Thomas, Harry

Harry (Reginald Thomas Broughton) Thomas. Pianist, composer, b Bristol, 24 Mar 1890, d Montreal 11 Jul 1941. A self-taught musician with a talent for improvisation, Thomas moved to Montreal in 1909 and played for silent films at local theatres, including the Regent, until ca 1920. He was a protégé of Willie Eckstein for whom he served as relief pianist at the Strand and with whom he composed Perpetual Rag and Delirious Rag ; in 1916 Thomas recorded both rags as piano rolls and the latter again on a Victor 78. The improvisational nature of his interpretations has brought Thomas the description of 'Canada's earliest jazz artist' (Jack Litchfield, Canadian Jazz Discography).

Thomas moved ca 1920 to Halifax, NS, playing again for silent films until the advent of the talkies in the late 1920s. He spent the remainder of his career working in Montreal nightclubs, falling into obscurity by the mid-1930s. His 18 piano rolls, recorded 1916-19 in the USA for QRS, Metro-Art, Rhythmodik and Duo-Art, are listed in the Canadian Jazz Discography ; his piano solos for Victor and some 29 trio titles (with Alex Lajoie, saxophone; Howard Wyness, vibraphone) for HMV and Starr-Gennett are listed in Roll Back the Years.