Barbara Thompson (musician)

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Barbara Thompson
Thompson in 2010
Thompson in 2010
Background information
Birth nameBarbara Gracey Thompson
Born(1944-07-27)27 July 1944
Oxford, England
OriginFinchley, England
Died9 July 2022(2022-07-09) (aged 77)
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
  • Saxophone
  • flute
Years active1964–2022
LabelsMCA, Mood, Intuition
(m. 1967; died 2018)

Barbara Gracey Thompson MBE (27 July 1944 – 9 July 2022) was an English jazz saxophonist, flautist and composer. She studied clarinet, flute, piano and classical composition at the Royal College of Music, but the music of Duke Ellington and John Coltrane made her shift her interests to jazz and saxophone. She was married to drummer Jon Hiseman of Colosseum from 1967 until his death in 2018.[1]


Around 1970, Thompson was part of Neil Ardley's New Jazz Orchestra[2][3] and appeared on albums by Colosseum.[4] Beginning in 1975, she was involved in the foundation of three bands:

She was awarded the MBE in 1996 for services to music. Due to Parkinson's disease, which was diagnosed in 1997, she retired as an active saxophonist in 2001 with a farewell tour.[5] After a period of working as a composer exclusively,[8] she returned to the stage in 2003 for a tour with Colosseum.[9][10]

After she was hospitalised with atrial fibrillation, her attendance in an accident and emergency department was featured in an episode of the Channel 4 fly-on-the-wall television documentary 24 Hours in A&E in October 2020.[11][12]

Thompson worked closely with Andrew Lloyd Webber on musicals[5] such as Cats and Starlight Express, his Requiem, and Lloyd Webber's 1978 classical-fusion album Variations. She wrote several classical compositions, music for film and television, a musical of her own and songs for the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble, Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia and her big band Moving Parts. She was a regular, along with her husband drummer Jon Hiseman and bassist David "Dill" Katz in the underground "Cellar Bar" at South Hill Park Arts Centre in Bracknell during the late 1970s and 1980s.

She played the incidental music in the ITV police series A Touch of Frost, starring David Jason. She also played flute on Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds.

Personal life[edit]

Thompson was married to Colosseum drummer Jon Hiseman, from 1967 until his death in June 2018.[13] The couple's son Marcus was born in 1972, and their daughter Anna (now known as singer/songwriter Ana Gracey) in 1975.[1]

An autobiography, Journey to a Destination Unknown, was published in 2020.[14] Thompson died on 9 July 2022, aged 77, after having Parkinson's disease for 25 years.[15][16]


Barbara Thompson, 1992
Year Album Performer
1966 The Man Who Took the Valise Off the Floor of Grand Central Station at Noon The She Trinity
1968 Angle Howard Riley Trio
1969 Valentyne Suite Colosseum
1970 Daughter of Time Colosseum
1970 Michael Gibbs Michael Gibbs
1971 Little Big Band Keef Hartley Band
1973 The Beginning – Vol. 6: Keef Hartley Band Keef Hartley Band
1973 Mike Taylor Remembered Jon Hiseman, Neil Ardley, Ian Carr etc.
1976 The Roaring Silence Manfred Mann's Earth Band
1976 Kaleidoscope of Rainbows Neil Ardley
1977 Live in Schuetzenhaus United Jazz + Rock Ensemble
1977 NDR Jazzworkshop '77 Various Artists
1978 Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia
1978 Barbara Thompson's Jubiaba Barbara Thompson
1978 Variations Andrew Lloyd Webber
1978 Harmony of the Spheres Neil Ardley
1978 Teamwork United Jazz + Rock Ensemble
1979 Wilde Tales Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia
1979 Tell Me on a Sunday Marti Webb
1979 The Break Even Point United Jazz + Rock Ensemble
1980 Live in Concert Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia
1980 Chance Manfred Mann's Earth Band
1981 Cats Andrew Lloyd Webber
1981 Live in Berlin United Jazz + Rock Ensemble
1981 Zwischenbilanz – Das Beste aus den Jahren 1977 –1981 United Jazz + Rock Ensemble
1982 Mother Earth Barbara Thompson
1982 Ghosts Barbara Thompson/Rod Argent
1983 Cool Cat Jeff Wohlgenannt and Friends
1983 Requiem Andrew Lloyd Webber
1984 Pure Fantasy Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia
1984 United Live Opus Sechs United Jazz + Rock Ensemble
1985 Frauen – Power Various Artists
1985 Shadow Show Barbara Thompson/Rod Argent
1985 Live im Berliner Metropol – Theater Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia
1986 Heavenly Bodies Barbara Thompson
1986 Ganz schoen heiss, Man! About Time Too! Jon Hiseman
1987 Highlights II United Jazz + Rock Ensemble
1988 A Cry from the Heart Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia Live in London
1990 Songs from the Center of the Earth Barbara Thompson
1991 Perspective '92 Various Artists
1991 Breathless Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia
1992 Round Seven United Jazz + Rock Ensemble
1993 Everlasting Flame Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia
1995 Barbara Song Barbara Thompson and the Medici String Quartet
1995 Lady Saxophone Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia
1996 Die Neunte von United United Jazz + Rock Ensemble
1996 Women's Music from Celestial Harmonies Various Artists
1998 Shifting Sands Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia
1998 The Sound Inside / Music and Architecture Various Artists
1999 X United Jazz + Rock Ensemble
2000 Thompson's Tangos and Other Soft Dances Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia
2001 Cuff Clout Kate Westbrook and Mike Westbrook
2003 In the Eye of a Storm Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia
2004 2006 Manfred Mann '06 with Manfred Mann's Earth Band
2005 Never Say Goodbye Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia
2007 Live 05 Colosseum
2011 George Martin Presents Barbara Thompson
2014 Live '05 (DVD) Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia
2014 Time On Our Side Colosseum
2015 The Last Fandango Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia
2021 Bulletproof Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia with National Youth Jazz Orchestra


  1. ^ a b c "Barbara Thompson biography". Archived from the original on 20 February 2012. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
  2. ^ Neil Ardley at AllMusic. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
  3. ^ New Jazz Orchestra: Camden '70 – credits at AllMusic Edit this at Wikidata
  4. ^ Barbara Thompson – credits at AllMusic. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d Mathieson, Kenny (April 2001). "British Beat: Saxophonist Barbara Thompson". All About Jazz. Archived from the original on 26 December 2001. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
  6. ^ United Jazz + Rock Ensemble at AllMusic. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
  7. ^ Jubiaba – credits at AllMusic. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
  8. ^ Gelly, Dave (1 April 2001). "Her new career starts here". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2022.
  9. ^ "Jon Hiseman, rock and jazz drummer – obituary". The Telegraph. 19 June 2018. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 12 July 2022.
  10. ^ Colosseum live at Rockpalast, September 27, 2003 (YouTube)
  11. ^ "Barbara Thompson on 24 hours in A&E". Barbara Thompson & Jon Hiseman. 6 October 2020. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  12. ^ "The Show Must Go On". 24 Hours in A&E. Series 22. Episode 6. October 2020. Channel 4. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  13. ^ Pareles, Jon (12 June 2018). "Jon Hiseman, 73, Drummer Who Melded Rock, Jazz and Blues". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  14. ^ Journey To A Destination Unknown: Barbara Thompson MBE: The autobiographical story of her musical life,, Jazz in Britain (2020)
  15. ^ "Barbara Thompson, The Grand Dame Of British Jazz, Passed Away". 10 July 2022. Retrieved 10 July 2022.
  16. ^ Ewing, Jerry (10 July 2022). "Saxophonist Barbara Thompson dead at 77". LouderSound. Retrieved 15 January 2024.

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