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Don Thompson: 1932-2004
Don Thompson

Born: September 19, 1932 in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada
Died: March 21, 2004 in Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Saxophonist and jazz spokesperson

by Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2004 Todd S. Jenkins

Don "D.T." Thompson, a marvelously talented saxophonist who rarely got a good break in the jazz business, died of cancer in April 2004. He was 72 years old. Thompson was frequently confused with the popular multi-instrumentalist of the same name, though their paths crossed infrequently.

As a teenager Thompson gigged with dance bands at the Alberta resort, Sylvan Lake. He and his bassist brother, Lloyd, performed a series of "Jammin' the Blues" concerts in Edmonton while D.T. was still in high school. In the early 1950s the brothers headed to Montreal. There they proselytized vigorously for jazz, setting up jam sessions and opening new doors to the music. From Quebec they moved on to Toronto and continued spreading the jazz gospel.

Thompson worked extensively in the U.S., often with singer Anne Marie Moss and bandleader Pat Riccio. He cut a record session in 1961, backing singer Tommy Ambrose, and in '63 Thompson made a single ("Early Autumn" b/w "If I Had My Way") for the Dash label; Rob McConnell was valve trombonist on the date. Also in 1963 his quintet appeared in the half-hour film "Toronto Jazz". From 1965 to '66 D.T. played in Lionel Hampton's band. The following year Thompson's band made a short film that was shown in loop at the 1967 Montreal Expo.

The 1970s were very slow for Thompson, but in '79 he backed singer Doug Mallory on a recording. In 1980 D.T. began a decade-long habit of playing on New Year's Eve at George's Spaghetti House in Toronto. In 1983 Thompson recorded his own album, Blueprint, with guest organist Jimmy McGriff. In the 90s he moved to Vancouver where he remained until his death.

Todd S. Jenkins
Todd S. Jenkins is a member of the JJA, author of Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2004) and I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus (Praeger, 2006), and a contributor to Down Beat, All About Jazz, American Songwriter and Route 66 Magazine.


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With 3 reader comments, latest December 27, 2006