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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sir Charles Thompson (March 21, 1918 - June 16, 2016)

The passing of pianist Sir Charles Thompson at the age of 98 could well signify the end of Jazz From a Swinging Era, to borrow the name of the touring package in which I saw him at Newcastle City Hall on March 27, 1967. It would be sentimentalising to say he stole the show - how could he on a bill that included Earl Hines, Buck Clayton, Roy Eldridge, Bud Freeman, Budd Johnson, Willie Smith, Vic Dickenson, Bill Pemberton and Oliver Jackson? Nevertheless, he played his part and, until June 16, outlived all of them!
Thompson, who was dubbed 'Sir' by the President [Lester Young] recorded with all the greats of his era including the legendary Buck Clayton Jam Sessions and the classic Vic Dickenson Septet sides on Vanguard. He also composed the jazz standard, rarely played these days, Robbin's Nest
Crescendo magazine interviewed him in the August 1967 edition - albeit on page 36 of the 40 - It was a forthright interview in which he slammed the stylistic labelling prevailing in jazz. Referring to the aforementioned Swing Era tour he said, "I don't have any era. There is no boundary to the music I play - and I defy anyone to try to place it in any era." 
Sir Charles probably never won any Down Beat Polls but he surely should have been a contender every year in the section - Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition. Sir Charles could play with any musician of any style and he frequently did.
A great pianist who will be sadly missed.
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