“Sir Charles” Thompson, who has died aged 98, was a jazz pianist famed for his command of all kinds of types.
The son of a Methodist minister, Charles Phillip Thompson was born in Springfield, Ohio, on March 21 1918. (The “knighthood” was bestowed on him later by the saxophonist Lester Younger.) He took violin classes from the age of six, and was eager to affix a kids’s band however was turned down. “They informed me that the violin was not an instrument for black youngsters,” he recalled. He took up the piano as a substitute and finally, to his father’s disapproval, started to take an curiosity within the jazz he heard on the radio.
Charles lastly skilled reside jazz on the age of 12, when Benny Moten’s orchestra got here to city. Its pianist, Invoice (later Rely) Basie, studying that there was a promising teenager current, invited him as much as play in the course of the interval. Basie’s encouragement decided the course of his life, Thompson claimed.
5 years later he left house, by climbing out of a window at night time, and joined a travelling carnival band. He couldn’t have chosen a greater yr than 1935, the start of the swing period. After including arranging and orchestration to his repertoire of self-taught abilities, in 1939 he landed within the about-to-be-launched and keenly anticipated band of Lionel Hampton, the vibraphone virtuoso and former star of the Benny Goodman orchestra.
Thompson spent most of 1940 with Hampton earlier than leaving to analyze alternatives in New York. As soon as once more, he selected the appropriate second, and in addition the appropriate place.
The primary stirrings of the revolutionary bebop model could possibly be heard at Harlem jam periods and shortly afterwards within the basement golf equipment alongside 52nd Avenue. As a contract pianist, Thompson discovered himself working with gamers of differing generations and types on an virtually each day foundation. It was round this time that the music press started referring to him because the “Home Pianist of 52nd Avenue”.
In 1942, for 3 months, he joined the band of the brothers Lee and Lester Younger at Café Society in Greenwich Village. It was right here that Lester dubbed him “Sir Charles”, to place him on a par with these different members of the piano aristocracy, Duke Ellington, Rely Basie and Earl Hines.
Thompson’s first noteworthy recordings have been made in 1945. The yr started with a three-month engagement in Los Angeles with a quintet led by the veteran tenor saxophonist, Coleman Hawkins, and together with the fiery bebop trumpeter, Howard McGhee. They recorded 22 titles there, a number of of which have since attained the standing of classics.
September of that yr noticed the primary recording beneath his personal title. Sir Charles Thompson and his All-Stars featured a typical stylistic mixture of the interval, with Charlie Parker and Dexter Gordon representing bebop and trumpeter Buck Clayton enjoying swing. Parker’s presence ensured that the 4 numbers from this session have hardly ever been out of print since.
Of Thompson’s personal compositions, the one which has change into a jazz customary is Robbins Nest (named for the DJ Fred Robbins). Recorded first in 1947, by Thompson with Illinois Jacquet’s band, it has subsequently appeared on data by Basie, Ella Fitzgerald and plenty of others.
Because the preliminary wave of bebop subsided, a mildly counter-revolutionary motion referred to as “mainstream jazz” arose. This aimed toward restoring the easy-going, melodic model of small-band swing, and suited Thompson to perfection. He grew to become a number one contributor to albums by Buck Clayton, Vic Dickenson and different mainstream stars, which finally led to abroad excursions. Typical of those was the live performance package deal, Jazz From A Swinging Period, which visited Britain in 1967 and appeared on BBC tv.
Within the Sixties and Seventies, when jazz was experiencing a skinny time, Thompson took up the Hammond organ and was quickly as busy as ever, main a cool blues organ trio across the Harlem nightclubs.
In 2002 he settled in Tokyo, after marrying his Japanese spouse, Makiko.
He continued enjoying, making occasional return visits to the US, virtually till the tip of his life. He’s survived by his spouse, and by a daughter from an earlier marriage.
Sir Charles Thompson, born March 21 1918, died June 16 2016