Born: June 15, 1958 Primary Instrument: Sax, baritone
A gifted British baritone player, composer, flutist, and big-band leader, Gail Thompson’s music is comparable to that of Quincy Jones or Abdullah Ibrahim. Along with her hard bop jazz sound, she stirs in a soulful touch of African spirit and rhythm. Near the end of the ’80s, Thompson traveled by truck through Africa to reach Kenya. The experience clearly left its mark on her compositions. Thompson has performed with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers making her the only female Messenger ever, the Charlie Watts Orchestra, and the National Youth Orchestra; she has worked for Mick Jagger’s music company as director and she worked with Courtney Pine to help found the Jazz Warriors. When problems with her facial muscles forced her to give up the baritone she founded MUSICWORKS, a center for musicians that has grown from her front room to a 3 storey converted warehouse, 20 staff and 3000 students she also gives musical workshops all over the world. In 1996, Thompson released her debut album, Jazz Africa, under the ENJA Records label. Impressive tracks like “Long Time in Togo,” “Kamara River,” and “Stressless” are accomplished with help from artists Claude Deppa, Tom Harris, Harry Beckett, Lucky Ranku, and others. In 2003 she formed Noir Femmes an all black women’s touring big band featuring some of Britain’s best black women musicians.