Charles Thompson (jazz)

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"Sir" Charles Thompson
Birth nameCharles Phillip Thompson
BornMarch 21, 1918
Springfield, Ohio, U.S.
DiedJune 16, 2016 (aged 98)
Tokyo, Japan
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, arranger
InstrumentsPiano, organ
Associated actsEarl Bostic, Coleman Hawkins

Charles Phillip Thompson (March 21, 1918 – June 16, 2016) was an American swing and bebop pianist, organist, composer, and arranger.

Early life[edit]

Thompson was born in Springfield, Ohio, on March 21, 1918.[1] His father was a minister and his stepmother played the piano.[1] "He first studied violin and briefly played tenor saxophone, but took up piano as a teenager."[1] He moved with his family to Parsons, Kansas, in the southeastern part of the state. Later Thompson attended a Kansas City high school.[1]

By the age of twelve, Thompson was playing private parties with Bennie Moten and his band in Colorado Springs, Colorado. During this time, Count Basie played off and on with Moten's band. During a show Basie called Thompson up to perform. He was dubbed Sir Charles Thompson by Lester Young.[1]

Later life and career[edit]

Thompson chiefly worked with small groups, including the Coleman Hawkins/Howard McGhee sextet in 1944–1945.[2] Throughout the 1940s he played and recorded with Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis[3] and J.C. Heard, among others. He played with Lucky Millinder's big band in 1946, and under Illinois Jacquet in 1947–48 and 1952.[1]

He worked freelance, principally on organ, for much of the 1950s.[1] He played with Parker again in 1953 and recorded with Vic Dickenson and Buck Clayton in 1953–54.[1] Thompson worked with Earl Bostic in the late 1950s before heading his own quartet in 1959.[1]

In the early 1960s, he toured Europe and Canada with Buck Clayton.[1] Thompson was in Europe again in 1964, with Jazz at the Philharmonic, and in 1967 for the show Jazz from a Swinging Era.[1] "Living variously on the West Coast, where he often worked with Vernon Alley, and in Toronto, Paris, and Zurich, he continued to lead small groups through the 1970s and 1980s."[1] He composed the jazz standard "Robbins' Nest".[2]

He died on June 16, 2016 at the age of 98 in a hospital near Tokyo, Japan. He had lived in the country with his wife Makiko since 2002.[4] Earlier he had a daughter, now known as Tina Hoffman, with blues/jazz singer Lauricia Lorraine Balsz. She has become a singer-songwriter.


As leader[edit]

  • Takin' Off (Delmark)
  • Sir Charles Thompson and Coleman Hawkins: For the Ears (Vanguard, 1954–56)
  • Sir Charles Thompson and the Swing Organ (Columbia, 1959)
  • Sir Charles: Rockin' Rhythm with Sir Charles at the Organ (Columbia, 1961)
  • Hey There (Black & Blue, 1974)
  • Robbins' Nest: Live at the Jazz Showcase (Delmark, 2000)
  • I Got Rhythm: Live at the Jazz Showcase (Delmark, 2001)

As sideman[edit]

With Buck Clayton

With Dexter Gordon

With Dodo Greene

With Joe Newman

With Paul Quinichette

With Harold Ashby and Paul Gonsalves

With Ike Quebec

With Joe Williams

  • Together (Roulette, 1961) with Harry "Sweets" Edison


  • Cook, Richard and Morton, Brian (2008) The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (9th ed.), Penguin, p. 1400. ISBN 978-0-141-03401-0.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l DeVeaux, Scott; Kernfeld, Barry "Thompson, Sir Charles." The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (2nd ed.). Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved July 7, 2015. (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b Ginell, Richard. "Sir Charles Thompson: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 21 March 2010.
  3. ^ Carr, Ian (1991) (in French) Miles Davis, p. 26. Editions Parenthèses. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
  4. ^ Bernstein, Adam (June 20, 2016). "Sir Charles Thompson, jazz pianist who bridged swing and bebop, dies at 98". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 23, 2016.