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The Upbeat: Tracy Kash Thomas

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Friday, October 2, 2009

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Where She’s From: Thomas grew up in Oak Park and now resides in Walled Lake, with stops in-between in Texas, Boston and New York.

What She Plays: Piano and flute. Thomas also sings and writes.

Sound: Pop-jazz crossover with elements of R&B and Brazilian music. Influences: Chaka Khan, Diane Reeves, Claudia Schmidt, Bill Evans and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Day Job: Thomas works as an assistant to the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield.

Getting Started: “My mother used to be a piano teacher, so I sort of had no choice but to learn to play the piano. And I always sang; me and my sister and my mom were always harmonizing in the car on family trips.”

Mixing It Up: Thomas says that combining genres in her music comes naturally. “I always listened to jazz, ever since I was a kid. I started studying jazz in high school, and it was always a foundation for me, along with classical music. And I was always listening to Billy Preston kind of stuff, Chaka Khan, groovy, R&B stuff. I think I sort of gravitated to those two styles, and that leads me to combining them.”

Memorable Gig: Thomas played a flute duet with Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson when he played one of his Rubbing Elbows solo shows several years ago at Detroit’s State Theatre (now the Fillmore Detroit). “They were accepting applications from area artists to appear with him, so I sent him a press kit telling him I was a flute player, too. His road manager, who turned out to be his son, sent me an e-mail telling me they’d already selected somebody ... but that ‘If you would accept a flute duet with Ian, we would be happy to do that’ — like I would be settling to do that! At first I thought (the e-mail) was from my sister, and I started yelling at her and she was like, ‘It wasn’t me! I think they’re really contacting you.’ It was just random, and ... so exciting.”

Hear Her: Thomas’ most recent album, “There and Back Again,” came out in 2006. She’s currently working on a follow-up, which will be her third release overall.

See Her: Thomas will perform as part of a Detroit Music Awards Foundation showcase raising money for breast cancer awareness at 7 p.m. Sunday at Memphis Smoke, 100 S. Main St., Royal Oak. Other performers include Sheila Landis, Keri Lynne Roche, Alyssa Simmons, Justine Blazer and Kat Malone. Suggested donation is $5, with proceeds going to Young Survival Coalition Detroit. Call (248) 543-4300 or visit www.detroitmusicawards.com.

Surf Her: www.myspace.com/tracykashthomas

Web Site: www.myspace.com/tracykashthomas

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