many miles was a pleasure and yes, the honor of playing a session in Studio 51 at Ken Colyer Club with my Gothic Jazz Band and Kid Thomas and Emmanuel Paul. Much later, in Australia, it was a great pleasure to renew my friendship with them as they traveled in a package show – sharing the stage with Dizzy Gillespie. I always remember one of these non-jazz press reporters at Sydney Airport who asked Art Blakey how he felt playing a concert with these “primitive musicians”. Art said, “It’s a great honor for us to play on the same stage as these gentlemen. Let’s face it – we wouldn’t exist without them! They’re the creators.”
Kid Thomas Valentine was a mystery, although I spent many hours with him, his conversation was like playing his trumpet: staccato, brief and matter-of-fact. Only the melodic line was rarely said. Only one night in a hotel room in Melbourne, Australia with most of his band and some of the stars of the Sydney Jazz Club, myself included, he set off. He told us amazing stories about his earliest beginnings as a band leader in New Orleans and about the amazing eccentricities of those long-gone musicians at concerts. I wish I had a tape recorder, but fortunately we have a lot of his music on record again.
My first purchase was Riverside Kid Thomas and his Algiers Stompers, which I recommended earlier. Apart from the missing Emmanuel Paul, it was a band with a long history of playing together. Put on a Panama Rag, it’s warmer than a fiery furnace! Gulley House Blues can bring tears to your eyes! Sammy Penn is a real master drummer and I hope to write about him in a future article.
When the band disbanded with “Smile Darn You Smile” at St Pancras Town Hall, it was an ecstasy as well as a record, and although Alonzo Stewart was not Sammy Penn, the overall effect was electric and we knew we were in the presence of living legends.
Kid Thomas Valentine was an entertainer, his bag of tricks was always with him; slaps, maracas, tambourines, bonnets for the “Milk Cow Blues” and always the biggest New Orleans smile!
Quote: Penguin’s Guide to Jazz on Richard Cook’s CD Brian Morton (Penguin Press)