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Saxophonist Barbara Thompson dead at 77

Colosseum
(Image credit: Press)

Jazz rock saxophonist Barbara Thompson MBE has died, aged 77, her daughter has confirmed. The wife of late Colosseum drummer Jon Hiseman had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for the past 25 years.

In a statement, Thompson's daughter, singer-songwriter Ana Gracey said: "My mum had the most extraordinary spirit - she never gave up, however, her body finally let her down after a valiant battle with Parkinson’s over the course of 25 years alongside complications with her heart towards the end. We dearly hope that she and our father have found each other once again."

Thompson is best known to fans of progressive music for her work in jazz rockers Colosseum and with Manfred Mann's Earth Band (she featured on 1976's The Roaring Silence and 1980's Chance) and the Keef Hartley Band, however she was also lauded for her contribution to jazz and contemporary classical music as well.

Thompson had studied  saxophone and classical composition at the Royal College Of Music, but through her love of the music of John Coltrane and Duke Ellington, she concentrated on jazz. She married Hiseman in 1967 (the pair had met in 1964) and featured on the band's second album, 1969's Valentyne Suite and 1970's fourth album Daughter Of Time from the band's original phase.

She helped form the jazz rock group United Jazz + Rock Ensemble, fronted Barbara Thompson's Jubiaba, a nine-piece latin rock outfit who also featured former Soft Machine bassist Roy Babbington, and Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia, which also featured her late husband.

Thompson appeared on Andrew Lloyd-Webber's 1978 classical fusion album Variations and also worked with him on musicals such as Cats and Starlight Express, composed incidental music for the David Jason detective series A Touch Of Frost and also plated flute on Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds.

Thompson was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1997 and retired as an active saxophonist in 2001 with a farewell tour. She returned to the stage in 2003 and featured at Colosseum's final live show at Shepherd's Bush Empire in 2015.

Jerry Ewing
Jerry Ewing

Writer and broadcaster Jerry Ewing is the Editor of Prog Magazine which he founded for Future Publishing in 2009. He grew up in Sydney and began his writing career in London for Metal Forces magazine in 1989. He has since written for Metal Hammer, Maxim, Vox, Stuff and Bizarre magazines, among others. He created and edited Classic Rock Magazine for Dennis Publishing in 1998 and is the author of a variety of books on both music and sport, including Wonderous Stories; A Journey Through The Landscape Of Progressive Rock, as well as sleevenotes for many major record labels. He lives in North London and happily indulges a passion for AC/DC, Chelsea Football Club and Sydney Roosters.