“You clearly know what you’re doing, and it’s great…congrats on an impressive career.”
- Dave Grusin, Legendary GRAMMY® winning Music Producer / Arranger / Musician, ACADEMY AWARD® winner, and the G in GRP Records)
The title of Michael J Thomas’ recently released EP Outside the Door has a unique double meaning for the Florida-based saxophonist, singer, and composer. On one hand, it reflects a recent creative growth period for the #1 Billboard charting artist in which he mastered the art of what he calls “outside playing” – playing notes outside the song’s main scale to achieve a sense of harmonic dissonance that elevates even the most mainstream, in the pocket tune to a higher sonic level.
A fresh concept that musicians – and fans with keen ears – can instantly recognize, Thomas has been intrigued with the possibilities it offers since watching a tutorial DVD by Walter Beasley, where the legendary urban jazz saxophonist and longtime Berklee School of Music educator taught on how to incorporate different scales to make one’s soloing more dynamic. The saxophonist currently showcases his passion for this unique dynamic on his new single, a freewheeling, high-octane re-imagining of Stevie Wonder’s classic “I Wish.”
The name Outside the Door also reflects an interesting but little-talked-about reality of being a successful independent artist in the smooth jazz world. Despite a stellar string of popular albums, EPs, and singles and premiere appearances at top genre festivals like Seabreeze and the Catalina Island Jazz Trax Festival, he has long felt that he’s always just on the cusp of being one of the bigger names in the genre, knocking on the door of “A-list” status.
Outside the Door broke ground in the smooth jazz genre as the first original genre recording intended to utilize and be mixed with the revolutionary immersive Dolby Atmos technology. Its sonic design expands on existing surround sound systems by adding height channels, allowing sounds to be interpreted as three-dimensional objects. Outside the Door was released in its entirety first to all platforms that support Dolby Atmos, including Apple Music, Tidal, and Amazon.
Thomas’ wide array of musical talents and ability to adapt his performance style to a variety of settings serves him well in his dual lives as a working musician. When he’s at home in Northwest Florida, he holds court four nights a week as the in-house entertainment at Ruth’s Chris Steak House, where he mostly focuses on his singing – everything from Frank Sinatra to Bruno Mars – with the occasional Grover Washington, Jr. or David Sanborn tune in the mix. When the charismatic, always sharply dressed Michael takes a festival stage as the smooth jazz star, he unleashes the full power of his sax and gets the crowds grooving and swaying to his hits and other mostly original material.
Over the years, he has played the Seabreeze Jazz Festival, Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival, Los Cabos Jazz Festival, the Saenger Theatre in Pensacola (opening for Acoustic Alchemy), Golden Nugget Casino in Reno, NV, The Velvet Note in Atlanta and The Louisville Place. As he’s developed his artistry and stage presence, he has also learned the value of making his set an emotional journey, starting off with big energy, slowing things down for a passionate ballad or two, then swinging back up for a rousing finish. He considers himself a natural “ham,” and knowing he’s there to entertain and engage people and help them escape their troubles, always makes his shows a party. Besides the synergy with the audience, his favorite part of being onstage is vibing with the equally dynamic musicians in his band. He doesn’t choreograph his shows ahead of time and lets the music naturally drive and dictate his moves.
🎷 Seabreeze Jazz Festival - (special guest w/Special EFX featuring Chieli Minucci)
Panama City Beach, FL
🎷 Los Cabos Jazz Festival
Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico
🎷 Seabreeze Jazz Festival
Panama City Beach, FL
🎷 Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival
🎷 The Village Door - (opened for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy)
🎷 The Velvet Note
🎷 The Saenger Theatre – (opened for Acoustic Alchemy)
🎷 The Golden Nugget Casino
🎷 The Louisville Palace - (opened for Brian Setzer Orchestra)
🎷 Jillian’s – (opened for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy)
ABOUT THE MUSIC
Just as Michael J Thomas absolutely slayed with his smash hit version of “I’ll Never Love Again” and brought a unique, infectious jazzy vibe to Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” he brings fresh instrumental fire and irresistible funky intensity to Stevie Wonder’s buoyant, instantly recognizable 70s smash “I Wish” – the fifth and final digital single from the Outside the Door EP. It’s all punchy, power-packed, soul, sass, and freewheeling brass, pure danceable fun throughout, topped with Trammell Starks’ synth razzle-dazzle and explosive sax solo action capturing Thomas’ newfound love for inventive, off-the-main scale harmonic dissonance that makes this version so much more than another cover of a well-known R&B classic.
Thomas’ status as a guy “outside the door” is particularly interesting considering his Billboard chart success and extreme streaming numbers, which beyond traditional radio spins is the true metric of success in music today. In addition to his #1 Billboard airplay hits “Baby Coffee” and “I’ll Never Love Again,” an instrumental re-imagining of Lady Gaga’s hit from “A Star is Born,” he has accumulated 4.7M+ total streams on Apple Music and 2.6M+ on Spotify – numbers otherwise unheard of in smooth jazz. “Sippin’ the Yak,” the follow-up single to his Gaga cover from his appropriately titled 2020 EP Stream’n Love, has been one of his major sensations, with 1.8M+ streams on Spotify in addition to reaching #2 on three major charts - the Billboard Smooth Jazz Airplay/Smooth Jazz Songs chart (where it stayed in the Top 5 for eight weeks), the Smooth Jazz Network Top 20 and the Mediabase Smooth Jazz chart. In addition, the title track of the saxman’s 2019 album “City Beat” racked up over 600K Spotify streams. Thomas has over 41,000 monthly listeners on Spotify and 1.4K daily listeners on Apple Music.
For Thomas, one of the perks of having all that impact “outside the door” as well as the admiration of so many fellow genre musicians is being able to invite top-name special guests to add their magic to his projects. Featuring four previously released singles, the new EP includes tracks with R&B/jazz singer Maysa (“It’s Christmas”), trumpet legend Randy Brecker (a cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” featuring Thomas on lead vocals), and guitarist, fellow #1 Billboard artist and Special EFX founder/leader Chieli Minucci (“H.A.D.”). The project’s sole radio single “The OG Bounce” – named for the song’s co-producer and Thomas’ A&R director and mentor Carl Griffin – featured the saxophonist’s regular crew of keyboardist/co-producer Trammell Starks, guitarist Chris Blackwell, bassist Sam Sims, and drummer Louis K Newsom. The track peaked at #15 on the Billboard chart and stayed on the Smooth Jazz Songs chart for over 20 weeks.
THE EARLY YEARS
Though surrounded by country music while growing up in the small town of Cecilia, Kentucky, Michael J. Thomas’ parents thankfully filled his childhood with a steady stream of legendary R&B/pop artists who would later become muses – Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, Michael Jackson, and Prince. Thomas studied piano at the age of seven and switched to saxophone in seventh grade—shortly after discovering contemporary jazz artists like Yellowjackets and Dave Grusin on a Technics demo disc that came with a stereo his dad purchased. It was in his high school jazz band rehearsal one late evening when all of his ear training and emulation of other saxophonists finally came together. The band was performing a run-through of Jimi Hendrix’ “Purple Haze” which had a transcribed alto sax solo that Thomas deviated from.
For some reason, it all came together in an instant while taking the solo lead,” Thomas says. “It finally clicked, and I could improvise. The band and the Director were so impressed that they stopped playing the song and applauded me. It was really at that moment, that my musical journey began.” By his senior year in high school he was performing in the All-State Jazz Band and was honored with a John Philip Sousa Award. He earned a music scholarship to the University of Kentucky but left school early to pursue his professional career. Thomas was 19 when he joined the Jive Rockets, which opened for the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and Bill Haley’s Original Comets.
With widespread critical acclaim and high-impact airplay and sales stats, his debut album City Beat put Thomas on the map and became one of the genre’s hottest independent releases of 2010. The title track hit #1 on Canadian-based Smooth Jazz Now’s singles chart and hit the Billboard Smooth Jazz Airplay chart. Expanding his artistic scope significantly, the saxophonist released his vocal debut in 2011 with a single titled “I Think About Amy,” which was released on Woodward Avenue Records and hit #16 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Airplay chart. That same year, he teamed up with two-time Grammy-winning producer Paul Brown (George Benson, Luther Vandross, Al Jarreau) to produce “Without You,” featuring R&B vocalist Wendy Moten (who has sung duets with, among others, Michael McDonald, and Peabo Bryson). Thomas’ music has been featured on Sirius XM’s Watercolors, The Weather Channel, and in the Warner Bros. film “Contagion” starring Matt Damon and Laurence Fishburne.
PRESS / REVIEWS
"Michael has done a beautiful emotional instrumental version of
that gorgeous song. My buddy Carl Griffin, the great record executive,
sent it to me a couple weeks ago and I just fell in love with it so I
hope you will as well." - Dave Koz, The Dave Koz Lounge on SiriusXM Watercolors
“You clearly know what you’re doing, and it’s great…congrats on an impressive career.” - Dave Grusin, Legendary GRAMMY® winning Music Producer / Arranger / Musician, ACADEMY AWARD® winner, and the G in GRP Records)
"Refreshing with a great sound...the sax style and horn licks hook you the second you hear it."-Mark Carter, Owner of WSBZ 106.3 The Seabreeze
"Michael J Thomas’ six-track EP “Stream’n Love” showcases the
saxophonist/songwriter’s prodigious talents, starting with his technical
excellence and warm, rounded sax tone, which is interwoven with lush,
synth-laden tracks. Thomas’ engaging original melodies ("Sippin The
Yak”) and tuneful covers elevate this engaging project. Highly
recommended." - Carol Archer, Radio & Records (R&R) Smooth Jazz Editor, 1994-2009
"It didn’t take long for saxophonist Michael J Thomas’ new
release Driven to surge to the top of the smooth jazz charts, and it’s
easy to hear why. The album is rife with catchy melodies and
invigorating grooves, but it’s Thomas’ warm, inviting tone that is the
“driving” force behind the proceedings, lending every track its verve
and buoyancy. “Baby Coffee,” which charted No. 1 on the Billboard, USA
Today and Smooth Jazz Top 20 lists, is among the album’s many
highlights. At the forefront is Thomas’ silky sax melody, but the
addition of synth horn blasts and a snappy backbeat help establish a
relaxed vibe that still packs a punch. Thomas, who is also a skilled
vocalist, plays with a singer’s sense of rhythm and time, and the
interplay between sax and guitar at the song’s conclusion makes for a
fascinating musical dialogue." - Brian Zimmerman, Jazziz
Endorsements and Gear
• WC Sax Soul Machine Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece, Size 8 (.088), Gold Finish
• WC Sax Soul Machine Metal Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece, Size 108, Silver Plating Finish
• WC Sax 777 Series Soprano Saxophone Mouthpiece, Size 8 (.070), Silver Plating Finish
• Julius Keilwerth SX90R Shadow Professional Alto Saxophone - Black Nickel with Silver Keys
• Julius Keilwerth SX90R Shadow Professional Tenor Saxophone - Black Nickel with Silver Keys
• Vandoren SR2625 - JAVA Green Alto Saxophone Reeds - 2.5
• Vandoren SR2625 - JAVA Green Alto Saxophone Reeds - 2.5
• Vandoren SR3025 - JAVA Soprano Saxophone Reeds - 2.5
4 Piece BANDDOWNLOAD
This is the stage plot for the 4 piece band. (Drums, keys, bass, and Michael as Saxophonist & Vocalist.)
5 Piece BANDDOWNLOAD
This is the stage plot for the 4 piece band. (Drums, keys, bass, guitar, and Michael as Saxophonist & Vocalist.)
6 Piece BANDDOWNLOAD
This is the stage plot for the 6 piece band. (Drums, 2 keyboardists, bass, guitar, and Michael as Saxophonist & Vocalist.)
PRESS KIT PDFDOWNLOAD