Art Themen

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Art Themen
Themen performing in 2009
Themen performing in 2009
Background information
Birth nameArthur Edward George Themen
Born (1939-11-26) 26 November 1939 (age 84)
Manchester, England
Occupation(s)Musician, orthopaedic surgeon

Arthur Edward George Themen (born 26 November 1939) is a British jazz saxophonist[1][2] 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."[3]

Life and career[edit]

Themen was born in Manchester, England, where he was involved with the traditional jazz scene in the late 1950s[4] as a self-taught musician,[5] having started playing clarinet as a schoolboy at Manchester Grammar School.[6][7]

In 1958, he began his medical studies at the University of Cambridge. There Themen started playing jazz with the Cambridge University Jazz Band – with bandmates including Lionel Grigson, Dave Gelly, [8] 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".[7]

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.[6] In London, he played with blues musicians Jack Bruce and Alexis Korner,[6] and was a member of Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated.[7] 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."[7] 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.[7]

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.[5][7]

He was featured in a profile on composer Graham Collier in the 1985 Channel 4 documentary Hoarded Dreams [9]

In 1995, Themen formed a quartet with pianist John Critchinson.[10][11]

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.[3]

In November 2014 Julian Joseph interviewed Themen on BBC Radio 3's Jazz Line-Up, to celebrate the saxophonist's 75th birthday. Themen recalled that his musical career had begun with the clarinet which, due to a missing page in the instruction manual, he had originally played with the mouthpiece upside-down. He turned to the saxophone aged 16, after attending a concert by the Dankworth Seven, with a female cousin. The well-groomed saxophonist Danny Moss had winked at her, and the impact this had convinced Themen that his future was with the saxophone.[12]

Following his retirement as a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, Themen has been focusing on his jazz career.[7]


  • 1975: Captain Adventure - Stan Tracey Quartet
  • 1976: Under Milk Wood - Stan Tracey Quartet
  • 1976: The Bracknell Connection - Stan Tracey Octet
  • 1979: Expressly Ellington - Al Haig, Jamil Nasser and Art Themen
  • 1980: South East Assignment - Stan Tracey Quartet
  • 1981: The Crompton Suite - Stan Tracey Sextet
  • 1982: Bebop "Live" – Al Haig, Peter King and Art Themen
  • 1984: The Poets' Suite - Stan Tracey Quartet
  • 1985: Now - Stan Tracey
  • 1985: Live At Ronnie Scott's - Stan Tracey Hexad
  • 1987: Genesis - Stan Tracey Orchestra
  • 2008: The 3 Tenors at the Appleby Jazz Festival – Art Themen, Mornington Lockett and Don Weller (featuring Mark Edwards, Andrew Cleyndert and Spike Wells)[13][14]
  • 2019: Thane & The Villeins - Pete Whittaker, Art Themen, George Double
  • 2022: Hanky Panky - Art Themen/Dave Barry Quartet (Trio Records)[15]
  • 2023: Off Piste - Greg Foat and Art Themen

With Graham Collier


  1. ^ Lifschutz, Jonathan (2 October 2009). "Art Themen – Lund Theatre". Jazzwise. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
  2. ^ Chilton, John (1997). Who's Who of British Jazz. London: Cassell.
  3. ^ a b Fordham, John (25 October 2001). "Art Themen — Pillar Rooms, Cheltenham" (review)". The Guardian.
  4. ^ "Art Themen", Trio Records, 2010.
  5. ^ a b Art Themen biography, AllMusic.
  6. ^ a b c "Art Themen - the jazz doctor calls", Rob Adams Journaliet.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Bannister, Trevor, "Jazz in Reading pays tribute to Art Themen", Jazz In Reading, May 2019.
  8. ^ "Art Themen – the jazz doctor calls", Rob Adams Journalist.
  9. ^ "Hoarded Dreams", Bright Thoughts.
  10. ^ "John Critchinson", Woodville Records. Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  11. ^ "John Critchinson...", Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  12. ^ "Jazz Line-Up, Art Themen". BBC Radio 3. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  13. ^ "The 3 Tenors at the Appleby Jazz Festival". Allmusic.
  14. ^ "The 3 Tenors At The Appleby Jazz Festival-TR578", Trio Records
  15. ^ Gelly, Dave (30 July 2022). "Review | Art Themen/Dave Barry Quartet: Hanky Panky review – what a difference a day makes…". The Observer.

External links[edit]