Born: August 21, 1949 Primary Instrument: Trumpet
Malachi Thompson is a composer, band leader, trumpet soloist, artist, teacher and arts activist. Born in Princeton, Kentucky on August 21, 1949, Thompson's jazz roots are on Chicago's South Side. In 1968, he joined the influential Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) playing the music of Henry Threadgill and Richard Muhal Abrams. He also became a member of Dr. M.L. King's Operation Breadbasket Orchestra, the musical arm of SCLC in 1968, working for civil rights for African Americans. In 1974, after completing work for a degree in Music Composition, Thompson was encouraged to move to NYC by jazz legend Art Blakey. While in NYC, Thompson performed with many of the greatest names in jazz: Joe Henderson, Sam Wooding, Jackie McLean, Frank Foster, Leon Thomas, Sam Rivers, Lester Bowie, and Archie Shepp to name a few. In 1978, he formed the highly acclaimed Freebop Band. After 10 years in NYC, he moved to Washington DC and later Vienna, Austria performing and composing for various bands. In 1989, Thompson was diagnosed with cancer and returned to his native Chicago. After his recovery, he became an outspoken advocate for jazz and arts education. He is also a published writer and jazz historian. He often performs or serves as an artist in residence in Chicago's public schools. He conducts master classes, jazz workshops and lectures on all things jazz at colleges and universities nationwide.
In 1991, Mr. Thompson founded the Sutherland Community Arts Initiative (SCAI), a not for profit 501 (c)3 arts and arts education presenting organization on Chicago's South Side. As a member of S C A I, Mr. Thompson helped found and establish the Hyde Park /Kenwood J A A Z Festival, The Visiting Jazz Artists Program and Creativity magazine. In 1994 Thompson helped develop the cultural component of the award winning proposal to HUD that brought 8 million dollars in federal Empowerment Zone (EZ) funds to cultural institutions in Chicago's EZ communities.
In 1997, Thompson's Freebop Band recorded 47th Street for Delmark Records featuring original music from the play The Sutherland, written by playwright Charles Smith and based partly on Mr. Thompson's life and struggles to overcome cancer. The Sutherland had a successful 6-week run at Victory Gardens Theater in the fall of 1997 and won the Illinois Arts Council's New Play Award. Thompson's original music from The Sutherland won the prestigious Jeff award (the equivalent of a Tony in NYC). 47th Street was selected as jazz record of the year by the Chicago Sun-Times and made it to the top ten of the CMJ national jazz charts. Thompson's recordings consistently track high on jazz radio charts indicating substantial national airplay. Thompson's 8th CD for Delmark Records, Rising Daystar (featuring Gary Bartz) was released October 1999 was charted at #4 on Jazziz radio charts. Over the past 25 years, Thompson's Freebop Band has featured jazz masters like Carter Jefferson, Billy Harper, Joe Ford, Albert Dailey, George Adams and David Murray. Recently, Thompson scored the sound track for the PBS documentary Remembering 47th Street, which won an Emmy for Best Documentary in 2001. In 2003, Thompson received a commission from Chamber Music America to compose new works to commemorate the band's 25th Anniversary.
In 1991, Thompson created Africa Brass, a thirteen piece brass ensemble as a larger vehicle for his original compositions. Africa Brass was inspired by the traditional brass bands that became popular around the turn of the century in New Orleans. However Africa Brass is no re-creation, but a logical extension of the brass band tradition that combines big band jazz with Afro-Cuban music forms. Africa Brass has three highly acclaimed CDs on Delmark, including Lift Every Voice and Buddy Bolden's Rag featuring special guest soloist Lester Bowie. In 2002 Africa Brass received a grant from the Aaron Copland Fund to record Thompson's Black Metropolis Suite and Blues For A Saint Called Louis. These new works were released in November 2003 on the Delmark Records CD, Blue Jazz, featuring Gary Bartz and Billy Harper. The CD peaked at #2 on CMJ's Jazz Chart and received worldwide critical acclaim.
In 1995 Thompson was selected as an Arts Midwest Jazz Master. Thompson was also selected as a Chicagoan of the Year in 1996 by the Chicago Tribune for his efforts to bring jazz back to the South Side of Chicago. In 1997 Thompson was honored by the Chicago Endowment for the Arts for his arts activism. Mr. Thompson's trumpet playing has been recognized in DownBeat magazine's annual International Critic's Poll. Mr. Thompson is featured on 29 recordings of which thirteen he is the featured artist. Thompson has performed in over 15 countries around the world and in 22 states across the U.S. In June 1998 Thompson's Freebop Band performed at the St. Louis International Jazz Festival in Senegal, West Africa sponsored by the United States Information Agency. Thompson composed two new compositions for the performance. Thompson is known in international jazz circles for his exciting, innovative music and as a leading exponent of Chicago jazz.