Photo: William P. Gottlieb.
|Birth name||Eli Thompson|
|Born||June 16, 1924
Columbia, South Carolina, United States
|Died||July 30, 2005
|Instruments||Tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone|
|Associated acts||Lionel Hampton, Don Redman, Billy Eckstine, Lucky Millinder, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker|
Eli "Lucky" Thompson (June 16, 1924 — July 30, 2005) was a United States jazz tenor and soprano saxophonist. While John Coltrane usually receives the most credit for bringing the soprano saxophone out of obsolescence in the early 1960s, Thompson (along with Steve Lacy), embraced the instrument earlier than Coltrane.[not in citation given]
Thompson was born in Columbia, South Carolina, and moved to Detroit, Michigan, during his childhood. Thompson had to raise his siblings after his mother died, and he practiced saxophone fingerings on a broom handle before acquiring his first instrument. He joined Erskine Hawkins' band in 1942 upon graduating from high school.
After playing with the swing orchestras of Lionel Hampton, Don Redman, Billy Eckstine (alongside Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker), Lucky Millinder, and Count Basie, he worked in rhythm and blues and then established a career in bebop and hard bop, working with Kenny Clarke, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Milt Jackson.
Ben Ratliff notes that Thompson "connected the swing era to the more cerebral and complex bebop style. His sophisticated, harmonically abstract approach to the tenor saxophone built off that of Don Byas and Coleman Hawkins; he played with beboppers, but resisted Charlie Parker's pervasive influence." He showed these capabilities as sideman on many albums recorded during the mid-1950s, such as Stan Kenton's Cuban Fire!, and those under his own name. He recorded with Charlie Parker (on two Los Angeles Dial Records sessions) and on Miles Davis’s hard bop Walkin' session. Thompson recorded albums as leader for ABC Paramount and Prestige and as a sideman on records for Savoy Records with Milt Jackson as leader.
Thompson was strongly critical of the music business, later describing promoters, producers and record companies as "parasites" or "vultures." This, in part, led him to move to Paris, where he lived and made several recordings between 1957 and 1962. During this time, he began playing soprano saxophone.
Thompson returned to New York, then lived in Lausanne, Switzerland from 1968 until 1970, and recorded several albums there including A Lucky Songbook in Europe. He taught at Dartmouth College in 1973 and 1974, then completely left the music business.
In his last years he lived in Seattle, Washington. Acquaintances reported that Thompson was homeless by the early 1990s, and lived as a hermit. Thompson died in an assisted living facility on July 30, 2005.
Thompson was married to Thelma Thompson, who died in 1963. Thompson's son, guitarist Daryl Thompson, played with Peter Tosh and Black Uhuru before embarking on a jazz career in the late 1980s. Thompson also had a daughter, Jade Thompson-Fredericks, and two grandchildren.
- Accent On Tenor (Urania, 1954; reissued by Fresh Sound)
- Tricotism (Impulse, 1956)
- Brown Rose (Xanadu, 1956)
- Lord, Lord, Am I Ever Gonna Know? (Candid, 1961)
- Lucky Thompson Plays Jerome Kern and No More (Moodsville, 1963)
- Lucky Strikes (Prestige, 1964)
- Lucky Thompson Plays Happy Days Are Here Again (Prestige, 1965)
- Lucky is Back! (Rivoli, 1965)
- Body & Soul (Nessa, 1970)
- Paris Blue, with Sammy Price (Concord Jazz, 2000)
- Modern Jazz Group (EmArcy, no date/Sunnyside, 2000)
- Jazz in Paris, with Dave Pochonet All Stars (Sunnyside, 2001)
- Home Comin' (2003)
|This section requires expansion. (January 2012)|
- With Oscar Pettiford
- O.P. Big Band: Deep Passion (GRP, 1956–57) with Tommy Flanagan, David Amram, Julius Watkins, David Kurtzer, Jerome Richardson, Osie Johnson, Gigi Gryce, Lucky Thompson, Art Farmer, Danny Bank, Jimmy Cleveland, Ernie Royal, Janet Putnam u.a.
- The Oscar Pettiford Orchestra in Hi-Fi, Vol. 1 (1956) & Vol. 2 (1957) with Tommy Flanagan, David Amram, Ed London, Art Farmer, Gigi Gryce, Betty Glamamm, Jimmy Cleveland, Osie Johnson, Danny Bank, Jerome Richardson, Lucky Thompson, Ernie Royal.
With Art Blakey
- Soul Finger (Limelight, 1965)
With Dizzy Gillespie
- With Milt Jackson
- Meet Milt Jackson (Savoy, 1956)
- Roll 'Em Bags (Savoy, 1956)
- Ballads & Blues (Atlantic, 1956)
- The Jazz Skyline (Savoy, 1956)
- Plenty, Plenty Soul (Atlantic, 1957)
- With Thelonious Monk
- With Dinah Washington
- Ratliff, Ben (2005-08-05). "Lucky Thompson, Jazz Saxophonist, Is Dead at 81". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
- Ankeny, Jason. Lucky Thompson at Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
- Lucky Thompson - Happy Days, allmusic.com.
- Lucky Thompson - Lucky Strikes, allmusic.com.
- Chia Hui Hsu, Judy (2005-08-06). "Jazz great Eli Thompson soared for 3 decades, fell silent". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
- Cook, Richard; Brian Morton (2008) . The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (9th ed.). New York: Penguin. pp. 1397–1398. ISBN 978-0-14-103401-0.
- Johnson, John H., ed. (August 15, 1963). "New York Beat". JET (Chicago: Johnson) 24 (17): 64. ISSN 0021-5996. Retrieved 2011-04-26. "Thelma Thompson, who died of a stroke, was the wife of tenor saxophonist Lucky Thompson. They had been separated for over a year…"
- Johnson, John H., ed. (September 25, 1989). "New Image". JET (Chicago: Johnson) 76 (25): 18. ISSN 0021-5996. Retrieved 2011-04-26.
- "Monk, Thelonious Discography". Blue Note Records. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
- Yanow, Scott. Mellow Mama at Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-01-18.