Posted on Sep 30, 2020 in Editorial.
Barbara Thompson MBE is a legend of the global jazz scene, and her career has spanned nearly five decades. Her influence will continue throughout 2020, with the release of her autobiography, upcoming appearance on Channel 4’s 24 Hours in A&E, and the continued appeal of her music.
Barbara discovered her passion for music early on.
At 10 years old my life changed in one special, seminal evening. I already loved music and was excited to be taken to a concert at Islington Town Hall, but I had no idea how wonderful this event would turn out to be or how it would shape my future.
It was 1955 and my school had arranged the trip to the recital. Settling back into my seat next to my classmates and teachers in the semi-darkness, I fell in love for the first time – with the rich, mellow sound of the clarinet.
Barbara initially studied classical composition, but the music of Duke Ellington and John Coltrane influenced her to pursue jazz music. She played with an array of bands and orchestras, including teaming up with Colosseum on several albums and fronting two bands, Jubiaba and Paraphernalia.
Her marriage to Jon Hiseman, the legendary drummer and founder of Colosseum, saw two British musical forces unite for 50 years until Jon’s tragic death in 2018.
In 2004 we toured Europe and the reception was incredible. Fans followed us around from far afield, often turning up two or three times. The Colosseum audience seemed to be mainly made up of mature macho men, which wasn’t my usual fanbase, but our merchandise manager Barbel said many of them came out weeping during and after the concert, which I found very touching.
When we went on stage, some fans in the front row were waving a banner with the words ‘We love you, Barbara’. I felt grateful to Colosseum for having given me the opportunity to come out of a very short retirement.
Barbara’s talents did not go unnoticed, as Lord Lloyd Webber recruited her to work on the music for the acclaimed musicals Cats and Starlight Express. Barbara can also be heard playing the incidental music in ITV’s A Touch of Frost. She has collaborated on hundreds of projects with talented people over the years.
Barbara worked with the LifeBook team to create her autobiography, Journey to a Destination Unknown, and we’re delighted that the book will soon be published by Jazz in Britain and available to the public. Her story chronicles an amazing journey through the British music scene, and some personal struggles too; it’s a gripping story for any reader, and especially one with an interest in jazz.
On 7th October 2020, at 9pm, Barbara will appear on Channel 4’s 24 Hours in A&E, after she was rushed to St George’s Hospital with complications arising from atrial fibrillation. Barbara will feature alongside her daughter, Ana Gracey.
Musicality clearly runs in the family. Ana Gracey’s latest album, Wicked Games, was released last year. Ana has also been busy helping her mother with the release of the new boxset Barbara Thompson – Live At The BBC and a new record, Bulletproof, that will be launched in spring 2021.
As Barbara’s autobiography nears publication, we’ll keep our social media feeds updated, so follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more information.
The autobiography cover image and the photo of Barbara with her saxophone: David Redfern.