A legendary tenor and soprano saxophonist who took his place among the elite improvisers of jazz from the 1940's to the 1960's and then quit music. Lucky Thompson connected the swing era to the more cerebral and complex bebop style. His sophisticated, harmonically abstract approach to the tenor saxophone endeared him to the beboppers, but he was also a beautiful balladeer.
Thompson was born in Columbia, South Carolina, but grew up on Detroit's East Side. He saved to buy a saxophone study book, practicing on a simulated instrument carved from a broomstick. He finally acquired a saxophone when he was 15, practiced eight hours a day and, within a month, was playing around town, most notably with the King's Aces big band, among who was vibraphonist Milt Jackson, later a frequent associate. Thompson left Cass high school early to join ex-Lunceford altoist Ted Buckner at Club 666, a top spot in the black section of Detroit.