Tressa Thomas
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Tressa Thomas

Chicago, Illinois, United States

Chicago, Illinois, United States
R&B Soul

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"Barbra Streisand's Compelling Show at the United Center."

TRESSA THOMAS performed as part of the Chicago Christian Choir of The Temple Glory, International.
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Whether or not you consider Barbra Streisand the last reigning diva of a more lyrical period in American pop music, she certainly stands as a symbol of the era that gave us Judy Garland, Ethel Merman, Lena Horne, Dinah Washington, Doris Day, Sarah Vaughan and other inimitable melody-makers.

So a sense of occasion surrounded the United Center on Friday night, when Streisand returned to the same outsized venue she played six years ago in another one of her rare returns to a concert world she always has said she's reluctant to play.

Now, however, Streisand is 70, an age that inevitably involves looking back and taking measure of what has happened. In Streisand's case, that means she remembers personal milestones that most of us shared with her, from films such as "Funny Girl" and "Hello, Dolly!" to pop anthems such as "People," "Evergreen" and "The Way We Were." Say what you will about the sentimental effusions of those songs, they were ubiquitous at a certain juncture in American popular culture and made Streisand a fixture in it.

Listening to Streisand return to these landmarks, and others, said a great deal indeed about the passage of time and, as she says, the way we were. Marvin Hamlisch, a longtime Streisand collaborator and friend, died last August at age 68, and his passing – and the role he played in Streisand's life and art – inspired a key segment of the evening.

More important, you could sense the effects of the flow of time on Streisand's instrument and delivery. Though still sounding remarkably sumptuous for someone her age, or any age, Streisand showed somewhat less vocal heft than before, a bit less tonal sheen. Her voice is thinner on top, huskier on the bottom.

Though she still had huge notes to deliver, she doled them out more sparingly than in the past, tapping her full vocal resources at particular passages and taking care not to squander them. That she punctuated a show than ran more than 21/2 hours (including intermission) with appearances by various guest performers – enabling her to periodically leave the stage and rest – only added to the sense of a great star shrewdly making the most of what she has to give.

Even Streisand's between-song patter referenced the calendar, as in a section of the evening in which she read questions from the audience that had been submitted in advance. One referred to Streisand as a "living legend," prompting her to quip that she didn't mind the term so long as the word "living" were still in it.

Yet all these indications of years gone by made her performance that much more compelling and rendered this concert one of the most satisfying she has given Chicago. If Streisand's work in her prime was, above all, about The Voice – its size, its luxuriance, its silken purity – this time the singer plumbed more deeply into the meaning of the song. Yes, she still lavished plenty of sound on the old warhorses, but the slight grain in her tone, the occasional interruption in a line, even the random errant pitch made her work sound more genuine, vulnerable, meaningful and real. This time, the proceedings were less about The Voice and more about the music.

Because of the inclusion of the aforementioned guest artists, as well as Streisand's periodic costume changes, the evening felt much like a TV variety show of the 1960s, though quaintly so. But the show, which Streisand titled "Back to Brooklyn," so elegantly transitioned between Streisand's segments and those of some dubiously chosen colleagues that the guests seemed like minor irritants rather than major distractions.

From the initial phrases of the opening song, "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever," there was no question that Streisand was fully engaged with the score, the singer bending notes and embellishing lines slightly, showing this was going to be no mere rote recitation of familiar repertoire. Backed by a large orchestra of Los Angeles and Chicago players, Streisand took "Nice 'n' Easy" at an unusually slow tempo, stretching its lines like taffy. The purr she brought to "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" and the cunningly paced climax she delivered in "Didn't We" – which drew predictable screams from a nearly filled stadium – underscored the degree of vocal and musical control she maintains.

In Hamlisch's "The Way We Were," sung while a montage of photos of Streisand with the composer played on large screens above her, the singer shaped phrases artfully, but with less exaggeration than in the past. Less bombast and narcissism, too, Streisand performing the piece on a decidedly human scale and with palpable melancholy. She clearly sang this one to Hamlisch, and you could feel it.
- Chicago Tribune


"BACKSTAGE.COM"

Review of Tressa Thomas - BACKSTAGE MAGAZINE


"BROADWAY WORLD"

Review of Tressa Thomas in Back to Bacharach and David, Hollywood, CA - BRODWAY WORLD


"L.A.TIMES"

Review of Tressa Thomas - L.A.TIMES


"LA.COM"

Review of Tressa Thomas - LA.COM


"VARIETY MAGAZINE"

Review of Tressa Thomas - VARIETY, INC.


"PLUS MODEL MAGAZINE"

Review of Tressa Thomas as a singer and successful full-figured model. - PLUS MODEL MAGAZINE - plusmodelmag.com


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Tressa Thomas is, by definition, a powerful new artist that has patiently waited for her turn to shine.

Having been in the music industry since six years old, and having shared stages with the likes of Patti LaBelle, Common, Carl Thomas, Robert Townsend, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder and others, she has an extensive list of appearances, accomplishments and professional milestones to her record. This would include starring in her first feature film - THE FIVE HEARTBEATS - at the tender age of twelve, and performing on the film's soundtrack with the Grammy-Award winning R&B Legend Patti LaBelle concurrently.

Since then, Thomas has navigated a life of film success, both in front and behind the camera, as well as featured appearances on stages throughout the world. She has also endured quite the personal tragedy with the loss of both her parents before turning 25. However, through the victories and defeats, she remains focused on her most rewarding and fulfilling talents to get her through the tough times: Singing and Songwriting.

This Chicago native's 2013 debut album, 'Hybrid Soul: The Organic Sessions', is highly anticipated and has already created a buzz amongst her eager fans and peers. Her desire to return to "truly organic and grassroots soul" has had a tremendous effect on the methodical execution, timing and release of her debut.

"If I was finally going to release an album, I had to take my time and truly sink into the words and direction," Thomas explains. "With this album, what you hear is what you get. The heart and soul... the abstract nature of my delivery... the original sound components... its all planned and balanced, and I wouldn't have released an album without that synergy."

Executive Produced by Shelley Hoselton and produced by The Soul People Band of Chicago, it goes without saying that anticipation for an album from this one-of-a-kind talent has been running high. The album is a rich showcase for Thomas’s powerhouse vocals and unique storytelling gifts on songs like “Silicone Swag,” “Tragedies,” “Just You and Me,” and “We Gotta Try,” a duet with friend and fellow Chicago artist, Yaw Agyeman.

Other highlights are the thoughtful ballad “All My Men,” which Thomas wrote to celebrate and embrace the loving men in her life that stepped in as fathers, brothers and friends upon her losing her biological father. “There are so many songs that villify men and speak on how they 'do us wrong' or 'don't appreciate us'. I wanted to flip the script, and pay hommage to the men that have actually been there for me... that have held me up when I needed a strong hand and a brave heart." she says.

On the contrary, Thomas does explore those common and opposite expectations - feelings of love lost, disappointment and frustration - in songs like "Noise", "Love Again" "Your Little Games" and "Otherside of the Mirror".

She embraces a subtle, yet sensual exploration of love with the song "Feel Me Darling" and keeps the love train moving with songs like "So Happy" and "ThYck Glow", Thomas's torch song dedication to the beauty and uniqueness of the "thyck" or curvaceous woman... which she happens to be and proudly represents. In fact, she is the CEO and Artistic Director of a 501(c)(3) performing arts company for curvy women in Chicago IL - ThYck Troupe Organization, NFP.

Thomas has always been inspired to create authentic, emotional prose to music, pulling from an array of life experiences and lessons learned. Her soulful, yet delicate vocal style was nurtured by years of not only church singing, but off-Broadway, musical theater, live television and stage performances throughout the world.

She fell in love with many genres of music at a very young age, as it was her mother's desire to forge a young artist who had her finger on the pulse of ALL music, and was not lyrically or vocally limited to just one genre. "My mom used to say just like there are thousands of different painters in the world, there are also thousands of different songs and styles. She wanted my musical mind to resemble an art gallery, and she succeeded," Thomas says.

As her mother introduced her to the classic R&B sounds of Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, and Phyllis Hyman, she also incorporated other genres to help Thomas understand the art of "telling a story" through varying vocal arrangements and tones. From the very beginning stages, examples of Thomas's repertoire included studying the tonal beauty, precision and emotion of Whitney Houston, Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee, with a hefty dose of Chaka Khan and Shirley Bassey added for an impactful powerhouse belt.

Thomas wrote every song on the album, while collaborating with The Soul People Band, Chicago’s hottest soul, funk, hip hop and house band for more than seven years running. The Soul People have played with a wide variety of national and international recording artists including Dwele, Bilal, Omar, Estelle, Ice Cube, COMMON, Renee