Thomas l'Etienne

Thomas L'Etienne

... plays Clarinet, Tenorsax & Altosax

Thomas l‘Etienne was born in Hamburg/Germany on March 8th 1956. His family is of Russian,French and German origin. Already at an early age Thomas discovered a passionate love for music. He started taking lessons on the guitar and, true to his family background he tried to pick up the balalaika. Soon the clarinet became his favourite instrument. He began to play it in 1971. A few years later he bought his first saxophone.

From the very beginning Thomas was fascinated by the sounds of traditional New Orleans jazz,which he had first heard on George Lewis and Kid Ory records By 1979 Thomas made his first trip to New Orleans, where he could study the music he loved at the very place where it was born and still alive. During this trip and successive visits to the Crescent City Thomas had the opportunity to play with some of the living legends of New Orleans music, such as the veterans Kid Thomas, Emanuel Sayles, Chester Zardis or the great contemporary pianist James Booker.

In 1982 Thomas decided to discontinue his PhD thesis in German literature to join the band of New Orleans singer Lillian Boutté as a professional musician. In the course of the many years working as a member and later as the bandleader of Lillian Boutté and her Music Thomas has performed on most major jazz festivals in Europe, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He can be heard on numerous recordings along with such greats as Edward Frank, the genius of the piano from New Orleans, who became Thomas‘mentor, Lloyd Lambert, Smokey Johnson, Doctor John, Jeanette Kimball or Humphrey Lyttleton.

Through the years he established his reputation as a gifted arranger. Many of his numerous compositions have also been recorded by him and interpreted by other artists.

Thomas has become a genuine representative of today‘s New Orleans Music and is respected among the musicians in New Orleans. While his clarinet style shows unmistakable traces of the great Creole masters, such as Barney Bigard, Albert Nicholas and Jimmie Noone, his saxophone playing is influenced by Ben Webster, Charlie Parker, Gene Ammons and “Lockjaw“ Davies, but also by the New Orleans Rhythm&Blues tenors Lee Allen and David Lastie. In later years Thomas dicovered his love for traditional Martinique music and especially for Brazilian choro music, which thorougly inspired his playing.