Don Thompson Quartet

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A highly accomplished Canadian jazz multi-instrumentalist; skilled accompanist, leader, and composer.
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b. 18 January 1940, Powell River, British Columbia, Canada. Thompson played bass with several Vancouver bands in the early 60s, including those led by Dave Robbins, Chris Gage and Fraser McPherson. He also led his own groups and made several appearances with these on CBC Radio and Television. In 1965 he joined John Handy, touring with him throughout the USA for two years and recording two albums including the very popular Live At The Monterey Jazz Festival. Handy’s band was based in San Francisco and during this period Thompson was able to play with other musicians, such as George Duke, Maynard Ferguson, Frank Rosolino and Denny Zeitlin.

After his spell with Handy he returned to Canada, eventually settling in Toronto. In 1969 he joined Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass, first as a percussionist before switching to bass and eventually to piano. He also played bass and piano with Moe Koffman’s group and made records with both these leaders. With the latter he made Solar Explorations while his several appearances on record with McConnell’s Boss Brass include Again!, Live In Digital and Our 25th Year. He also recorded with McConnell in a trio setting with Ed Bickert, Three For The Road. Thompson has established rapport with several guitarists over his career, working successfully with Bickert on two praised duo albums for Sackville Records, Lenny Breau, Sonny Greenwich (recording The Old Man And The Child), Pat LaBarbera (Necessary Evil), and Emily Remler (Take Two).

During his years in Toronto he was a member of the house rhythm section at one of the city’s leading venues, the Bourbon Street Jazz Club. At this time, Thompson played and often recorded with numerous noted visitors, including Paul Desmond (Like Someone In Love), Harry Edison, Art Farmer, Jim Hall (touring with the guitarist to Europe, Japan and the USA from 1974 and making several albums), Slide Hampton, Milt Jackson, Lee Konitz, Abbey Lincoln, James Moody, Rosolino (Thinking About You), Zoot Sims and Clark Terry.

In addition to the Bourbon Street gigs, Thompson also accompanied visitors at other venues: Joe Henderson, Sheila Jordan, Red Mitchell, Dewey Redman, Red Rodney, Sarah Vaughan and Kenny Wheeler. Among other artists with whom he has recorded are Dave Liebman, Jay McShann (Swingmatism and other albums), Buddy Tate (the Sackville All Stars’ Saturday Night Function), and Mel Tormé (Top Drawer and An Evening At Charlie’s). In 1982 he started a five-year spell with George Shearing, touring extensively and making records, including Live At The Café Carlyle.

In the mid-90s Thompson was appointed artist in residence at the Royal Academy of Music, London, England. He also teaches at the Banff Centre for the Performing Arts, Alberta, Canada, as does Kenny Wheeler with whom Thompson played on a regular basis throughout the 90s. He also worked in a trio with Wheeler and Dave Holland, on this occasion playing piano in deference to Holland’s presence. While at Banff, Thompson formed the Banff Jazz All Stars, recording Celebration. Through the rest of the 90s and on into the new century, Thompson continued to lead his own small groups and to appear with many other bands including JMOG which he co-leads. In addition to piano, bass and percussion, Thompson also plays vibraphone. He has won many awards, including the coveted Canadian Juno for Jazz Album Of The Year in 1979 and 1984. He has frequently topped the Jazz Report poll in the vibraphone category and once the composer category. A highly accomplished musician, skilled accompanist and encouraging leader, Thompson’s resourceful virtuosity makes him a player worthy of attention.