Malachi Thompson is a composer, band leader, trumpet soloist, artist, teacher and arts activist. Born in Princeton, Kentucky on August 21, 1949, Thompson's jazz roots are on Chicago's South Side. In 1968, he joined the influential Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) playing the music of Henry Threadgill and Richard Muhal Abrams. He also became a member of Dr. M.L. King's Operation Breadbasket Orchestra, the musical arm of SCLC in 1968, working for civil rights for African Americans. In 1974, after completing work for a degree in Music Composition, Thompson was encouraged to move to NYC by jazz legend Art Blakey. While in NYC, Thompson performed with many of the greatest names in jazz: Joe Henderson, Sam Wooding, Jackie McLean, Frank Foster, Leon Thomas, Sam Rivers, Lester Bowie, and Archie Shepp to name a few. In 1978, he formed the highly acclaimed Freebop Band. After 10 years in NYC, he moved to Washington DC and later Vienna, Austria performing and composing for various bands. In 1989, Thompson was diagnosed with cancer and returned to his native Chicago. After his recovery, he became an outspoken advocate for jazz and arts education. He is also a published writer and jazz historian. He often performs or serves as an artist in residence in Chicago's public schools. He conducts master classes, jazz workshops and lectures on all things jazz at colleges and universities nationwide.
In 1991, Mr. Thompson founded the Sutherland Community Arts Initiative (SCAI), a not for profit 501 (c)3 arts and arts education presenting organization on Chicago's South Side. As a member of S C A I, Mr. Thompson helped found and establish the Hyde Park /Kenwood J A A Z Festival, The Visiting Jazz Artists Program and "Creativity" magazine. In 1994 Thompson helped develop the cultural component of the award winning proposal to HUD that brought 8 million dollars in federal Empowerment Zone (EZ) funds to cultural institutions in Chicago's EZ communities.
In 1997, Thompson's Freebop Band recorded "47th Street" for Delmark Records featuring original music from the play The Sutherland, written by playwright Charles Smith and based partly on Mr. Thompson's life and struggles to overcome cancer. The Sutherland had a successful 6-week run at Victory Gardens Theater in the fall of 1997 and won the Illinois Arts Council's New Play Award. Thompson's original music from The Sutherland won the prestigious Jeff award (the equivalent of a Tony in NYC). "47th Street" was selected as jazz record of the year by the "Chicago Sun-Times" and made it to the top ten of the CMJ national jazz charts. Thompson's recordings consistently track high on jazz radio charts indicating substantial national airplay. Thompson's 8th CD for Delmark Records, "Rising Daystar" (featuring Gary Bartz) was released October 1999 was charted at #4 on "Jazziz" radio charts. Over the past 25 years, Thompson's Freebop Band has featured jazz masters like Carter Jefferson, Billy Harper, Joe Ford, Albert Dailey, George Adams and David Murray. Recently, Thompson scored the sound track for the PBS documentary "Remembering 47th Street," which won an Emmy for Best Documentary in 2001. In 2003, Thompson received a commission from Chamber Music America to compose new works to commemorate the band's 25th Anniversary.