Fusing jazz and flamenco into a style all its own, Roman Street is taking the Gulf Coast music scene by storm with unbelievable talent, good looks, and a unique artistic flair.
By Courtney Austin - images by Courtland Richards
While many boys’ fathers coached them in football or baseball, Noah and Joshua Thompson’s father was passing down a different passion to his sons. Growing up along Alabama’s Eastern Shore, these brothers began building the foundations they would use to create one of the most unique and talented bands along the Gulf Coast at an early age.
“My dad told us that music teaches you about life,” Noah says. “We really didn’t have a choice. It’s something we were going to learn.”
And years later, Noah couldn’t be happier that’s the path his father led the brothers down. He began taking piano lessons at age five, played the alto saxophone in his middle school band, and picked up the guitar at 15, the same age brother Josh would begin playing. The two got experience playing in front of crowds as part of their church’s praise and worship band, and decided they wanted to continue on that track. It was then that the Thompson brothers formed Roman Street, a self-described “acoustic jam band with a Latin flair” made up of five Gulf Coast natives. Their music “dabbles in the arts of nouveau flamenco, smooth and not-so-smooth jazz, and its own fusion style with a youthful, acoustically dominant, and spontaneous approach to musical expression.” Noah and Josh take the lead on the guitar, nylon and steel strings respectively, and are joined by bass player Jason Sikes, Nik White’s African drum, and Daniel Brett on the congas.
The band’s Gulf Coast roots are obvious when the guys play. They note that their music, a fusion of musical techniques and structures, is a product of the Gulf Coast—a place that fuses countless types of people, cultures, and styles from around the world. And Roman Street feels that the Coast, a place made up of myriad flavors, is a great place that really appreciates this unique style of music. “The Gulf Coast puts a premium on arts and culture,” Noah says.
When traveling with the band away from this region, he laughs about the way people react when they hear that Roman Street is from Alabama, noting that many people who aren’t from here have preconceived notions, both good and bad. “When they hear where we are from, their jaws hit the floor. Many people don’t realize how wonderfully cultural Alabama is, especially here on the Gulf Coast.”
This region better enjoy Roman Street while it can. The boys currently play along the Coast, but are getting more and more gigs across the nation. But no matter where Roman Street travels, the hearts of the members of one of the Gulf Coast’s most sought after bands will always be right here where they got their start.
Published in the Summer 2009 issue
Picked by Courtney Austin
On its third album, Amore, Roman Street showcases human emotions, especially love, through music. The band mixes some of its original music with its favorite love songs in a style all its own. “Canon in D” is featured on the album after fans begged for the band to record its unique spin on this traditional love song. Roman Street honors its mentoring band, Tonic Strings, a “gypsy jazz-style” band from Switzerland that has taken the band under its wing, still teaching the brothers “across the pond” each summer. Roman Street’s centerpiece is a cover of “Amore Mio,” a song written for Tonic Strings lead singer’s wife on their wedding day. Noah notes one can really feel that this song is about love and relationships. “You can literally hear the give and take in the song, just like the give and take in a relationship.” For a band that never plays a song the same way twice, Roman Street blends its unique style of Gulf Coast jazz with Latin rhythm on non-traditional instruments as they express their emotions on their third, and best, album yet.