Themen performing in 2009
|Birth name||Arthur Edward George Themen|
|Born||26 November 1939|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, orthopaedic surgeon|
|Associated acts||John Critchinson, Jack Bruce, Alexis Korner, Stan Tracey|
Arthur Edward George "Art" Themen (born 26 November 1939) is a British jazz saxophonist and formerly orthopaedic surgeon. Critic John Fordham has described him as "an appealing presence on the British jazz circuit for over 40 years.... Originally a Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins disciple ... Themen has proved himself remarkably attentive to the saxophone styles of subsequent generations."
Life and career
Themen was born in Manchester, England, where he was involved with the traditional jazz scene in the late 1950s as a self-taught musician, having started playing clarinet as a schoolboy at Manchester Grammar School.
In 1958, he began his medical studies at the University of Cambridge. There Themen started playing jazz with the Cambridge University Jazz Group – with bandmates including Lionel Grigson, Dave Gelly, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Jonathan Lynn, and John Hart – the group under pianist Grigson's leadership achieving "near professional standard with a swinging hard-bop style that swept the board in the fiercely contested Inter-University Jazz Band Competitions".
In 1961 Themen went to complete his studies at St Mary's Hospital Medical School, Paddington, where he qualified in 1964; specialising in orthopaedic medicine, he eventually became a consultant. In London he played with blues musicians Jack Bruce and Alexis Korner, and was a member of Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated. Themen has said: "I had pretty much decided that I could continue to practise medicine and play saxophone, and Alexis, being heavily into blues as well as taking in jazz influences like Charles Mingus, furthered my knowledge of music quite a lot." In 1965, Themen played with the Peter Stuyvesant Jazz Orchestra in Zürich, going on to play with such English luminaries as Michael Garrick, Ian Carr, and Graham Collier's Music.
In 1974, Themen entered on what was to be one of his central musical relationships when he started playing with Stan Tracey, and he has played with all of Tracey's groups, touring with him all over the world as well as around the UK. Themen has also played and toured with visiting US musicians, including Charlie Rouse, Nat Adderley, Red Rodney, George Coleman, and Al Haig.
Themen's style originally owed much to the influence of Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins, but later influences included such disparate saxophonists as Coleman Hawkins, Evan Parker, and the "sheets of sound" John Coltrane.
Themen was interviewed by Julian Joseph on BBC Radio 3's Jazz Line-Up on 22 November 2014 as a celebration of the saxophonist's 75th birthday. He revealed that he had originally played clarinet, but since page three of the tutor book was missing he had played for some time with the mouthpiece upside-down. He was inspired to play saxophone after he attended a gig by the Dankworth Seven, at the local Palais, at the age of 16, with a female cousin. The immaculately-dressed and manicured saxophonist Danny Moss winked at Themen's cousin and the instant effect this had convinced Themen that his future lay in the saxophone.
Following his retirement as a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, Themen has been focusing on his jazz career.
- 1979: Expressly Ellington - Al Haig, Jamil Nasser and Art Themen
- 1982: Bebop "Live" – Al Haig, Peter King and Art Themen
- 1997: Classics – Howard Riley and the Art Themen Quartet
- 2008: The 3 Tenors at the Appleby Jazz Festival – Art Themen, Mornington Lockett and Don Weller (featuring Mark Edwards, Andrew Cleyndert and Spike Wells)
- 2019: Thane & The Villeins - Pete Whittaker, Art Themen, George Double.
With Graham Collier
- New Conditions (Mosaic, 1976)
- Symphony of Scorpions (Mosaic, 1977)
- The Day of the Dead (Mosaic, 1978)
- Hoarded Dreams (Cuneiform, 1983 )
- Lifschutz, Jonathan (2 October 2009). "Art Themen – Lund Theatre". Jazzwise. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- Chilton, John (1997). Who's Who of British Jazz. London: Cassell.
- John Fordham, "Art Themen — Pillar Rooms, Cheltenham" (review), The Guardian, 25 October 2001.
- "Art Themen", Trio Records, 2010.
- Art Themen biography, AllMusic.
- "Art Themen - the jazz doctor calls", Rob Adams Journaliet.
- Bannister, Trevor, "Jazz in Reading pays tribute to Art Themen", Jazz In Reading, May 2019.
- "Art Themen – the jazz doctor calls", Rob Adams Journalist.
- "John Critchinson", Woodville Records. Retrieved 5 September 2020.
- "John Critchinson...", henrybebop.co.uk. Retrieved 5 September 2020.
- "Jazz Line-Up, Art Themen". BBC Radio 3. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
- "The 3 Tenors at the Appleby Jazz Festival". Allmusic.
- "The 3 Tenors At The Appleby Jazz Festiva l-TR578", Trio Records