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About Thomas Gray

New Orleans jazz veteran Thomas "Tick" Gray is one of the very few players from this genre who might have been nicknamed after a blood-sucking insect. While little indication for the nickname's real reason can be found in the scant details that are known about this artist's life, there are surprising developments nonetheless. The trumpeter seems to appear out of the blue in the King Oliver band of early 1927 in Chicago and continued working with that group in later New York appearances. Gray is on recordings by King Oliver's Dixie Syncopaters that were originally done for the Paramount label. He was also involved with a series of other artists basically from the trad jazz scene, but dropped it all, at least on a full-time basis, in order to run a restaurant. The last trace heard of him was in the '70s, when he had supposedly become a farmer in Michigan. Perhaps this is where the tick part really comes in.

His restaurant years also included a gig from time to time, the trumpeter's past glories no doubt whetting the appetites of local leaders looking for an authentic sound. On the Chicago scene of the '30s he had been associated with leaders such as Junie Cobb, Boyd Atkins, Fred Avendorf and Clarence Moore. Gray was also a member of the rowdy Midnight Revellers and the blustery Jesse Stone's Cyclones during this decade. He seemed enthusiastic about marching band sounds in later years, performing with Elgar's Marching Band on the occasions when his trumpet case came out of the closet. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

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