Thursday, 25 February 2010

Ed Thigpen RIP

Ed Thigpen, 79, drummer with Oscar Peterson’s trio

By Peter Keepnews
January 28, 2010

Ed Thigpen, a drummer whose tasteful and understated style made him a favorite accompanist of some of the best-known performers in jazz, died Jan. 13 in Copenhagen, where he had lived since 1972. He was 79.

His death was announced by his family. No cause was specified.

Mr. Thigpen was most famous for his tenure with the pianist Oscar Peterson’s trio, one of the most popular small groups in jazz, from 1959 to 1965. He was one of the first drummers to work with Peterson, whose trios up until then had mainly consisted of piano, bass, and guitar, and he earned raves for his supportive playing and especially for his deft use of brushes.

After leaving Peterson, he spent five years with Ella Fitzgerald. He then moved to Copenhagen, where he became an in-demand sideman for visiting and expatriate American jazz musicians.

A second-generation percussionist (his father, Ben Thigpen, played drums with the celebrated Kansas City big band led by Andy Kirk), Edmund Leonard Thigpen was born in Chicago and grew up in Los Angeles, where he began his professional career in 1948.

After serving in the Army, he spent several years in New York, where he performed and recorded with Bud Powell, Lennie Tristano, Blossom Dearie, and many others before joining Peterson’s trio.

Mr. Thigpen returned occasionally to the United States, but not always as a performer. Many of his visits were to attend meetings of drummers and educators, where he discussed the teaching techniques he had developed and which he documented in several books.

He was proud of those techniques. “I found a slot that was missing in rhythm education,’’ he told The New York Times in 1985. “I found a way to activate the silences between notes.’’

© Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

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