BEST LOCAL PERCUSSIONIST - 2004
Robert Thomas, Jr.
Boom-cha ... ching-ching da boom da da boom ... ching ba-da-ba boom chingboomboomboom ... cha-ding ... bing ... bop daboom boomdadoom ... booooommm. Yeeeeaaaah! With a touch as hard as a hammer or as soft as silk, depending on the tune and tone, Bobby Thomas (as the North Miami Beach native/South Miami resident is known worldwide) has had a hand in creating countless moments of jazzy splendor. Lacking an instrument for teacher-mandated classroom jam sessions during elementary school, little Bobby used his desk to pound out beats that would eventually lead to collaborations with many jazz greats. While he developed his chops around town, Thomas hooked up with Jet Nero and was discovered by the late bass legend and local hero Jaco Pastorius, who recruited the skin slapper for a little thing called Weather Report, a collective many consider the most potent jazz-rock outfit of the Seventies and early Eighties. Sax maniac Wayne Shorter created Weather Report with keyboardist Joe Zawinul, who is said to live in South Florida -- reunion jam! reunion jam! Actually Thomas has reunited with an old cohort, the great Monty Alexander; in March the two were performing shows regularly and planning a tour to Spain. The coolest aspect of Thomas's approach is how anything becomes an instrument: bongo, conga, snare, school desk, bicycle, garbage can lid.... Thomas's inventiveness led Zawinul to dub him the world's first "hand drummer." Boom ... cha-ding!