Don Thompson (musician)

Don Thompson (musician)
Donald Thompson

Photo courtesy of the Fraser MacPherson estate
Background information
Birth name Donald Winston Thompson
Born 18 January 1940 (1940-01-18) (age 71)
Powell River, British Columbia
Origin Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Genres Jazz

Donald Winston Thompson, OC[1] (born 18 January 1940) is a Canadian jazz musician who plays bass, piano, and vibes.[2] Thompson formed part of the Toronto Quartet of Paul Desmond during the mid seventies, and that effort produced two stellar albums. Other personnel on those dates, mostly at Bourbon Street in Toronto, were Toronto guitarist Ed Bickert and drummer Jerry Fuller. Thompson has been a fixture on the Toronto jazz scene since the late 1960s when he moved there from British Columbia. Thompson played for a long time in Rob McConnell's Boss Brass.



Thompson was born 18 January 1940 Powell River, British Columbia, Canada.

He lived in Vancouver from 1960 to 1965 working as a freelance musician primarily on bass. He has appeared with jazz troupes led by some of Vancouver's finest musicians such as Dave Robbins, Chris Gage and Fraser MacPherson, as well as leading his own musical groups. In addition to appearing regularly on CBC radio, he is also on television as a featured artist.

In 1965 he joined the now legendary John Handy Quintet and moved to San Francisco for a two year stay. During that time the Handy Quintet performed extensively throughout the United States and recorded two albums for the Columbia label. One of these, John Handy live at the Monterey Jazz Festival, became one of the most popular jazz albums of the 1960s. While in San Francisco Don also worked with Frank Rosolino, Maynard Ferguson, Denny Zeitlin and George Duke.

He returned to Canada in 1967 and has been a resident of Toronto since 1969. In that year he joined Rob McConnell's BOSS BRASS as a percussionist, switching to bass in 1971 and later to piano (1987–1993). He was also a member of Moe Koffman's group from 1970 to 1979 as pianist or bassist, contributing arrangements and compositions and working as co-producer with Koffman on two albums, Museum Pieces and Looking Up. He also worked extensively with guitarists Ed Bickert, Lenny Breau and Sonny Greenwich while keeping busy with his own various projects.

As a member of the "house rhythm section" at Toronto's Bourbon Street Jazz Club he worked (and recorded *) with such Jazz Celebrities as Paul Desmond, Jim Hall, Milt Jackson, Art Farmer, James Moody, Zoot Sims, Clark Terry, Harry Edison, Frank Rosolino, Slide Hampton, Lee Konitz and Abbey Lincoln, and appeared at other venues with Sarah Vaughan, Red Rodney, Joe Henderson, Dewey Redman, Red Mitchell, Sheila Jordan and Kenny Wheeler.

He became a member of guitarist Jim Hall's trio in 1974 travelling to Europe and Japan as well as touring the United States and Canada. In 1982 he joined pianist George Shearing and stayed for a five year period during which he appeared at virtually every major jazz club and festival in the United States. Their travels also included tours of Great Britain and two trips to Brazil.

In 1996 he was artist in residence at the Royal Academy of Music, London, England, and performed in a concert of all-Canadian music with fellow Canadians Kenny Wheeler and Hugh Fraser. He teaches regularly at the Banff Centre for the Performing Arts along with other major international musicians.

Don is currently working as a freelance musician, teacher, member of the band JMOG and as leader of his own quartet.

He is equally at home on vibes, piano, bass and drums, and is a reliable and trusted sound engineer with his own home-studio.


  • 1979: Juno – Best Jazz album – duo with Ed Bickert
  • 1984: Juno – Best Jazz Album
  • 1993: Jazz Report – Vibraphonist of the Year
  • 1994: Jazz Report – Composer of the Year
  • 1994: Jazz Report – Vibraphonist of the Year
  • 1994: Socan – Original Jazz Composition
  • 1995: Jazz Report – Vibraphonist of the Year
  • 1996: Jazz Report – Vibraphonist of the Year
  • 1997: Jazz Report – Vibraphonist of the Year
  • 2006: Juno – Best Traditional Jazz Album
  • 2009: Order of Canada, Officer (awarded on 25 May 2009; invested on 3 September 2010)[1]


As leader

  • Love Song for a Virgo Lady Sackville 2003
  • Country Place PM PMR 008
  • Ed Bickert/Don Thompson Sackville 4005
  • Don Thompson/Ed Bickert Sackville 4010
  • Days Gone By Atlas LA 27 1019
  • Beautiful Friendship Concord CJ 243
  • Witchcraft Justin Time Just 16-2
  • Circles Intercan ICI008
  • Bells Umbrella GEN 1-16
  • Winter Mist Jazz Alliance TJA 10004
  • For Kenny Wheeler Sackville SKCD2-2078
  • Forgotten Memories Roadhouse Route3 (released 2000)

As co-leader

  • JMOG Sackville CD2 - 2031
  • Opus D'Amour Sackville CD2 - 3058

As sideman

with Jim Hall:

  • Jim Hall Live A&M Horizon SP 705
  • Commitment A&M Horizon SP 715
  • Jazz Impressions of Japan A&M GXU-1
  • Live in Tokyo Paddlewheel - GP3217
  • Circles Concord CJ 161
  • Live at Town Hall Musicmasters - 5050 2-C

with John Handy:

  • Live at Monterey Koch KOC 3-7820-2
  • The Second Album Columbia CS 9367
  • Live at Yoshi's Nightspot Boulevard BLD 531 DCD

with Paul Desmond:

  • Like Someone in Love Telarchive CD 83319

with Jay McShann:

  • Man from Muskogee Sackville SKCD2-3005
  • Tuxedo Junction Sackville 3025
  • Just a Lucky So and So Sackville 3035
  • Swingmatism Sackville CD2-3046

with Buddy Tate:

  • The Ballad Artistry Sackville CD2-3034
  • Saturday Night Function (Sackville All Stars) Sackville SKCD2-3028

with Frank Rosolino:

  • Thinking of You Sackville 2014

with George Shearing:

  • Live at the Café Carlyle Concord CCD-4246
  • George Shearing/Barry Tuckwell Concord CCD-42010

with Mel Tormé:

  • A Night at Charlies Concord CJ 248
  • Top Drawer Concord CJ 219

with Rob McConnell & the Boss Brass:

  • Big Band Jazz Umbrella UMB CD-4
  • Again Umbrella UMB CD-12
  • Present Perfect MPS 0068 249
  • Tribute Pausa 7106
  • Live in Digital SeaBreeze CD-SB-106
  • The Brass is Back Concord CCD-4458
  • Brassy and Sassy Concord CCD-4508
  • Our 25th Year Concord CCD-4559

with Sonny Greenwich:

  • The Old Man and the Child Sackville C2002
  • Sun Song CBC Transcription RCI 399
  • Evol-lution Love's Reverse PM PMR 016

with Pat LaBarbera:

  • Pass it On PM PMR 009
  • Necessary Evil CBC Transcription 478

with Emily Remler:

  • Take Two Concord CCD 4159

with Dave Liebman:

  • Sweet Fury BeBop to Now BBN 1002

with Bill King:

  • The Jazz Report All Stars Radioland RA CD 10001

with Moe Koffman:

  • Solar Explorations GRT 9230-1050
  • Museum Pieces GRT 9230-1072
  • Master Sessions GRT 9230-1041

with Rob McConnell Trio:

  • Three for the Road Concord CCD-4765-2

with Diana Panton

  • ...Yesterday Perhaps (2005),
  • If The Moon Turns Green (2007),
  • Pink (2009)
  • To Brazil With Love (2011)


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