Ed Thigpen

Ed Thigpen, born Edmund Leonard Thigpen on December 28, 1930, in Chicago, IL, was an American jazz drummer, best-known for his drumming (and brush work) with the Billy Taylor trio (1956 – 1959) and the Oscar Peterson trio (1959 – 1965).

Ed was raised in Los Angeles, CA and attended Thomas Jefferson High School, the same schoole jazz greats such as Art Farmer, Dexter Gordon and Chico Hamilton also attended. After majoring in sociology at Los Angeles City College, Thigpen returned to East St. Louis for one year to pursue music while living with his father who had been playing with Andy Kirk's Clouds of Joy. His father, Ben Thigpen, was also a drummer; he played with Andy Kirk for sixteen years during the 1930s and 1940s.

Ed's first professional gig was in New York City with the Cootie Williams Orchestra (1951 to 1952) at the Savoy Ballroom. It was during this time that he worked with the likes of Dinah Washington, Gil Melle, Oscar Pettiford, Eddie Vinson, Paul Quinichette, Ernie Wilkins, Charlie Rouse, Lennie Tristano, Jutta Hipp, Johnny Hodges, Dorothy Ashby, Bud Powell, and Billy Taylor.

In 1959, Thigpen joined the Oscar Peterson Trio in Toronto, Canada, replacing guitarist Herb Ellis. In 1961, Thigpen was featured on Teddy Edwards–Howard McGhee Quintet album, Together Again! (Contemporary), which also featured Phineas Newborn, Jr. and Ray Brown. After leaving the Oscar Peterson group, Thigpen went on to record, Out of the Storm (Verve 1966), and toured for over five years with Ella Fitzgerald (1967-1972).

In 1974, Thigpen moved to Copenhagen, joining several other American jazz musicians who over the past two decades had settled in the city. It was there that he worked with fellow American expatriates, Kenny Drew, Ernie Wilkins, and Thad Jones, as well as leading Danish jazz musicians such as Svend Asmussen, Mads Vinding, Alex Riel and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen. He also played with a variety of other leading musicians of the time, such as Clark Terry, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Milt Jackson and Monty Alexander.

In 2002, Ed Thigpen was inducted into the Percussive Arts Hall of Fame. His drumming has appeared on over 1,500 album recordings, including latter performances with his two danish groups, Ed Thigpen Trio and Ed Thigpen Scantet.

As an educator, Thigpen was well known as a master of the brushes. He has written and published five books, including Ed Thigpen Talking Drums, Be Our Guest (collaborated with Ray Brown), Rhythm Analysis and Basic Co-ordination, The Sound of Brushes, and a teacher's manual titled Rhythm Brought to Life. Ed also made two instruction videos, Ed Thigpen on Jazz Drumming and The Essence of Brushes.

Ed Thigpen died at the age of 79 on January 13, 2010 in Copenhagen, Denmark; he was buried at Vestre Kirkegård.

In 2011, a CD & DVD package, Live at Tivoli / Master of Time, was released posthumously. The audio recording is from a live concert at Glassalen in Tivoli Gardens (2002) which catches Ed Thigpen at peak performance together with pianist Carsten Dahl and bassist Jesper Bodilsen. A personal 92-minute multifaceted DVD documentary by the acclaimed film director Don McGlynn is included in this release. The movie, besides being a historical document, contains music specifically recorded for this movie as well as interviews and much more. A warm portrait of a musician and man who rests in himself and his past, but who is always exploring new way of expression.