Eli "Lucky" Thompson (June 16, 1924 – July 30, 2005) was an American jazz tenor and soprano saxophonist. While John Coltrane usually receives the most credit for bringing the soprano saxophone out of obsolescence in the early 1960s, Thompson (along with Steve Lacy) embraced the instrument earlier than Coltrane.
|Birth name||Eli Thompson|
|Born||June 16, 1924|
Columbia, South Carolina, U.S.
|Died||July 30, 2005 (aged 81)|
|Instruments||Tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone|
|Associated acts||Lionel Hampton, Don Redman, Billy Eckstine, Lucky Millinder, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker|
Thompson was born in Columbia, South Carolina, and moved to Detroit, Michigan, during his childhood. Thompson had to raise his siblings after his mother died, and he practiced saxophone fingerings on a broom handle before acquiring his first instrument. He joined Erskine Hawkins' band in 1942 upon graduating from high school.
After playing with the swing orchestras of Lionel Hampton, Don Redman, Billy Eckstine (alongside Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker), Lucky Millinder, and Count Basie, he worked in rhythm and blues and then established a career in bebop and hard bop, working with Kenny Clarke, Miles Davis, Gillespie and Milt Jackson.
Ben Ratliff notes that Thompson "connected the swing era to the more cerebral and complex bebop style. His sophisticated, harmonically abstract approach to the tenor saxophone built off that of Don Byas and Coleman Hawkins; he played with beboppers, but resisted Charlie Parker's pervasive influence." He showed these capabilities as sideman on many albums recorded during the mid-1950s, such as Stan Kenton's Cuban Fire!, and those under his own name. He recorded with Parker (on two Los Angeles Dial Records sessions) and on Miles Davis's hard bop Walkin' session. Thompson recorded albums as leader for ABC Paramount and Prestige and as a sideman on records for Savoy Records with Jackson as leader.
Thompson was strongly critical of the music business, later describing promoters, music producers and record companies as "parasites" or "vultures". This, in part, led him to move to Paris, where he lived and made several recordings between 1957 and 1962. During this time, he began playing soprano saxophone.
Thompson returned to New York, then lived in Lausanne, Switzerland, from 1968 until 1970, and recorded several albums there including A Lucky Songbook in Europe. He taught at Dartmouth College in 1973 and 1974, then completely left the music business.
Thompson was married to Thelma Thompson, who died in 1963. Thompson's son, guitarist Daryl Thompson, played with Peter Tosh and Black Uhuru before embarking on a jazz career in the late 1980s. Thompson also had a daughter, Jade Thompson-Fredericks, and two grandchildren.
- Accent On Tenor Saxophone (Urania, 1954; reissued by Fresh Sound)
- Tricotism (ABC-Paramount, 1956)
- Brown Rose (Xanadu, 1956)
- Lord, Lord, Am I Ever Gonna Know? (Candid, 1961)
- Lucky Thompson Plays Jerome Kern and No More (Moodsville, 1963)
- Lucky Strikes (Prestige, 1964)
- Lucky Thompson Plays Happy Days Are Here Again (Prestige, 1965)
- Lucky is Back! (Rivoli, 1965)
- Soul's Nite Out (Ensayo, 1970)
- Goodbye Yesterday (Groove Merchant, 1973)
- Concert: Friday the 13th - Cook County Jail (Groove Merchant, 1973) - split album with Jimmy McGriff
- I Offer You (Groove Merchant, 1973)
- Back to the World (51 West, 1979)
- Lucky Thompson (Inner City Jazz Legacy, 1980)
- Lucky Thompson: Sonny Lester Collection (LRC, 1991)
- Paris Blue, with Sammy Price (Concord Jazz, 2000)
- Modern Jazz Group (EmArcy, no date/Sunnyside, 2000)
- Jazz in Paris, with Dave Pochonet All Stars (Sunnyside, 2001)
- Home Comin' (2003)
With Louis Armstrong
- Louis and the Angels (Decca, 1957)
With Harry Arnold
- Guest Book (Metronome, 1961)
With Art Blakey
- Soul Finger (Limelight, 1965)
With Benny Carter
- A Man Called Adam (Reprise, 1965)
With Kenny Clarke
- Kenny Clarke Plays Pierre Michelot (Columbia, 1957)
With Jimmy Cleveland
- Introducing Jimmy Cleveland and His All Stars (EmArcy, 1955)
With Johnny Dankworth
- The Zodiac Variations (Fontana, 1964)
With Miles Davis
- Walkin' (Prestige, 1954)
With Dizzy Gillespie
With Milt Jackson
- Meet Milt Jackson (Savoy, 1956)
- Roll 'Em Bags (Savoy, 1956)
- Jackson's Ville (Savoy, 1956)
- Ballads & Blues (Atlantic, 1956)
- The Jazz Skyline (Savoy, 1956)
- Plenty, Plenty Soul (Atlantic, 1957)
With Quincy Jones
- I/We Had a Ball (Limelight, 1964)
With Stan Kenton
- Cuban Fire! (Capitol, 1956)
With John Lewis
- The Modern Jazz Society Presents a Concert of Contemporary Music (Norgran, 1955)
With Thelonious Monk
With Oscar Pettiford
- The Oscar Pettiford Orchestra in Hi-Fi (ABC-Paramount, 1956)
- The Oscar Pettiford Orchestra in Hi-Fi Volume II (ABC-Paramount, 1957)
With Ralph Sharon
- Around the World in Jazz (Rama, 1957)
With Martial Solal
- Martial Solal et Son Grand Orchestre (Swing, 1957)
With Dinah Washington
- Ratliff, Ben (2005-08-05). "Lucky Thompson, Jazz Saxophonist, Is Dead at 81". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
- Lucky Thompson - Happy Days, allmusic.com.
- Lucky Thompson - Lucky Strikes, allmusic.com.
- Chia Hui Hsu, Judy (2005-08-06). "Jazz great Eli Thompson soared for 3 decades, fell silent". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
- Ankeny, Jason. Lucky Thompson at AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
- Cook, Richard; Brian Morton (2008). The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (9th ed.). New York: Penguin. pp. 1397–1398. ISBN 978-0-14-103401-0.
- Vacher, Peter (5 October 2005). "Obituary: 'Lucky' Thompson". Theguardian.com. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
- Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
- Johnson, John H., ed. (August 15, 1963). "New York Beat". JET. Chicago: Johnson. 24 (17): 64. ISSN 0021-5996. Retrieved 2011-04-26.
Thelma Thompson, who died of a stroke, was the wife of tenor saxophonist Lucky Thompson. They had been separated for over a year
- Johnson, John H., ed. (September 25, 1989). "New Image". JET. Chicago: Johnson. 76 (25): 18. ISSN 0021-5996. Retrieved 2011-04-26.
- "Monk, Thelonious Discography". Blue Note Records. Archived from the original on 2010-01-05. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
- Yanow, Scott. Mellow Mama at AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-01-18.
- Cohen, Noal (November 12, 2018). "Lucky Thompson Discography: 1957-1974". Retrieved December 19, 2018.
- Cohen, Noal (November 12, 2018). "Lucky Thompson Discography: 1951-1956". Retrieved December 19, 2018.
- Cohen, Noal (November 8, 2018). "Lucky Thompson Discography: 1943-1950". Retrieved December 19, 2018.