WITH ELLA IN MIND
Brianna Thomas continues to ascend as one of the powerful and engaging voices on the jazz scene today. With her immensely talented band, she captivates audiences with her unique take on standard jazz and contemporary songs, all skillfully infused with her emotional depth and stellar scatting. In this concert, she pays homage to and celebrates Ella Fitzgerald and the wide breadth and scope of her repertoire and instrument. Though Ella was most well-known for singing swing and scat, her pure sound graced many styles and genres including spirituals, blues, bossa nova, and ballads, and the songbooks of Porter, Jobim, Rodgers and Hart, Arlen, Ellington, and many more. She even delved into the Stevie Wonder catalog with spunk, grace, and style. Ella quite literally sang everything!
$20 Garden Listening tickets are available to those who would like to listen to the concert from the grounds. The best place to listen is from Friends Field! (As a reminder, guests will not be able to view the concert; this ticket is just for listening). This ticket is completely FREE for Caramoor Members. View the Caramoor Map.
Born and raised in Peoria, Illinois, Brianna Thomas grew up surrounded by music. Her father, Charlie Thomas, not only influenced her with his own unique talents as a vocalist and percussionist, he created an exceptionally well-rounded musical environment that fostered Brianna’s emerging abilities.
At the tender age of six, Thomas made her singing debut performing a duet rendition of the jazz classic, What A Wonderful World with her father. At the age of eight she won her first of 13 trophies, all first place and overall, from various district and regional talent shows. Between the ages of eight and 10 she had her first gigs performing for a variety of banquets, black tie affairs, and as a guest on local radio stations. It didn’t take long for people to notice her talent and potential. Just shy of her teens, her talents were discovered by distinguished jazz educator Mary Jo Papich. Soon after, Thomas toured Europe with the Peoria Jazz All-Stars, a big band under Papich’s direction. This was the beginning of Thomas’ career as jazz vocalist.
Thomas’ singing is deeply enriched by an understanding of the masterful voices of jazz past. Beyond a healthy serving of sass, Sarah Vaughan’s influence contributes to Thomas’ style the artistic savvy needed to communicate myriad moods and feelings as well as a keen instrumental perspective. Add to that a coyness reminiscent of Nancy Wilson, an Ella-esque skill and enthusiasm for scatting, and the stylistic breadth and vocal grandeur evocative of Dianne Reeves.
Perhaps Thomas’ greatest asset is the soulfulness of her sound. Captivatingly unique, her sound moves in tones ranging from sweet invitations to assured convictions, establishing a personal and classic quality that leaves listeners swooning after her performances.
Thomas’ talents have propelled her to many successes including performances at the Montreux, North Sea, and Umbria Jazz Festivals and in venues ranging from the Bahamas to Geneva, Switzerland. Thomas was a resident in both the 2001 and 2002 Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Programs – an international artist-in-residence program that assembles a select group of jazz musicians to perform their original compositions at the Kennedy Center. At Jazz Ahead she worked with a host of premier jazz educators and performers including renowned vocalist Carmen Lundy, Winard Harper, and Nathan Davis.
Thomas’ extensive list of stateside performances includes appearances with Fred Anderson, Von Freeman, Houston Person, and the Barber Brothers. She has performed across the country from New Orleans to Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center. In 2001, Thomas was dubbed High School Jazz Vocalist of the Year by Downbeat magazine. Notably, Thomas is the youngest person ever to be inducted into Peoria’s African-American Hall of Fame at the age of 13 in 1996. She has also received a certificate of excellence from the state of Illinois in recognition of her musical accomplishments.
Thomas has blazed a path in the world of jazz and continues a stellar ascent. With dedication, hard work, and a sparkling personality, she is sure to become one of jazz’s most prominent voices. The words of legendary trombonist Curtis Fuller best illustrate Brianna Thomas’ abilities, hailing her as a “marvelous new artist who has all it takes to reach the top of the jazz profession and music in general.”
“Brianna Thomas gives the impression of inventing the song in the moment as if it’s never been done before”
–— Brian Morton, Down Beat Magazine, Dec 2020
All artists and dates are subject to change and cancellation without notice as we work closely with local health experts and officials. Please note that all performances at Caramoor are in compliance with current New York State Regulations. Read our latest Health & Safety updates