Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b 27 July 1944, Oxford) UK saxophonist, composer and bandleader. She plays alto, tenor and soprano saxes, flutes, other instruments. She studied at Royal College of Music; recorded with the Howard Riley Trio (Angle on CBS), joined the New Jazz Orchestra and met her future husband, drummer Jon Hiseman (see Colosseum); NJO albums were Western Reunion on Decca UK and Le D‚jeuner sur l'Herbe on MGM. She led various groups, worked with Don Rendell, John Dankworth, Manfred Mann and others, and was a founder member with Hiseman of the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble '75 (five LPs on Mood included Highlights on CD), and formed her fusion group Paraphernalia '75 (Hiseman joined '79).

Pieces for a 20-piece orchestra were recorded by the BBC; other session work included Lloyd Webber's Variations, Cats, and Requiem. She played at the Adolphe Sax centenary celebrations in Brussels, wrote 'Blues For Adolphe' (included in Just Music by the Don Rendell Five, BBC tapes from '74 issued '76 on Spotlite). Her albums included Barbara Thompson's Jubiaba '78 on MCA, with a 10-11-piece band; Ghosts '83 on MCA and Shadowshow '84 on TM both with Rod Argent vocals; Paraphernalia quartet with keyboards, bass, drums on Paraphernalia '78, Wilde Tales '79 (including a musical treatment of Oscar Wilde's 'The Selfish Giant'), Live In Concert '80 on MCA. She and Hiseman have four children, and made a BBC documentary Jazz, Rock And Marriage '79 about being busy musicians/parents; they opened their own studio at home '82 and made records on TM: on Mother Earth '83 Paraphernalia is Thompson, Hiseman, Dill Katz on bass, Colin Dudman on keyboards, Anthony Oldridge added on violin (three-part 'Mother Earth Suite' included 'Country Dance', used by London's Capitol Radio as a signature tune, this version featuring Oldridge). Pure Fantasy '84 is largely based on Sri Lankan folk tunes, has Bill Worrall on keyboards, Dave Ball on bass, Rod Dorothy on violin. Her jazz-rock fusion has memorable tunes with excellent playing and production throughout, rhythmically compelling with the composer's playing usually front and centre.

Heavenly Bodies '86 is an album of Thompson compositions; she plays eight instruments including keyboards and clarinet with latest members of Paraphernalia (Hiseman, Ball, Peter Lemer on keyboards, Paul Dunne on guitar), ten others included a string quartet on some tracks; cassette-only compilation Barbara Thompson's Special Edition included live tracks. Bassist Phil Mulford replaced Ball on an '87 UK tour; live A Cry From The Heart was made at Hammersmith's Riverside Studios November '87. Songs From The Centre Of The Earth had her playing solo in a twelfth-century abbey in France; back with Paraphernalia, Breathless included 'Sax Rap', Everlasting Flame inclluded lead vocalist Anna Gracey Hiseman. Barbara Song '95 on Virgin has the music of Kurt Weill arranged by several hands including Robert Russell Bennett, Dankworth, Mike Westbrook and Mike Gibbs, played by Barbara and the Medici String Quartet.

Her commissions '95 included Greek Dances for the Eastern Arts/Norwich Arts Centre and Love Songs In Age from BBC Radio 3 at the London Jazz Festival, with the BBC Singers, the Medici and others; she was also scoring TV cop series A Touch Of Frost. Ballad set Lady Saxophone '96 saw Paraphernalia slimmed to a quartet, and there was to be a new album from the UJ&RE. Colosseum -- The Reunion Concerts '94 was also available, along with a video by post from TM only in the UK. Hiseman made his own solo debut with A Night In The Sun '82 in Rio de Janiero (on the Kuckuck label); About Time Too '86 is a drum solo album on TM (on CD with an extra solo: 'Excellent for parties when you want people to leave!'). Wanting her music to be published properly, Hiseman bought a publishing company that had gone 'broke': their Temple Music owns UK/Eire rights to music by Cecil Taylor, Gil Evans, Mal Waldron, Benny Golson, Dexter Gordon, many others including South Americans like Azymuth; some of these received money from this market for the first time in years.

Thompson has been battling Parkinson's Disease since about 2000, but she's keeping on keeping on with the emphasis on composing. A new album Perpetual Motion 2012 on Nimbus Alliance had ten of her pieces recorded at the Royal Northern College of Music by the Apollo Saxophone Orchestra, an ad hoc group formed by Rob Buckland and Andy Scott of the Apollo Saxophone Quartet, recruiting their own students: a sopranino, two sopranos, three altos, three tenors, two baritones and a bass sax. The album was praised by two critics at Musicweb International: Oleg Ledeniov wrote that 'the music rolls unstoppably, complex and unpredictable--a complete attention grabber.'