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Malachi Thompson Has Passed Away

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July 17th, 2006

Delmark Records has very sad news to report as our long time Delmark family friend and musician, Malachi Thompson, passed away yesterday morning at home, July 16th, 2006. Malachi (1949-2006) was a beautiful soul and an extremely kind man and will be dearly missed by so many people whose lives he has positively touched. Malachi was a brilliant trumpet player and composer, writer and jazz historian, and a highly influential advocate for jazz and arts education. As part of the 2nd generation of AACM, Malachi Thompson is best known for his innovative approach in combining free jazz with the discipline of bop and the emotion of the blues and gospel. Malachi sadly passed away from leukemia, which had been in remission for almost 20 years. Just like his main musical heroes, Coltrane and Lester Bowie, Malachi was more than a musician, but a musician with vision and purpose.

Malachi's band Africa Brass with Billy Harper will be performing in a tribute to Malachi Thompson at the world famous Chicago Jazz Festival on Friday, Sept 1, 2006 from 6-7 pm at the Petrillo Main Stage. This will be a special tribute and very moving performance. I know Malachi was looking forward greatly to this anticipated event.

No other details about Malachi’s memorial service are announced at this point.

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About a month ago (June 19) Uncle Skid and I were in the Delmark studio and Steve Wagner explained the studio was a mess (organ and monitors in the hallway, etc) because Malachi had been recording his big band.

Edited by Chuck Nessa

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Sad news indeed, much too young :(

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That's terrible. I had the opporunity to see him lead a group with Billy Harper and Oliver Lake at Sweet Rhythm a couple of years back, an experience which left me a fan of his trumpet playing, leadership and composing.

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i too am saddened by the news of his passing. i only became aware of malachi's artistry during the past year after i attended last year's chicago jazz fest. i was really looking forward to seeing him at this year's festival. i strongly recommend his 2001 delmark cd talking horns featuring oliver lake, hamiet bluiett, and willie pickens.

r.i.p. malachi, and thanks for the music.

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In my previous post I neglected to say Malachi was always a fine gentleman (in the best way) and a fine musician. I think his best quality was as a salesman for HIS music. Not a bad thing at all.

Rest in peace Mr. Thompson.

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Sad.

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Sad news. He was way too young. I was hoping to catch him live someday.

I really liked his Delmarks CDs. Today I'll sping some of them.

14516897.GIF

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Knowing Malachi Thompson was an education. I'll never forget the first time I heard his "Africa Brass." It was at The Southend Music Works in Chicago, and the band played a 40 minute version of "Old Man River." After that I had to bring him to Michigan.

His concerts through the 1990's in Grand Rapids alone were an exciting part of musical education for the area. His Freebop Band played Dr. J's Jazz Coffeehouse with Billy Harper, Steve Berry, Kirk Brown, Harrison Bankhead and Dana Hall. Incredible program -- there weren't too many bands playing "Resolution" or "Naima" (on trumpet) back then, or now for that matter.

As part of that trip Malachi and Billy Harper went to Grand Valley State University and talked to Bob Schectman's music appreciation class (held in an auditorium). Malachi was about as non-judgemental a guy you'll find in jazz as related to education. One young man said he was trying to get his drumming together to do his own rock band and wondered how to do it, musically speaking. Malachi was like, "Oh yeah, who's you're favorite drummer?" "Neil Pert of Rush." Malachi, "That's cool, but there's already one of him, so why not be yourself?" The kid lit up on that.

Thompson came back in 1999 and played a big concert at The Wealthy Theater in Grand Rapids with poet Amiri Baraka, pianist Kirk Brown, bassist Harrison Bankhead and drummer Avreeayl Ra. Blue Lake Public Radio recorded that concert. That was shortly after Lester Bowie's passing and Malachi played a tune, "Nubian Call," for him, then, during the applause, pointed up and said, "That one's for you, Lester: say hello to Gabriel, heh heh heh, and all the other angels up there!"

There was an afternoon discussion, too, with Baraka and Thompson attended by 30 or 40 people which was dynamite. After Baraka's insight into the power of images and the electronic media's ability to change people's minds with them it wasn't at all crazy that Baraka shouted "Fuck D.W. Griffith!" during the concert that night. Otherwise, he didn't swear, so we can use the tape. Went out afterwards with the two of them, had some cognac, and Malachi and I were all over Baraka about the nature of jazz, about the institutionalization of the Afro-American arts (which Amiri's all for) vs. a living music, which is the way Thompson heard and lived jazz. It was a good discussion. As Baraka was walking down the hall of the hotel to catch the elevator, coat slung over his shoulder, he turned and said, "Call me if you get some money."

Another trip to G.R. featured the Freebop Band with Gary Bartz, Steve Barry, Kirk Brown, Harrison Bankhead, and drummer Leon Joyce, who was just gaining fame for his work with Ramsey Lewis. Riding around with Gary Bartz in the aftermath of 9-11 was eye opening, and his "John Coltrane on alto" playing fit perfectly with Thompson's approach with the Freebop Band.

Again, Malachi went to Grand Valley where he worked with their top big band. He heard them play, praised them for their execution, reading, spirit, but then suggested they make some shit up in the chart, personalize it. Suggested to the saxophones that during the trombone solo they play something to compliment him, and during this or that part they make up parts to the arrangement to personalize it. "You know other bands that play these college festivals are going to have this same chart, so you need to make it your own." They did, and it blew their minds -- probably the first time they encountered what it felt like to play in a real jazz band. They worked up some pretty cool stuff. Malachi opened 'em all up to their own creativity.

Will remember those car rides, those concerts, the meals together but most of all the music. Rest in peace music messenger.

Blue Lake Public Radio will replay the 1999 Grand Rapids concert featuring Malachi Thompson's Freebop Band with Amiri Baraka this Sunday evening at 8 p.m.

(Press Release)

July 17th, 2006

"Jazz is the music of freedom." - Malachi Thompson

"In my reality, time moves in one direction, ever forward. I've got to live and create in the present in order to shape the future. I hope I can maintain the imagination and the chops to keep pushing the boundaries of jazz trumpet." - Malachi from Delmark's "Timeline" liners.

Biography

Delmark recording artist Malachi Thompson was 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 ©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.

For more information about Malachi Thompson reference these publications: All Music Guide to Jazz; The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz by L. Feather and I. Gitler; The Blackwell Guide to Recorded Jazz (2nd Edition); Music Hound: The Essential Album Guide; The Penguin Guide to Jazz (4th Edition); Gramophone Jazz: Good CD Guide and The Jazz Scene by Royal Stokes. Search the internet under Malachi Thompson or Freebop or www.delmark.com

Discography on Delmark

1) TIMELINE (1972-1988) 2000 DE 421

2) SPIRIT (1984-1987) 1990 DE 442

3) THE JAZ LIFE 1991 DE 453

4) LIFT EVERY VOICE 1992 DE 463 *

5) NEW STANDARDS 1993 DE 473

6) BUDDY BOLDEN’S RAG 1995 DE 481 *

7) 47th STREET 1997 DE 497

8) FREEBOP NOW! 1998 DE 506

9) RISING DAYSTAR 1999 DE 518

10) TALKING HORNS 2001 DE 532

11) BLUE JAZZ 2003 DE 548 *

12) future Delmark release!

* with Africa Brass

Also featured on many more recordings, including

Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy

Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre

Archie Shepp

Gil Scott-Heron

Quincy Jones

QUOTES

MALACHI THOMPSON

"...among the next wave of jazz innovation." - Robert Palmer, New York Times

"...one of the ageless innovators of jazz...(Thompson has) a gift for conceiving arrangements and solos of stunning technical and emotional range." - Reuben Jackson, Washington Post

"...universally recognized as one of Chicago's most innovative, insightful and colorful musicians." - Arts Midwest

"...by choosing to advance jazz, both structurally and compositionally, rather than dwelling within the safe confines of bebop, Thompson has pushed jazz forward into the new millennium." - Fred Jung, L.A. Jazz Scene

"... (Thompson) demonstrates commitment to the proper historical development of jazz myth." - John MacCalkies, New City

"...trumpeter Malachi Thompson long ago established himself as one of the more innovative composer-bandleaders in jazz." - Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune

"...a trumpet player who's racked up acclaim for his always innovative technique." - Mike Breen, Cincinnati City Beat

"...Thompson's trumpet styling recall a master whose approach has not been truly appreciated." - Willard Jenkins Jazz Times

THE FREEBOP BAND

"...Thompson leads his small band through some innovative turns on standards and originals." - Rapport Magazine

"...Thompson's Freebop Band from Chicago begins about 10 steps ahead of most jazz ensembles." -Lazaro Vega, Grand Rapids Press

"...as intellectually probing and viscerally exciting as anything in jazz today." - Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune

"...the group attempts to shatter, or more accurately, stretch the mainstream." - Robert Goldblum, Richmond Times Dispatch

"...This is hard bop like it ought to be but is seldom heard." - Village Voice

AFRICA BRASS

"...Outstanding originals range from New Orleans-style...to hard driving free-ism." - Billboard Critic's Choice

"...a book full of infectious and occasionally intoxicating arrangements." - Neil Tesser, Playboy

"...power and ingenuity." - Bob Blumenthal, Boston Globe

"...There is the spirit of adventurousness that recalls the innovation of the Bebop era." - Stereo Review

"...I dare say this group collectively will stand the test of time." - Lofton Emenari, Hyde Park Citizen

--

Kevin Johnson

Director of Promotion

Delmark Records

4121 North Rockwell

Chicago, Illinois 60618

www.delmark.com

(773) 539-5001

Edited by Lazaro Vega

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Holy crap.

I just saw him perform w/ Billy Harper back on May 12th. He looked fine.

I'm shocked.

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Thanks a lot for sharing these remebrances, Lazaro!

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RIP, Malachi. I'll be spinning some of my Delmarks later on. Thanks for the joy.

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My god....this is really sad.

I got the chance to see Malachi many times around Chicago over the years, and had several opportunities to speak to him as well. He was always very cool.

R.I.P.

:(

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A fine player. Very sad news.

Edited by JohnS

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I only discovered Malachi in the last couple of years, and he'd quickly become one of my favorite contemporary players and leaders. The Africa Brass band is incredible. I'm listening to Buddy Bolden's Rag right now, to be followed by 47th Street, and probably Blue Jazz.

I'm so sorry I never got to see him - I was hoping to have that chance. RIP, Malachi.

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I got to hang with Malachi twice. They were both interviews. They were both fascinating. The first was for a show with Billy Harper, and Malachi was passionate about his music beyond all belief. He was passionate about making it past cancer. He was passionate about hating smooth jazz. He was passionate about his latest musical endeavors and it was one of the greatest afternoons of my life. The next time, it was supposed to be an interview about 47th Street and instead, it turned into Malachi giving me the best history of Bronzeville that anyone has ever given in the history of oral histories. I would ask him a question about the CD, and he would turn it around, on its head and turn it into something about what the SCAI was doing. And it was so fascinating, and so moving and so inspiring to see someone with so much fire for what he was doing that it changed the way I thought about music, politics and how the two are related forever.

He is one guy I am going to miss A LOT.

R.I.P. Malachi.

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Maybe 3 or 4 years ago, I saw the Freebop band down in Bronzeville, and I remember Malachi giving a speech about how he's always been inspired by movie soundtracks, particulary the old movies with really memorable main themes. He spoke about how certain jazz musicians have always been able to turn movie tunes (citing "Someday My Prince Will Come" and "My Favorite Things" in particular) into very effective vehicles for improvisation. He spoke about how this is something you hardly ever see these days, which is surprising since there have been some really great songs coming from modern films. He then proceeded to launch into a 3/4 arrangement of the Harry Potter theme music that was just incredible. Malachi and Billy Harper played some excellent solos, and then Gary Bartz stepped up and threw down a solo that brought the entire place to its feet. It was one of those unforgettable musical moments that don't happen too often. :wub:

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now that you mention it, i recently heard a jazz artist's cover of hedwig's theme, written by john williams for the potter movie. unfortunately, the name of the musician escapes me, but i remember that it was a moving performance.

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RIP.

Too young - but isn't it always?

His Freebop band was a fine one; I remember seeing him (and them) at the Velvet Lounge back when I lived in Chicago. Wonderful, strong player.

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