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Remembering Willie Thomas (1931-2019)

The trumpeter, educator, and tireless proponent of bebop has died at 88

Willie Thomas
Willie Thomas

Bucolic Orcas Island, part of the San Juan Islands chain off the northwest coast of Washington state, is hardly a jazz mecca. But for the past couple of decades it was home to Willie Thomas, the trumpeter and educator, who died there on Feb. 16, three days after his 88th birthday.

In an article posted on the website of the Island Sounder, Thomas’ daughter, Wendy, said that her father’s “pace had slowed for the last several months…he figured it was time to go.”

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Originally Published

Jeff Tamarkin

Jeff Tamarkin on social media

Jeff Tamarkin is the former editor of Goldmine, CMJ, Relix, and Global Rhythm. As a writer he has contributed to the New York Daily News, JazzTimes, Boston Phoenix, Harp, Mojo, Newsday, Billboard, and many other publications. He is the author of the book Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane and has contributed to The Guinness Companion to Popular Music, All Music Guide, and several other encyclopedias. He has also served as a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NARAS, National Geographic Online, and Music Club Records.