Barbara Gracey Thompson was born on July 27, 1944 in Oxford, United Kingdom. She studied clarinet, flute, piano and classical composition at the Royal College of Music, but it was the music of Duke Ellington and John Coltrane that caused her to shift her interests to jazz and saxophone.
Around 1970, Thompson she joined Neil Ardley’s New Jazz Orchestra and appeared on albums by Colosseum. Starting in 1975, she was a founding member of three bands, the first being the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble, with bandleaders Wolfgang Dauner, Volker Kriegel, Albert Mangelsdorff, Eberhard Weber, Ian Carr, Charlie Mariano, Ack van Rooyen and Jon Hiseman. The second was Barbara Thompson’s Jubiaba, a 9 piece Latin/rock band with Peter Lemer, Roy Babbington, Henry Lowther, Ian Hamer, Derek Wadsworth, Trevor Tomkins, Bill Le Sage and Glyn Thomas. The third, Barbara Thompson’s Paraphernalia, is her current working band with pianist Peter Lemer, vocalist Billy Thompson, bassist Dave Ball and Jon Hiseman on drums.
She was awarded the MBE in 1996 for services to music but due to her being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1997, she retired as an active saxophonist in 2001 with a farewell tour. Barbara went on to work exclusively as a composer exclusively, but returned to the stage in 2003 replacing the unwell Dick Heckstall-Smith during Colosseum’s “Tomorrow’s Blues” tour becoming a permanent member, and in 2005 she performed live with Paraphernalia in their “Never Say Goodbye” tour.
Thompson has worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber on musicals such as Cats, Starlight Express and Requiem. She has written several classical compositions, music for film and television, a musical of her own and has composed songs for her big band Moving Parts.
Didier Levallet was born in Arcy-sur-Cure, France on July 19, 1944 and is a self-taught bassist. He made his professional debut in Paris in 1969 working with the likes of Ted Curson, Johnny Griffin, Kenny Clarke, Mal Waldron, Hank Mobley, Steve Lacy, Harry Beckett and Didier Lockwood.
Didier worked with the free-jazz quartet Perception through the 70s and toured the United States with tenor saxophonist Byard Lancaster from 1974 to 1976. He also led Confluence, a group based on strings and percussion only. By the early Eighties he was playing with Frank Lowe, Archie Shepp, Mike Westbrook’s Concert Band and Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood Of Breath as well as the Double Quartet with Tony Oxley.
Levallet is a prolific composer who combines free-improvisation and structure coherently. He works within four bands – the Quintet, a 12-piece band, Swing Strings System with seven string players plus drums and a trio with violinist Dominique Pifarely and guitarist Gérard Marais. In 1976, he founded ADMI, the Association pour la Developement de la Musique Improvise.
He was a former Director of the French National Jazz Orchestra from 1997 to 2000 and serves as an educator at the L’École Nationale de Musique in Angoulême. Double bassist, composer, arranger and leader Didier Levallet regularly hold workshops and music concerts in Cluny, France.
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Graham Peter Hall, generally known as GP Hall, was born on July 15, 1943, and raised in Hampton Hill, London, United Kingdom, where he was schooled in classical, flamenco and jazz. As a teenager he went on to play in the Odd Lot Band and set up the Odd Lot Club as a venue for their music, which in turn attracted more established bands and players for concerts.
As he became better known, Hall went on to play at more celebrated London venues including The Roundhouse, the Middle Earth club and a residency at the 100 Club. He would back Deep Purple, The Hollies, Chris Farlowe and played with John Lee Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson and with Casey Jones & The Governors.
His musical approach broadened in the early 1970s where he spent time studying with Romani musicians and flamenco guitarist Manitas de Plata, became involved in more avant-garde work, writing, producing and performing, and became the musical director for the multi-media performance art group Welfare State International.
By 1972 GP composed and recorded The Estates on Prototype Records, followed three years later by his sophomore project Manifestations. But around this time, his promising career fell into a fifteen-year depression due to personal trauma. It was until the Eighties that he re-emerged into the music world with his twenty-nine track Colors (Movements) a series of instrumental albums on the Kenwest label. The 90s saw the release of a solo album Imaginary Seasons on his own Imaginary Music label that was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, followed by Figments Of Imagination in 1996 and an appearance on the Unknown Public compilation alongside guitarists Bill Frisell, Frank Zappa, John Zorn and Robert Fripp.
Into the new millennium the guitarist has continued to record new and old music combining them with live performances, created eclectic instrumental and industrial inclined works, recorded several unreleased albums and collaborated with percussionist Justin Ash, painter Alistair Michie, Lol Coxhill, Paul Rutherford, Jeff Clyne, John Ellis and Lyn Dobson, among others.
Hall invented the musical genre known as Industrial Sound Sculptures, draws on classical, rock, jazz, flamenco, folk and blues styles and performs mainly in the free jazz and avant-garde genres, though much more melodic. He uses a variety of techniques such as slides, fingerpicking and found implements like crocodile clips, palette knives, velcro strips, an antique psaltery bow and wind-up toy to create a variety of different sounds.
Guitarist GP Hall is adept with electric and electronic playing but is also known for his particular virtuosity as an acoustic guitarist, an expert flamenco guitarist, and an accomplished classical-style player. He also plays a customized Shergold six-string bass guitar featuring a half-fretted, half-fretless fretboard and has been known to dabble in playing other instruments such as double bass, piano, soprano saxophone and varied percussion, and vocals as he continues his musical journey.
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Hank Johnson was born Stuart H. Tresser in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, New York on July 14, 1949. He began playing the piano at three years old with his first piano teacher Mrs. Henryetta Klein. He continued his private lessons with classical teacher Ms. Malady at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, Morty Reed, Teddy Wilson and Horace Parlan. Studying with Machito’s copyist and arranger Ray Cox, he learned to write music.
Graduating from George W. Wingate High School in Brooklyn in 1967, Hank won 1st prize at the high school talent show with the first interracial jazz trio and vocalist. Not satisfied with just becoming a great pianist he went on to matriculate through New York City Technical College with a degree in graphic arts and advertising technology, and New York Institute of Technology in Communication Arts.
In 1977 Hank had replaced Jimmy Nottingham’s trio at the Village Door Restaurant and Supper Club in Jamaica, Queens, NY. It was there at the Village Door that Hank got the hands on experience that would spark and ignite his goal to share his talent with the world.
He founded the independent record label Jazzbone Records where he composes and produces. Presently he continues to perform around his native New York, is the director of Tresser Printing Office, a security printer and a division of Tresser Music, music publishers.
Tomasz Stańko was born on July 11, 1942 Rzeszów, Poland and his first encounters with jazz were through Voice of America radio programs and U.S. State Department tours. Coming of age in Communist Poland he was impressed by the correlation jazz had with a message of freedom. In 1958 he saw his first jazz concert given by Dave Brubeck.
Coming to prominence in the early 1960s alongside pianist Adam Makowicz in the Jazz Darings, the group is considered one of the first groups to play free jazz in Europe. Stańko later collaborated on pianist Krzysztof Komeda’s pivotal 1966 album Astigmatic, then formed at quintet in 1968 with Zbigniew Seifert on violin and alto saxophone and in 1975 he formed the Tomasz Stańko-Adam Makowicz Unit.
Tomasz has since established himself as a leading figure not only in Polish jazz, but on the world stage working with Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Reggie Workman, Rufus Reid, Lester Bowie, David Murray, Manu Katche, Taj Mahal, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Don Cherry Arild Andersen, Jon Christensen, Bobo Stenson, Tony Oxley, Anders Jormin, was a member of Cecil Taylor’s big band and the Globe Unity Orchestra.
Losing his natural teeth in the 1990s, over time he developed a new embouchure with the help of a skilled dentist and monotonous practice. Trumpeter, composer and improviser Tomasz Stanko, who concentrates in the free jazz and avant-garde genres, continues to record for ECM Records, perform and tour globally.
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