(1930 – 2010)
The SABIAN family extends its thoughts and prayers to the family and loved ones of legendary jazz drummer Ed Thigpen, who passed away Wednesday, January 13, 2010.
Ed worked with many of the jazz greats of his time, including Oscar Peterson, Billy Taylor and Ella Fitzgerald. The gifted entertainer and educator who was an inspiration to so many will be deeply missed. World-renown for his exemplary musicianship, his artistry with wire brushes, and his highly effective teaching methods, Ed Thigpen is admired by musicians and critics alike as one of the finest performer/educators in jazz.
Born in Chicago, December 28, 1930, Thigpen grew up in Los Angeles where he attended Thomas Jefferson High School. There, he gained practical experience in the school’s swing band under the guidance of revered educator Samuel Browne.
After graduating in 1949, he entered Los Angeles City college as a sociology major but left a year later to pursue a career in music. Shortly after, he moved to St. Louis, Mo. to live with his father, drummer Ben Thigpen, well-known for his work with the Andy Kirk band in the1930s. In 1951 Ed moved to New York where he joined the Cootie Williams bad at the Savoy Ballroom. He traveled throughout America with this band and many of the well known rhythm and blues groups of the period.
Between 1954 and 1958 Thigpen worked with Dinah Washington, the Johnny Hodges band and the trios of Bud Powell, Jutta Hipp and Billy Taylor. During this period he began to gain recognition for his concerts, nightclubs, recording sessions and the television series “The Subject is Jazz”. He also became a clinician for the Ludwig drum company.
In 1959 Ed joined the Oscar Peterson Trio and became an instructor at The Advanced School of Conteporary Music in Toronto, a school founded by Oscar Peterson, bassist Ray Brown and composer Phil Nimmons. That same year Ed and Elvin Jones were tied for the New Star on Drums in the Down Beat jazz critics poll.
The Trio, still considered by many musicians and public to be the greatest piano-bass-drums trio in the history of jazz, traveled the world with Jazz at the Philharmonic. Ed recorded more than 50 albums with Peterson before he left the group in 1965 to toured with Ella Fitzgerald. Among the other artists he performed with were Johnny Mathis, Pat Boone, Andy Williams, Peggy Lee, Oliver Nelson and Gerald Wilson. In late 1968, Ed rejoined Ella Fitzgerald in a trio led by Tommy Flanagan. Ed remained with Ella until settling in Denmark in September, 1972.
Throughout his life, Ed wrote and published five books, including “Ed Thigpen Talking Drums”, a collaboration with Ray Brown entitled “Be Our Guest”, “Rhythm Analysis and Basic Co-ordination”, and “The Sound of Brushes”. His last book was a manual entitled “Rhythm Brought to Life”. He also produced two instruction videos, “Ed Thigpen on Jazz Drumming” and “The Essence of Brushes”.
The Thigpen family has created a Facebook group to share information and for fans to share their thoughts on his life and legacy. Further updates from the family will be posted on his website (www.edthigpen.com).