Other Places: Lucky Thompson & Dave Brubeck

In his Jazz Profiles blog, Steve Cerra’s stock in trade is—logically enough— profiles of musicians. He copiously illustrates them with photographs, album covers and sound clips and often adds personal reflections or anecdotes to enrich the mix. The lead story that Steve put up today is about the late tenor and soprano saxophonist Lucky Thompson.

Thompson worked in the 1940s and ‘50s in Dizzy Gillespie’s sextet and with the big bands of Billy Eckstine, Tom Talbert and Count Basie. Hank Jones, Oscar Pettiford and Milt Jackson were among the colleagues who cherished their relationship with Thompson. He made a notable impact on Benny Golson in the early 1950s as Golson formed his style. Half a century later, the young saxophonist Chris Byars adopted Thompson as his model. Go here for the Jazz Profiles post, which includes Steve’s album cover photo essay to the tune of a gorgeous Thompson ballad. It also has Bob Porter’s informative notes about Thompson.

While you’re visiting Cerraville, if you scroll down the left-hand column you will eventually come to Steve’s recent posting of an essay I wrote some time ago to accompany the Time Signatures box of CDs tracing Dave Brubeck’s career from his college days to the 1990s. It has a lot of reading and a lot of pictures.

For video of Lucky Thompson in action in Paris in the late 1950s, see this Rifftides archive piece.

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  1. says

    Was he really Lucky? He played with several top bands, cut a couple of classic albums, was influential among a discerning few, refused to accept the system controlling Jazz musicians, quit the business, wound up living rough on the streets, then bitter and intractably silent in some sort of Seattle home for sick and indigent, stayed withdrawn until the end.

    The great saxophonist deserves Steve’s and your attention, celebrating his good years. Did he deserve a different life? Does any of us? “Until he is dead, do not yet call a man happy, but only lucky.”

    Foolish, grim thoughts after midnight. I’ll just shut up and put on Lucky Strikes.

  2. says

    Lucky Thompson’s tenor and soprano saxophones are now owned, and played, by Toronto’s Pat LaBarbera, remembered by most as a member of the Buddy Rich big band, and with Elvin Jones’ groups.