Presented as the “World’s best vibraphonist” by World Expo 2020 in Dubai, composer and percussionist Thaddeus Tukes honors the legacy of the vibraphone within the jazz tradition and beyond. His virtuosity and creativity “brings poetry to the vibraphone” (Chicago Tribune, 2019), which has captivated audiences from Carnegie Hall in New York to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Thaddeus says he is a proud practitioner of the “Chicago Vibe,” and hails his hometown as the foundation of the modern jazz aesthetic. The future of the jazz tradition has arrived, and Thaddeus Tukes is at the forefront.
Tukes began playing the piano at the age of five, and soon began inclusive percussion instruction with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association’s Percussion Scholarship Program with teacher Patricia Dash and Douglas Waddell, upon recommendation from Edgar Alan Poe Classical School music teacher, Barry Elmore. Although classically trained, he was inspired to play Jazz vibraphone after hearing vibraphonists Lionel Hampton and Stefon Harris. Tukes later played percussion instruments and piano in the Jazz Combo, Symphonic Band, Orchestra, and Percussion ensembles at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago. In addition to a feature performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City with the school’s band, he received superior ratings in city- and state-wide solo competitions in classical music, and recognition as the best Illinois Jazz vibraphonist among high school competitors by the Illinois Music Education Association.
Tukes graduated with a combined bachelor’s degree in Jazz piano and vibraphone studies from Northwestern University, the first Jazz vibraphone degree program at a non-conservatory university, under the direction of saxophonist Victor Goines of Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and vibraphonist Jim Cooper. Tukes earned the honors of being a Ravinia Jazz Scholar, Jazz Institute of Chicago’s Kewitt-Wang Scholar, Luminarts Fellow, Vivian K Harsh Society awardee and Percussive Arts Society/Yamaha Terry Gibbs Vibraphone Scholarship recipient. As a former apprentice of Chicago’s Gallery 37/After School Matters Center for the Arts Jazz Band program during high school under the direction of pianist Roger Harris and multi-reedist Chip Gdalman, Tukes is currently its director.
The summer of 2020 found Tukes forming a group of local musicians called the Chicago Freedom Ensemble, a music performance and social justice advocacy organization. Through the Chicago Freedom Ensemble, he has supported and led protests, provided political and financial literacy for the local music community, conducted jam sessions throughout the city, and created a citywide network of young multicultural instrumentalists. Tukes, along with a small delegation of these musicians, were invited to and performed at the 2020 World’s Expo in Dubai.
In March 2022, Tukes led an all-star Jazz band in the prestigious Chicago Symphony Center presents Jazz Series as the youngest bandleader of the season, as well as the only Chicago native.
Tukes has released three albums under his self-owned label, Vibetown Studios. He performs as a bandleader and special guest at jazz festivals and various Jazz clubs and ensembles throughout the country. He is a member of the Chicago Jazz Orchestra and the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic. When not performing, Tukes can be found teaching percussion ensembles at various elementary and high schools in the Chicagoland area.