DONALD (DON) THOMPSON (pianist, bassist, vibraphonist, composer, arranger, producer, educator) was born January 18, 1940 in Powell River, British Columbia, Canada. After taking piano lessons as a young child, he took up the string bass and the vibraphone in his teens, all instruments on which he is basically self-taught. He moved to Vancouver in 1960 and began his career as a professional musician. During the period between 1960 and 1965, Thompson appeared with groups led by some of Vancouver's finest musicians including Dave Robbins, Fraser McPherson, and Chris Gage.
In 1965 he joined the now legendary John Handy Quintet and moved to San Francisco for a two year stint. During that time the Handy Quintet performed extensively throughout North America, and recorded two albums for Columbia Records. One of them, John Handy Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival, became one of the most popular jazz albums of the 1960s. While living in San Francisco, he also performed with jazz luminaries Maynard Ferguson, Frank Rosolino, George Duke, and Denny Zeitlin.
Thompson returned to Canada in 1967 and has resided in Toronto since 1969, the same year he became a member of Rob McConnell’s The Boss Brass, initially as percussionist, then switching to bass in 1971, and later to piano from 1987 to 1993. He was also a member of Moe Koffman’s group from 1970 to 1979, first as bassist and later as pianist/arranger. He worked with Koffman as co-producer on two album recording projects: Museum Pieces and Things Are Looking Up. Throughout the same period, he was also busy working with guitarists Sonny Greenwich, Ed Bickert, and Lenny Breau, as well as various projects of his own.
As a member of the house rhythm section at Toronto's legendary Bourbon Street jazz club, Thompson worked with a legion of jazz celebrities including Paul Desmond, Jim Hall, Milt Jackson, Art Farmer, James Moody, Zoot Sims, Clark Terry, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Frank Rosolino, Slide Hampton, Lee Konitz, and Abbey Lincoln, also appearing in other Toronto venues with Sarah Vaughan, Red Rodney, Joe Henderson, Dewey Redman, Red Mitchell, Sheila Jordan, and Kenny Wheeler.
Thompson became a member of guitarist Jim Hall’s trio in 1974, traveling to Europe and Japan (twice) as well as touring the United States and Canada. He Joined pianist George Shearing in 1982 for a five-year period during which he appeared at virtually every major jazz club and festival in the United States as well as touring Great Britain and Brazil. He has been a member of the Dave McMurdo Jazz Orchestra since its formation.
In 1997 he wrote and/or arranged all of the music on the CD The Elders Are Listening, produced by Brian Lillos for Humber College. The same year he organized a band called the Banff Alumni Jazz Ensemble, and wrote all the music for and produced the band’s CD Celebration. In 1998 he toured Canada with the Banff Alumni Jazz Ensemble band playing all of the Canadian jazz festivals. In February of 1999, he arranged the music and led the band in a concert of Duke Ellington music for the CBC at the Glenn Gould Theatre in Toronto. Late the same year he played Carnegie Hall as a member of the George Shearing Quintet, this time on the vibraphone, and continued to work with him until Shearing retired in 2004.
In July 2000, Don Thompson was a featured artist with Jim Hall for a series of four concerts at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. In October of that year he went to New York for a week to play at the famed Birdland with the George Shearing Quartet, with recorded performances that week resulting in TELARC Records’ release of the critically-acclaimed Back to Birdland CD.
In early 2007, Thompson was commissioned to compose a piece for Cellist Coenraad Bloemendal and Harpist Erica Goodman for their latest CD recording. The work, "Reflections," was so well received that the recording came to be titled by the same name. In September of 2007, he produced one half of a concert for CBC Radio (Canada Live) that which featured featured his Quartet performing his own jazz adaptations of some of the music of J.S. Bach. The concert was broadcast live worldwide. Later in the fall, he led an all-star Jazz Quintet in a concert tribute to Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie's Massey Hall Concert, an event which was recorded for subsequent broadcast on JAZZ.FM91.
As a dedicated jazz educator, Don Thompson began teaching annually at the Banff Jazz Summer Workshop in 1982. He has also taught at York University, and for the past several years has been on the faculty of Humber College in Toronto, teaching in the school’s Degree program.
In 2013, Don and Phil Dwyer released Look for the Silver Lining, a piano / saxophone duo album. It was nominated for JUNO in 2014.
Don released A Little Simple Magic, a duo recording with saxophonist Pat Labarbera, in 2013.
In 2013, Don Thompson and Neil Swainson released Tranquility on Cornerstone Records. With Don on piano and Neil on bass, the recording includes jazz standards as well as songs by Charlie Parker, Kenny Wheeler, and Neil Swainson.
1979 – JUNO Award for ‘Best Jazz Album’ to Ed Bickert and Don Thompson for Sackville 4005
1984 – JUNO Award for ‘Best Jazz Album’ to Don Thompson for A Beautiful Friendship
1984 – Don Thompson was the sole accompanist to George Shearing and Mel Tormé on Top Drawer, winner of a Grammy Award
1994 – Winner of The Jazz Report Award as ‘Vibraphonist of the Year’
1994 – Winner of the SOCAN Award for ‘Best Jazz Composition of the Year’
1995 – Winner of The Jazz Report Award as ‘Vibraphonist of the Year’
1996 – Winner of The Jazz Report Award as ‘Vibraphonist of the Year’
1997 – Winner of The Jazz Report Award as ‘Vibraphonist of the Year’
1998 – Winner of The Jazz Report Award as ‘Vibraphonist of the Year’
1999 – Winner of The Jazz Report Award as ‘Vibraphonist of the Year’
1999 – Winner of the SOCAN Award for ‘Best Jazz Composition of the Year’
2000 – Winner of The Jazz Report Award as ‘Vibraphonist of the Year’
2001 – Winner of The Jazz Report Award as ‘Vibraphonist of the Year’
2003 – National Jazz Awards Winner as ‘Instrumentalist of the Year’
2004 – National Jazz Awards Winner as 'Instrumentalist of the Year'
2005 – National Jazz Awards Winner as 'Arranger of the Year'
2005 – National Jazz Awards Winner as 'Instrumentalist of the Year'
2006 – JUNO Award for ‘Traditional Jazz Album’ for "Ask Me Later" (Don Thompson Quartet)
2006 – Recipient of the Art of Jazz ‘Lifetime Achievement’ Award’
2006 – National Jazz Awards Winner as 'SOCAN Composer of the Year'
2006 – National Jazz Awards Winner as 'Musician of the Year'
2006 – National Jazz Awards Winner as 'Instrumentalist of the Year'
2007 – National Jazz Awards Winner as 'Instrumentalist of the Year'
2006 – National Jazz Awards Winner as 'Musician of the Year'
2008 – National Jazz Awards Winner as 'Instrumentalist of the Year'
2009 – National Jazz Awards Winner for Jazz Recording of the Year - For Kenny Wheeler
2009 – National Jazz Awards Winner SOCAN Composer
2009 – National Jazz Awards Winner – Acoustic Band of the Year – Don Thompson Quartet
2009 – Officer of the Order of Canada
2009 – JUNO nomination for 'Traditional Jazz Album' - For Kenny Wheeler (Don Thomson Quartet)
2014 – JUNO nomination for 'Traditional Jazz Album' for Look for the Silver Lining (with Phil Dwyer)
has image of
is member of
Bill Goddard/John Gittins Quartet
Glen Hall Octet
Guido Basso Quintet
Geordie McDonald Quartet featuring Phil Nimmons
Donna Barber Trio
Toronto Jazz Quartet
Roy Patterson Trio
Terry Clarke Trio
Tribute to Nimmons 'n' Nine (directed by Mike Cado)
Carol Welsman and Quartet
is leader of
Trudy Desmond with the Don Thompson Quartet
Don Thompson and The Banff Jazz Workshop Band