John D. Thomas, Associate Professor
|by Phil Farnsworth|
"I've always been a big John Coltrane fan, even though he's not a guitarist. I'm really interested in his linear/harmonic concept, which spans several styles of jazz. Coltrane's my inspiration, because I consider his particular approach to improvisation, in all of his three periods, always perfect."
"Coltrane was also a prolific writer and a great theoretician. He had rather a scientific and mathematical approach to music and to improvisation. He was a proponent of the Slonimsky and Schoenberg theories, and was really the first one to take Slonimsky's book and apply it to improvisation."
"Bringing Coltrane into my work is a very 'un-guitaristic' thing to do, and always has been in the 30 years I've been teaching. I also like to take a mathematical approach with my students, but I need to start from wherever they are and take them as far down the road as I can. My approach encompasses learning how to get the sound out of the instrument, learning how to voice-lead properly, and learning the tricks and applications of quartal/pentatonic harmony."
"I want my students to understand that music is a lifelong pursuit; the knowledge of music and the ability to play better never stop. And I want them to have an appreciation of those musicians and composers who came before. Also, I try to imbue a sense of openness to new things that they might not normally acquaint themselves with. That includes not just music, but also cultures, because sometimes other cultures are the key. There's no way a student can get away from me in four years and not have started that whole process of opening."
"The way I teach, it's the music that is most important and not the guitar. Personally I think that looking at things solely from the standpoint of the guitar is kind of self-restricting and limiting. One of my goals is to get students to appreciate the universality of things musical. The instrument doesn't matter; what's important is the person that plays the instrument. After all, all true art is nothing more than an expression of the human condition. The instrument is only the medium to bring out what's inside of you, so the most important thing is what's inside."
- Alumnus, Berklee College of Music
- Musician, composer, and lecturer
- International concert tours and recordings with AACM Big Band, Chet Baker, Andrew Cyrille, Kenny Drew, Charles Earland, Christian Escoude, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Henderson, Jimmy McGriff, Don Moye, Tony Scott, Sonny Stitt, Art Taylor, Malachi Thompson, Charles Tolliver, Larry Young, Mike Zwerin, and others
- Recordings with AACM Big Band