Born in Chicago in 1930, the son of drummer Ben Thigpen, Ed’s graceful brushwork and warm senses of swing, along with his impeccable dress sense, earned him the nickname ‘Mr Taste’.
By his own count, Thigpen recorded more than 1,000 album over his six-decade career, including more than 50 with the Oscar Peterson Trio. He also worked with some of the biggest stars in the swing pantheon, including Dinah Washington and Ella Fitzgerald, as well as piano greats including Jutta Hipp, Bud Powell, Billy Taylor and Kenny Drew. A dedicated entertainer and keen educator, Ed continued playing until very recently and published five books including Talking Drums and The Sound Of Brushes and an educational DVD, The Essence of Brushes.
“The music is the most important thing,” Ed told Rhythm last year. “It’s been a unifying, gratifying and evolutionary force in the cycle of life throughout history. That’s what we still do. We entertain people.”Check out some of his masterful brushwork on YouTube here.
Ed died on 13th January in Copenhagen, where he had lived since 1972, after a brief spell in hospital. He will be sorely missed by the drum community and jazz and swing fans the world over.
A statement on a temporary Facebook Group created to pay tribute to Ed, reads: “A true legend and master musician has passed away. Ed Thigpen has contributed more than half a century of music to the world. As well as an entertainer, Ed was also a gifted educator in his field and a good friend and father. We will miss him very much!”