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Don Thompson

Don (Donald Winston) Thompson. Pianist, bassist, vibraphonist, drummer, composer, arranger, recording engineer, b Powell River, north of Vancouver, 18 Jan 1940. After childhood piano lessons he took up the string bass and the vibraphone in his teens. He is essentially self-taught on all instruments. In Vancouver 1960-5 he was sideman to Chris Gage (playing bass or vibraphone) and Dave Robbins (bass) and accompanied the visiting US jazzmen Barney Kessel, John Handy, and others in local nightclubs. With the drummer Terry Clarke he joined Handy's quintet in the USA in 1965, touring widely and making two LPs, one of which, Live at Monterey, was among the most popular jazz recordings of the 1960s.

Thompson returned to Vancouver in 1967 (after working briefly in Montreal with Lee Gagnon that year) and then moved to Toronto in 1969. He quickly became that city's first-call studio bassist, a standing he maintained until he turned exclusively to jazz in the mid-1970s.

Thompson has been a member of the Boss Brass (bassist 1969-82 and pianist as of 1988) and the bands of Sonny Greenwich (pianist 1970-82 and again as of 1990) and Moe Koffman (bassist 1970-4 and pianist 1975-8). He also played bass or drums for Lenny Breau and has maintained a lengthy association with the guitarist Ed Bickert in various jazz settings. Thompson's work as a bassist at the Toronto jazz club Bourbon Street with (among others) the US guitarist Jim Hall and the US alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, documented by live recordings there in 1975 (for which Thompson served as recording engineer), renewed his international profile. In 1976 he began touring with Hall (Japan, the USA and Europe) and 1982-7 he was concert partner to the celebrated British pianist George Shearing, with whom he played both bass and piano. He was the sole accompanist to Shearing and the singer Mel Tormé on Top Drawer, winner of a (US) Grammy award in 1984. While working with Shearing, he began to teach each summer at the Banff CA Jazz Workshop in 1982, and established the short-lived record label, From Bebop to Now, in 1983.

Resuming his activities in Toronto in 1987, he has played piano in the Dave McMurdo Jazz Orchestra, accompanied Jane Bunnett, Trudy Desmond, and others locally, and taught privately. His pupils have included the pianists Hugh Fraser, James Gelfand, Jeff Johnston, Andy Milne, and Dave Restivo, and the bassists George Mitchell and Alec Walkington. Thompson's own groups have appeared intermittently in Toronto clubs. One quartet, with the leader at the piano, was heard in 1977 at the Laren's International Jazz Festival in Holland; another, with Thompson playing the vibraphone, appeared at several Canadian jazz festivals in 1991.

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Album Review

Don Thompson / Rob Piltch: Bells... Now and Then

Read "Bells... Now and Then" reviewed by Dave Linn

Don Thompson and Rob Piltch have taken different paths in their musical careers. Thompson was a triple threat (piano, bass, vibraphone) on the Toronto studio and club scene during the late 1960s, later becoming the bassist in Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass. He began touring with Jim Hall in 1974, later appearing on the guitarist's album, Live! (Horizon, 1975) recorded at Toronto's Bourbon Street jazz club. That same year he played with the Paul Desmond Quartet (with Ed Bickert ...

Album Review

Don Thompson & Rob Piltch: Bells... Now and Then

Read "Bells... Now and Then" reviewed by Pierre Giroux

Multi-instrumentalist Don Thompson and guitarist Rob Piltch are two Canadian musicians who, in 1981 and 1982, recorded an album entitled Bells for the Umbrella label. The material has been remastered and reissued as Bells...Now and Then, bookended by two new recordings of compositions by Thompson. Don Thompson has been a highly-regarded part of the Toronto and Canadian jazz scene since the late 1960s, playing bass in an early iteration of Rob McConnell's Boss Brass, touring with ...

Album Review

Guido Basso: One More For The Road

Read "One More For The Road" reviewed by Pierre Giroux

Guido Basso, known for his mastery of the flugelhorn and trumpet, died in February of 2023. From his earliest days in Montreal playing with the Maury Kaye band, to working in the US with top performers such Vic Damone and Pearl Bailey, Basso gained a reputation as a consummate musician who was capable of working in a variety of settings. Deciding not to remain in the U.S., Basso returned to Canada and settled in Toronto. Here, he established himself as ...

Album Review

Paul Desmond: The Complete 1975 Toronto Recordings

Read "The Complete 1975 Toronto Recordings" reviewed by C. Andrew Hovan

Even if he had never played another note following the break-up of the Dave Brubeck group in 1967, alto saxophonist Paul Desmond would have entered the history books as one of music's most brilliant improvisers. During his 17 years with Brubeck, Desmond proved himself to be an indispensable part of that quartet with a wistful and witty sound that he himself described as akin to a “dry martini." Fortunately, Desmond continued to add to his legacy starting in ...

Album Review

Don Thompson / Reg Schwager: One Take Volume Three

Read "One Take Volume Three" reviewed by Martin Gladu

"I'll just start to play something. You'll know this," chuckles bassist Don Thompson before introducing “Alice In Wonderland," while guitarist Reg Schwager intently listens. Spontaneity, interaction, instrumental mastery, the blues and a seemingly unlimited repertoire of tunes all come to mind to the well-read jazz music fan. But, less known are the taxing sessions and late night gigs musicians mandatorily go through learning to create this music on a whim--moreover, looking debonair doing it. With chance, a deeper connection between ...

Album Review

Don Thompson: Ask Me Later

Read "Ask Me Later" reviewed by Martin Gladu

Ask Me Later, an all-Canadian project, swings as much as it is lyrical. Released on the state-owned CBC Records' quiet but qualitative jazz schedule, it eloquently demonstrates the breadth of Canada's most seasoned and able contemporary jazz talents. (The disc was awarded a Juno at the 2006 awards ceremony.)

The multi-talented Don Thompson (a pianist, vibraphonist, bassist, composer, arranger and teacher) is known internationally mainly for his stints with Jim Hall, George Shearing and Kenny Wheeler, with whom ...

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Award / Grant

Don Thompson Receives the Oscar Peterson Award

Don Thompson Receives the Oscar Peterson Award

Source: AAJ Staff

Canadian jazz icon and virtuoso of many instruments, Don Thompson will be honoured today by the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. The OscarPeterson Award will be presented to him by Laurent Saulnier, vice president of Festival programming and production, during a press conference to be held today at 3:15 p.m. at the Salle Stevie Wonder of the Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan (305, Ste. Catherine St. West, 2nd floor).

Don Thompson is the 22nd artist to receive the ...



The Festival International de Jazz de Montreal Honours Smokey Robinson, the Manhattan Transfer, Sonny Rollins, Richard Bona, Herman Leonard, Don Thompson, and Presents a Special Award to Dave Brubeck

The Festival International de Jazz de Montreal Honours Smokey Robinson, the Manhattan Transfer, Sonny Rollins, Richard Bona, Herman Leonard, Don Thompson, and Presents a Special Award to Dave Brubeck

Source: Michael Ricci

Smokey Robinson will be the fifth artist to receive the Montreal Jazz Festival Spirit Award. Created especially on the occasion of the 27th edition of the Festival, in 2006, this special award underlines a popular artists extraordinary contribution to the musical world. His very first single accompanied by the Miracles, Got a Job, was released the day he turned 18. And 50 years later, Smokey Robinson-who Bob Dylan described as the worlds greatest poet!-is still going strong! Instantly recognizable: how ...


Performance / Tour

Don Thompson Quartet at Chalkers Pub on January 10th

Don Thompson Quartet at Chalkers Pub on January 10th

Source: All About Jazz

WHO: The Don Thompson Quartet

WHEN: Saturday, January 10th 6-9 p.m.

WHERE: Chalkers Pub 247 Marlee Ave. Toronto Canada There is no cover for this show.

A multi-instrumentalist who is best known as a performer on the vibraphone and piano, Don, originally from B.C. is also an educator who has played with many of the Jazz greats and is a staple of the Toronto scene. It's anticipated that ...



Recent Listening: Kenny Wheeler, Don Thompson

Recent Listening: Kenny Wheeler, Don Thompson

Source: Rifftides by Doug Ramsey

Kenny Wheeler, Other People (Cam Jazz). Perenially adventurous, always on the leading edge of music, Wheeler was seventy-five when this was recorded in 2005. His playing on trumpet and flugelhorn is brilliant, with little of the lassitude that has sometimes crept in as he aged. The even more striking aspect of this CD is Wheeler's writing. He applies his distinctive style to strings, a medium new to him as a composer.

Lacing his horn lines through and around the Hugo ...

Primary Instrument




Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

One More For The Road

Cornerstone Records Inc.


Bells... Now and Then

Modica Music


The Complete 1975...

Mosaic Records


One Take Volume Three

Alma Records


Ask Me Later

CBC Records



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