Watching the Joey Thomas Big Band perform, you can’t help but be transported back to another time.
Thomas, however, the group’s leader and tenor sax player, says his 18-piece orchestra offers much more than just a look back at the big band era.
“We don’t concentrate on just doing music from the 1940s and 1950s,” said Thomas, who will bring his musical mates into the GE Theatre at Proctors Saturday night at 7 for “Christmas Sinatra Style.” “We do play a lot of that music, but we also do Motown, Chicago, Tower of Power, Sinatra and Michael Buble. We also do jazz and other great music from every era.”
Saturday night at the GE Theatre, the theme will be centered on the individual many describe as America’s greatest singer, Frank Sinatra.
“This show is all about Sinatra and doing the show the way he might for a Christmas television show,” said Thomas. “We’ll do his big powerful hits and some of his Christmas songs that he’s famous for, and we’ll also have some variety. The object is to celebrate Sinatra and Christmas, and do it in that big band style.”
The Joey Thomas band includes five saxophones, four trombones, four trumpets, piano, bass and drums, along with two vocalists. Scotia’s Mia Scirocco usually provides the female vocals, and Bob Father of Clifton Park is the male vocalist.
“The voice of the band is Bob Father for this show, and he’s been singing with me for 16 or 17 years,” said Thomas. “Mia is very special and so is Bob. He works at the inflections and style of Sinatra, and he’s very, very good at it. If people close their eyes and listen, he sounds a lot like a middle-aged Sinatra.”
Thomas grew up in Westchester County and currently lives in West Glenville. He was a former musician in the U.S. Navy, and formed his band more than two decades ago.
“Years ago we did maybe 85 gigs a year, and things have come down a bit, and we’re probably doing 25 to 30 jobs every year,” said Thomas. “I’m trying to do it as much as I can. I’m trying to make it as full time as possible, but when you have an 18-piece orchestra it’s a little difficult.
“People will usually hire a DJ for their music, or maybe a four- or five-piece band,” continued Thomas. “I’ve got nearly 20 people to think about, and these days a lot of musicians jump in and out of bands and do their own thing. They have to. Mia has her own jazz trio but when something special comes up and we need her and she’s available, she’ll work with us. The same with Bob and all of our musicians. I have some very talented people in this band, and for the most part they are loyal to what I’m trying to do. When they can’t be, I realize that in this day and age, they have to do what they have to do.”
Among the musicians who used to perform in Thomas’ band is Jay Traynor, the former lead singer in Jay and the Americans.
“My band has performed throughout the Northeast and Midwest,” said Thomas. “We’ve performed in all the states in New England except Maine. I’m waiting to book a date there so I can enjoy some Maine lobster.”
Thomas expects the Saturday night show at Proctors to be sold out, but the band will be back in two weeks to perform at the Proctors New Years Eve Celebration on Dec. 31.