Love You Madly

Ella Fitzgerald acc. by The Tommy Flanagan Trio

Ed Thigpen

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Ella Fitzgerald performs at Montreux in 1969 accompanied by pianist Tommy Flanagan’s Trio featuring Ed Thigpen on drums.

Ed had a wonderful career performing with the Billy Taylor trio, and Oscar Peterson trio, and touring with Ella Fitzgerald for many years.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, on December 28, 1930, Edmund Leonard Thigpen was raised in Los Angeles, California, and attended Thomas Jefferson High School, which was also attended by Art Farmer, Dexter Gordon, and Chico Hamilton. After majoring in sociology at Los Angeles City College, Thigpen returned to East St. Louis for one year to pursue music while living with his father who had been playing with Andy Kirk’s Clouds of Joy. His father Ben Thigpen was a drummer who played with Andy Kirk for sixteen years during the 1930s and 1940s.

Thigpen first worked professionally in New York City with the Cootie Williams Orchestra from 1951 to 1952 at the Savoy Ballroom. During this time he played with musicians such as Dinah Washington, Gil Melle, Oscar Pettiford, Eddie Vinson, Paul Quinichette, Ernie Wilkins, Charlie Rouse, Lennie Tristano, Jutta Hipp, Johnny Hodges, Dorothy Ashby, Bud Powell, Billy Taylor.

In 1959 he replaced guitarist Herb Ellis in the Oscar Peterson Trio in Toronto, Canada. In 1961 he recorded in Los Angeles, featuring on the Teddy Edwards–Howard McGhee Quintet album entitled Together Again for the Contemporary label with Phineas Newborn, Jr. and Ray Brown. After leaving Peterson, Thigpen recorded the album Out of the Storm as a leader for Verve in 1966. He then went on to tour with Ella Fitzgerald from 1967 to 1972.

In 1974 Thigpen moved to Copenhagen, joining several other American jazz musicians who over the past two decades had settled in the city. There he worked with fellow American expatriates, including Kenny Drew, Ernie Wilkins, and Thad Jones, as well as leading Danish jazz musicians such as Svend Asmussen, Mads Vinding, Alex Riel, and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen. He also played with a variety of other leading musicians of the time, such as Clark Terry, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Milt Jackson and Monty Alexander.

Ed Thigpen died peacefully after a brief period in Hvidovre Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark on January 13, 2010. He is buried at Vestre Kirkegard.

*He was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 2002.


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