Happy Birthday Thurman Barker

January 8, 1948

A birthday tribute to the adventurous drummer

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Drummer and percussionist Thurman Barker was born on January 8, 1948 in Chicago.

His first professional job was when he was 16, working with bluesman Mighty Joe Young.

After studying at Empire State College and the American Conservatory of Music, Barker gained experience accompanying Billy Eckstine, Bette Midler and Marvin Gaye and working as the house percussionist at Chicago’s Schubert Theater.

A long-time member of the jazz avant-garde, Thurman Barker joined the AACM and starting in 1968 worked with Joseph Jarman, Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, Billy Bang, Henry Threadgill, Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre and Sam Rivers.

Barker appeared in many different settings including in a trio with saxophonists Jarman and Rivers and as a marimba player with Cecil Taylor in 1987.

He also developed into a composer, writing such major works as Dialogue (1994), Expansions (1999), and Time Factor (2000).

Barker has been an associate professor at Bard College since 1993.

Among his many recordings are four sets as a leader, early sessions with the Art Ensemble Of Chicago, and important avant-garde albums with Abrams, McIntyre, Pheeroan akLaff, Bang, Braxton, Jarman, Leroy Jenkins, Roscoe Mitchell, Butch Morris, Amina Claudine Myers, Wadada Leo Smith and Cecil Taylor.

In addition to drums, Barker has often been heard on marimbas, tympani, vibes, chimes, and other percussion instruments.

Thurman Barker is featured at a 1995 concert in Frankfurt, Germany performing the first part of a free improvisation with pianist Cecil Taylor.

-Scott Yanow


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