JE Blog

Bon Voyage Willie T. 2/13/1931 – 2/16/2019

Oliver Groenewald | February 23, 2019

Willie passed away in his home with Wendy and me next to him. It was peaceful and without struggle. We miss him very much.Willie’s curriculum is here to stay, and whether you are a new, old or returning member your participation keeps the legacy alive, and the learning continues.Feel free to leave a note here even though we can’t read it to Willie anymore. We can only imagine him looking over our shoulder with a big Willie T grin.

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35 responses to “Bon Voyage Willie T. 2/13/1931 – 2/16/2019”

  1. Ronald DuPree says:

    When I saw the note in my email I was wondering if Willie T was planning to take another trip around the world or if he had passed into Bebop Heaven.

    I ran across Willie T about five years ago on YouTube. I then watched his private lesson that he posted of himself teaching the young lady Emily about his jazz method. I was immediately struck by how he could make the difficult topic ob Bebop jazz seem so easy. And from that moment own I was struck and I dove into he teaching methods.

    To me Willie T was a Jazz Prophet and the message that he left was loud and clear for all to see. I’ve learned so much from Willie T in that for me “he put a face on jazz improvisation.” Willie T will be truly missed on this side of the planet, but n doubt that he’s happy to be in Bebop Heaven along with Charlie Park, Coltrane, Miles, Monk and all the other jazz greats. LONG LIVE WILLIE T AND LONG LIVE BEBOP.

    Peace Willie T. and I truly appreciate all that you did for jazz.

  2. Even though I have been a member of this site for the better part of a decade, I only heard of Willie’s passing today. If I play bop today it is only because of him. Years ago I wrote to him thus: “Dear Willie, after years of suffering random and unconnected bits of information from too many books, videos and from practically anything anyone claimed to know about jazz, I found you. And it all suddenly made sense; my random bubbles of information hopefully coagulating into knowledge.” We had a brief exchange when I asked him to comment on a solo I had played on an album. I will continue to take Willie’s music to jazz audiences in India among other places. With best wishes to his family. RIP, Willie Thomas.

  3. Vasilis Ottas says:

    His contribution to jazz teaching was significant. New jazz players will realize it by this site. His figure was as much liked as his continuous effort to break down jazz language and offer his knowledge to others! Gonna miss you Willie! Have a nice trip through the stardust among other jazz stars!!!
    Ottas Vasilis. Siatista – Kozani

  4. Viktor Bori says:

    It was in Trossingen, Germany at an international seminar on jazz methodics back in 1986 when I had the pleasure to meet and learn from Mr Willie Thomas. Then a keen student, later as a jazz educator, I always incorporated his ingenious method that works so well for kids or any beginning improvisor. I was saddened to hear the news of his passing. RIP

  5. We, the staff of the Leverkusener Musikschule in Germany, who were allowed to work with Willie Thomas and who have learned to love and appreciate him over the many years, would like to express our deepest sympathy to you. 
    He came to us so often that we see him as part of us. 
    We miss his humor, his lovable nature but also his creativity and his competence.
    He was a very special person with a wide personality and of course a wonderful musician.
    His teaching was full of energy, creativity and love for the children and people he met. 
    He came to teach Jazz – his music – never bothered about working with Zorffbands, Big Bands, Combos, Improvisation Classes on all levels. 
    But we will also remember him as a wonderful player, doing Combo concerts in Jazz Clubs or at school, or performing  with our Big Bands.
    His playing was like his wide personality.
    We will miss him and we will keep  his legacy always in great honor.
    Willie passed away, but the music he created will be there forever.

    Jürgen & Johannes

  6. Jordyn Baxter says:

    Saddened to hear this. Much love to Willie T and the family from Scotland. Rest in peace my man x

  7. Alessandro says:

    thanks Willie for your love and passion
    You ‘ve changed my music life, RIP
    ALex from Italy

  8. Han Geurtsen says:

    I am grateful to have learned from uncle Willie. It is sad that he passed away. Fortunately he left to us his passion for music with the wonderfull JAZZ everyone site. My condolences to his family and friends. All the best to you in keeping his legacy alive.

  9. roberto sassoni says:

    Thanks Willie
    You have changed my life
    Bebop leaves

  10. wolfgang winkler says:

    Lieber Willie, alles Gute im Musikerhimmel, Du hast Dir dort den besten Platz verdient und vielleicht kannst Du auch dort für Furore sorgen! Vielen Dank für all Deine Inspiritationen, die mich im “hohen” Alter zum musizieren und zum Jazz gebracht haben.

    Herzlichen Dank
    Wolfgang Winkler

  11. Georgios Roussos says:

    His soul will continue! His spirit will lead. And we all follow and get inspired.

  12. Werner Schmidt says:

    Willie is in my musical heart and soul. From the first glance I was fascinated how easy difficult Bebop language could be explaned.
    I am still working on it at my age of 75 and there is much to explore ( for instance halfdeminished chords). Due to our IT-world we can go on listen to him for ever.

  13. Douglas Hill says:

    As soon as I read the first line of the email I felt a sadness in my heart. I loved listening to ol’ whiskers blowing that horn. Just my own personal name for the great fella. He will be missed by so many. My thoughts and preyers go out to his family. He’ll be playing with some of the greats “up there” and we will still be able to hear him long into the years.

    Keep playing the sweet music Willie


  14. derek wikramanayake says:

    although i could not enrol to his programs i did take in a lot of information from his demos may he live in peace and happiness in heaven where he belongs.

  15. Elizabeth Gambino says:

    Such a sad day. He spread so much joy and made jazz accessible to so many. Even the ones with a permanent music block, like myself, he was able to reach through his low key and gentle style. This was a man who put his heart and soul into spreading jazz to everyone. As I have said to my friends, he should be named a National Treasure. My deepest condolences to his friends and family. My deepest thanks for all he has done. Thank you for helping to keep his legacy alive.

    • Wendy Thomas says:

      Thanks for your kind words Elizabeth. I love that you saw his low key and gentle style! He wore so many hats- also a gift. We miss him a ton and we’re grateful that he spent a very short time between his last toot on the horn and passing away. It was his life.

  16. CARLOS NASSAR says:

    Vert sad to know about Willie’s departure. I am a one year subscriber and it made me so happy to work with Willie’s material and watch him speaking and playing.
    I think I heard much more than the notes he was playing. I heard all the love and humanity he was carrying through his beautiful and emotional playing.
    I wish I could have met this great man even once in my lifetime.

    Carlos from BELGIUM

  17. Rest in peace Willie, thank you for all you taught me and for what I’ll still learn from you in the future.

  18. Charmaine Michelle says:

    My condolences to his family. I learned so much from Jazz Everyone.

  19. Delilah King says:

    Condolences to Willie’s family and friends.
    I always enjoyed,off and on, the preview lessons.
    I had been looking forward to taking the beginner lessons full on when the time allowed because I really enjoyed Willie’s approach. When I recently searched the website I learned of the sad news. But I will be signing up next week, as Willie has put his heart and soul into his Wonderful lessons. Thank you, Willie for Spreading the Love. Delilah

  20. Norman B says:

    Very sad news. Willie, you changed lives and enriched all of us. Your humble and timeless enthusiasm inspired, including this “come-back” trumpet player. Thank you for the music; thank you for the company during this voyage. God Bless. – Norman B.

  21. claudio galdes says:

    Willie RIP you are a diamond, we don’t have an excuse now how to learn jazz, you gave us much to learn.


  22. Seth Dantzie says:

    It is very sad to hear when a fellow musician passes, I thank him so much from the UK for contributing so much to the Jazz world, rest in pice my man, I’ll be continuing from where you left off on our journey, on my saxophone.

  23. Jeff Alpert says:

    Dear Olli, Dear Wendy,

    I’m so sorry to hear about Willie’s passing. After having met Willie when you and he came to the International School in Hamburg to do a session with my students years ago, I have been using the site and recommending it to students since that time. I hope you will continue keeping Willie’s dream alive. It is in good hands! Lots of love to you both, Jeff

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