"Come the witching hour, his voice turns to magic"
says the DAILY NEWS. “A link in the line of charismatic performers from Nat Cole to Al Jarreau to Luther Vandross; Vocals—ultrasuede; scat—undulating; funk—sleek.”extols HARPER'S BAZAAR.
Every so often, a singer comes along who offers something truly special. There are those with great voices who we know and love, and there are those who have that “you can’t take your eyes off of them” presence. Thos Shipley seems to be both of these rolled into one - a singer with a stunning voice and a magnetism that can only be described as star quality.
Thos brings this unique quality to us beautifully through the idiom in which he seems naturally at home, vocal jazz. His debut recording, MY FAVORITE THINGS, is a remarkable collection from the classic American Songbook intermingled with fine contemporary songwriting, brought to life from a jazz point of view. Thos’ voice is not easily pinned down, a flexible and powerful instrument that swings so easily and spontaneously flows from crooning into R & B flourishes. But there is also a core of immediacy that has an intimate theatrical excitement to it. Mr. Shipley, an experienced Broadway performer and 5-time MAC award winner (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) for Outstanding Jazz Vocalist, is proud of this combination. He explains the inspiration for the CD ~
“I have a love for musical theatre but come from a jazz background in the way I hear things. The repertoire of the Musical Theatre is the jazz bible. The lyrics and melodies of these tunes are so strong they lend themselves to many interpretations. I look at Jazz as an approach to music, a way to orchestrate the emotions and images that these songs evoke, to somehow score the lyric.”
Thos Shipley was born in Vernon Parish, Louisiana to a military father and a mother who taught first grade. He grew up in Aberdeen, Maryland where his father played upright and electric bass as well as all bass brass in the 327th Army band and in his own jazz group. Thos’ childhood ambition to be a performer got him started playing drums at the age of 10 in a band with his brothers. Later in high school, he began singing and playing rock n’ roll, much to his father’s chagrin. But his early exposure to classical and jazz music won out.
A desire to study music in college was thwarted by his parents’ practical concerns and Thos majored in Electronic Engineering at the Ohio Institute of Technology. But, he continued to play and studied jazz piano with Bobby Pierce at the Bexley Conservatory of Music until he had to choose between getting his degree and practicing. He graduated and got a job working as a technician on board ships doing seismic research for oil companies, lasting for one 23-day cruise in the Pacific. Thos soon returned to Ohio, found another job, and started pursuing things he truly wanted to do such as dancing. He studied at the Ohio Ballet, performed in theatre, and ended up moving to Nashville. “I’ve come to find that if you don’t have the guts to do what you truly want to do in your heart, it will still happen but perhaps not as smoothly as it could have,” he muses.
A gig as a singing waiter soon appeared and later a job playing drums for a touring show. The show brought him to Knoxville, Tennessee where he met jazz clinician Jerry Coker and began studying jazz vocal improvisation with his wife, singer, Patti Coker. During a performance at the Knoxville World’s Fair Thos caught the eye of managers who encouraged him to move to Atlanta and pursue a solo career as a vocalist.
Thos was soon making a living by playing clubs, doing theatre in Atlanta, and singing back-up vocals on other people’s albums. During this time, he appeared one evening at a lounge called The Veranda. Where he was discovered by singer/actress Leslie Uggams She beckoned him North and introduced him in a solo show to a celebrity-packed room at the Claridge in Atlantic City.
Thos then hit the New York club scene, performing at various jazz venues such as Iridium and Upstairs at Green Street where he opened for future stars as comedian Mario Cantone. Before long, he rose to new heights, performing an SRO concert in the Weill at Carnegie Hall, playing the Spoleto Festival and performing in a one-man Off-Broadway show, "Broadway Goes Jazz." His first New York review by Bob Harrington of the NEW YORK POST hailed Thos Shipley as “On The Way To Stardom.”
A turning point came when Thos was cast in the Broadway production of Miss Saigon. He stayed with the show for a three-year stint in New York then went on to Asia as a solo jazz artist to perform at Harry’s International in Singapore. As a crowd-pleasing feature at Town Hall’s Cabaret Convention, he shared the stage with such talent as Bill Charlap and Andrea Marcovicci, performed in Nantes, France at La Nuit Du Jazz in October and is part of the developmental cast recording of a new musical with a big band score which is based on Othello called Ivory Joe Cole.
Thos Shipley served on the faculty of Singer’s Forum and is a voice over artist with national and international credits.
MY FAVORITE THINGS is a lush exploration of classic American songs along with new grooves and sentiments, all generated by the performances of world class jazz musicians such as Darrell Grant, David Budway, Kim Plainfield and William Gallison to mention a few, and Thos Shipley’s tremendous voice. One may be reminded of Johnny Hartman, Nat Cole, or Al Jarreau, but Mr. Shipley’s unique expression takes the listener to new and exciting places. The arrangements of the priceless This Nearly Was Mine (arr. Darrell Grant & Thos Shipley), and the darkly colored, The Way You Look Tonight (arr. By Thos Shipley, Darrell Grant & David Budway) offer intimate conversations with the singer, and the title track is a crisp and swinging promise of the best in life, which can’t help but evoke a bit of John Coltrane. After touring and having one of those “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone” experiences, Thos wrote a true New Yorker’s blues, Sunday In New York.
Says the MANHATTAN TIMES, “Thos Shipley leaves you with a feeling that you have been half way around the world. One moment exudes the feel of a chic uptown New York café and the next, Thos’ voice transports you to a small secluded French restaurant waiting for the love of your life to walk through the door.”
So stop, look and listen -- to Thos Shipley.