The original music of Kyle Stuart Thomas (that his family discovered on cassette tapes in a closet after his death) is preserved on this album. It is an expression of his essential being and God-given gift. Kyle never meant for anyone to hear this music. The cassettes were practice tapes, not performance tapes. The music was recorded in his apartment, not in a professional studio. Now it is a timeless treasure!
Kyle’s mother writes, “When we found his music, we began playing it to comfort us as we grieved, to help us feel his presence, and to connect with his eternal, beautiful soul. As we listened, we felt the passion of his soul springing forth. We felt a strong desire to share his music and his passion with the world. Out of love and loss, and as a tribute to Kyle, who never sought or gained recognition in this life, we release this memorial album. We give praise to God for Kyle and for his gift of music.”
A friend of Kyle shares, “Kyle found a spiritual connection with music. He was a true artist in every way, with God-gifted hands that graced the guitar. He loved his guitar and often would be up all night practicing. Kyle was the reason I found my music again and how to use it to find peace and solace--something he always yearned for within himself. I will never give up on my passion for music in remembrance of his amazing talent.”
Another friend writes, “Kyle’s musical talent was genius. I can remember the complete focus that came over him when he played. I could tell he was dialed into some other power at these times; perhaps that was when he felt closest to his God.”
Kyle’s father spent eighteen months working with sound engineer James McLaughlin editing and remastering Kyle’s music for this memorial album. It was a journey of love.
Kyle’s Musical Journey
Early in his life, Kyle Stuart Thomas displayed a natural aptitude for music. His love for the guitar began in Jay Jackson’s guitar class at Henley Middle School, Crozet, Virginia, and grew exponentially. He formed a band with fellow students that performed a song by Metallica in the school talent show and played for the eighth grade dinner dance.
Dean Musser at Heinz Musitronics in Charlottesville, Virginia, became Kyle’s formative teacher. Diagnosed with a rare kidney disease, Dean was told that the odds of him living to the age of 25 were not good. He said, "I decided I should spend my time doing something I like." Dean composed more than 500 songs before his death. He fueled Kyle’s musical development and passion for the guitar. He exposed Kyle to various musical styles and guitar techniques--always allowing Kyle to choose the direction he wanted to go musically.
Kyle flourished at Murray High School, a small charter school in Charlottesville. The classes were small and the teacher-pupil relationships strong. Students were allowed to pursue their interests through independent projects. Annie Jacobs, his fine arts instructor, used multiple resources enabling Kyle to develop his gifts in art and music.
In 2005 Kyle played lead guitar in the band Rains. They performed at various venues including CBGB in New York City. He is the lead guitarist and backup vocalist on their 2005 album, Rains Stories.
Kyle’s prize possession was his electric guitar built by Resurrection Custom Guitar Company in Jensen Beach, Florida. He meticulously custom designed it to be like the one used by Phish guitarist, Trey Anastasio. It was made from curly maple, ebony, and poisonwood.
In the year prior to his death, Kyle had been jamming with other musicians and teaching guitar in Delray Beach, Florida, where he was working as a server at City Oyster Restaurant and as a personal trainer at Palm Beach Gym.
Kyle’s music reflects the jam-band style of The Grateful Dead and Phish. It is characterized by extended melodic improvisations ("jams") over rhythmic grooves and chord patterns. His style draws from multiple genres of music including jazz, rock, and blues.
Kyle was a “one-man jam-band” who played unaccompanied through live phrase looping. He used a Boomerang Looper and other electronic equipment to play and record multiple lines of music simultaneously. He would start by playing and recording a short, repeated, rhythmic musical phrase, which fueled much of the energy and excitement of his song. Then he would play and record multiple lines of melody and improvisation. Some of his songs have up to five different layers of music, creating the sound of a full band.
Kyle loved to explore the diversity of sounds he could produce with his guitar. He created a wide variety of tone qualities and sound effects using foot pedals, processors, and special effects units. After listening to Kyle’s music, Jesse Harper (guitarist with Love Canon and Old School Freight Train) declared, “I have no earthly idea how Kyle created all those different sounds on the guitar!” Kyle regularly used sonic improvisation in his musical compositions.
Trey Anastasio of Phish was Kyle’s favorite guitarist. In addition to his guitar being a replica of Trey’s, Kyle used the same peripheral equipment Trey uses when he performs solo. Kyle plays two very different renditions of Trey’s Bathtub Gin on this album. Kyle also loved the music of Jerry Garcia, guitarist with The Grateful Dead. The influences of both musicians are unmistakable in Kyle’s music.
Over time, Kyle developed his own musical style that can be both riveting and soothing. His music can make you dance or take you to another dimension. Kyle’s music came directly from the depths of his heart and soul. None of it was ever written down on paper. Like a painter, Kyle used different colors, textures, and layers on a musical canvas to create works of art.
John D’earth writes, “Kyle was a raw, natural talent who organized his music around deep feelings… It is an honor for me to perform with Kyle on this recording…We almost met several times but it never quite happened. Kyle's music is deeply improvisational and free form, in the traditions of jazz-rock and avant-garde jazz that gave rise to the jam-band movement. It has that jazz-rock intensity and that blues coloration. Kyle was a pure artist in that he created his music from love, alone. He could have done a lot with it in the marketplace but that was not to be. Instead we have an expression whose only reason for existing is the private passion of the artist, a rare and beautiful thing. It takes a certain amount of self-overcoming to share one's intimate vision with the world and Kyle died before he was able to deal with that point. His father Roy has done that for him, as a celebration of his life and homage to his musical gift.”
Kyle’s music is available at kylethomas1.bandcamp.com
and on iTunes and Spotify. There is a Kyle Thomas Resurrection Guitar page on Facebook where family, friends, and fans can interact. Kyle’s tapes contain more than ten hours of his music. Over time, the family will post more of Kyle’s songs (not on this album) on these sites.
About Kyle Stuart Thomas, 1980-2010
Born August 2, 1980 in Charlottesville, Virginia, Kyle Stuart Thomas grew up in the small town of Crozet in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park. A nature-enthusiast, he enjoyed exploring trails and streams, fishing, rock hounding, and connecting with anything that moved or breathed. He was also a collector. In his early years he collected rocks, minerals, and gemstones; comic books and baseball cards; and later bootleg recordings of Phish, The Grateful Dead, and others. He could have pursued many directions with his multiple interests and abilities, but his most intimate love was music. His untimely death severed the possibility of seeing where he would go with his extraordinary gift. Kyle left behind his parents, Roy and Jane Thomas; his sisters, Christy Thomas West and Amy Thomas Gardner; his brothers-in-law, Jim West and Kevin Gardner; and his nephews--Levi, Jonah, and Caleb West and Rian Gardner. A niece, Kylie Jane West, was born fifteen months after his death and named in memory of her Uncle Kyle.
About John D’earth
Jazz trumpeter and composer John D'earth was born in Framingham, Massachusetts in 1950. He has performed and recorded internationally and appeared on over seventy CDs/recordings working with Buddy Rich, Lionel Hampton, Miles Davis/Quincy Jones, and Bruce Hornsby, among many others. Currently residing in Charlottesville, John is co-founder of the Free Bridge Quintet, musical director for the Thompson D'earth Band (with his wife, vocalist and composer Dawn Thompson). He leads the Charlottesville Swing Orchestra, the jazz/poetry project, and the John D'earth quartet/quintet/sextet. As Director of Jazz Performance at the University of Virginia, he teaches improvisation, jazz trumpet, and directs the UVA Jazz Ensemble. He has been serving at Virginia Commonwealth University as Artist-in-Residence for the past two years. Through the years, John has taught, encouraged, inspired, and promoted many young musicians—and now Kyle in this memorial album.
Personal Reflections by Kyle’s Mother
During the night of March 23, 2010, my husband and I got a call no parent ever wants to receive, informing us that our son had been found dead in his apartment in Delray Beach, Florida. For a long time, Kyle, 29, had been battling addiction to drugs In spite of all his efforts to overcome it, this terrible disease had finally taken his life. News of his death put us on the most difficult road we have ever had to travel. Kyle was a beautiful, wonderful, sensitive, and gifted person, who never knew his true worth because of the way his addiction beat him down.
We tell you about our son’s struggle because we want others to know how dreadful the disease of addiction is, how it can ruin a life and affect everyone who is involved, and how it is progressive and even fatal. Misunderstandings of addiction abound. We have gained new perspectives through being so intimately involved with our son’s struggles, through educating ourselves about the disease, and ultimately through losing him to it. We have a strong desire for addiction to receive as much attention and funding as cancer and other disorders that can rob an individual of life.
Our culture’s response to addicts tends to be judgmental and punitive. Until our last breath, we will try to change the stigma and misunderstandings associated with this horrible disease. Our hearts are filled with compassion and prayers for those who suffer from alcoholism and drug addiction and for their families. Every addict is somebody’s child, brother, sister, father, or mother.
Our son was a beautiful, gentle, and endearing man. We loved him unconditionally. There was nothing unlovable about him. He had many interests, abilities, dreams, and friends. He was not one to judge; he was one of the most unprejudiced individuals we have ever known—a humble being—never self-promoting. Kyle had a warm and tender heart; he was creative; and he could make people laugh. In spite of all these good qualities, addiction kept him from realizing his full potential.
Our loss is extremely painful. Life will never be the same, and we will never be the same. However, Kyle had already achieved what we wanted most for him in life: He knew God and encouraged others to have faith in the Lord.
A number of Kyle’s friends shared stories of Kyle’s passion for God and his compassion for people. He helped many fellow strugglers. We hope this album and testimony will combat the stigma and misunderstandings that surround this insidious disease and comfort individuals and families fighting the battle of addiction. - Jane Smith Thomas, June 2012
The Title of the Album
Resurrection Guitar refers to the company that built Kyle’s instrument. More importantly, it expresses the faith of Kyle and his family. They believe that God’s only Son died too--for us. John Claypool (whose child died of leukemia) writes in his book, Tracks of a Fellow Struggler, “God not only watched His child suffer; God brought Him through it, even death…The raising of Christ Jesus from the dead…is our basis of hope in the midst of tragedy…What God could do for His Boy in the midst of suffering I dare to believe God can do for my child.” Kyle was chained beauty, now set free!
Words cannot adequately express Kyle’s family’s appreciation to James McLaughlin, sound engineer at The Sound Studio in Charlottesville. His editing and remastering of the music on this album have been nothing less than genius.
The family also wishes to thank John D’earth for his guidance through every step in the production of this album and for adding his amazing trumpet performance to Double Helix after Kyle’s death. The family wishes to express gratitude to Reggie Marshall of MarsJazz Booking Agency (and past director of the WTJU Jazz Concert Series and UVA JAZZFEST) for his counsel, encouragement, and friendship throughout Kyle’s life and death and the family’s work on this album. Special thanks also go to Jesse Harper--songwriter, musician, and recording artist--for uploading Kyle’s music to the Internet.
“To the best of our knowledge, all of Kyle’s music on this album is original. Even when noted that Kyle is playing the song of another artist, his interpretation is a unique musical improvisation. Kyle may be improvising on the works of other musicians of which we are unaware.” - Roy Thomas, June 2012