Hometown: Marine on St. Croix, MN
Web site: http://www.butchthompson.com
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In a career spanning over 40 years, pianist and clarinetist Butch Thompson has earned a world-wide reputation as a traditional jazz and ragtime master. He tours widely as a soloist or at the helm of any of his several ensembles, including his well-known Butch Thompson Trio, his eight-piece Jazz Originals band, the Butch Thompson Big Three, or his unique chamber music duo with cellist Laura Sewell.
He has performed with many symphony orchestras, including the Hartford Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, the Erie Philharmonic, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Cairo (Egypt) Symphony.
Widely known for his 12-year stint as house pianist on public radio’s A Prairie Home Companion, where the Trio was the house band, he continues on the show as a frequent guest. The Trio also tours widely on its own, including tours with the former Columbia Artists Management (CAMI) and other community concert presenters.
Born and raised in Marine-on-St. Croix, a small Minnesota river town, Thompson was playing Christmas carols on his mother’s upright piano by age three, and began formal lessons at six. He studied clarinet in high school and led his first professional jazz group as a teenager.
After high school, he joined the Hall Brothers New Orleans Jazz Band of Minneapolis, and at 18 made his first visit to New Orleans, where he became one of the few non-New Orleanians to perform at Preservation Hall during the 1960s and ‘70s.
In 1974, Thompson played on a number of the first Prairie Home Companion broadcasts. By 1980, the show was being nationally syndicated, and the Butch Thompson Trio was the house band, a position the group held for the next six years.
Through the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, Thompson’s travels widened. He toured extensively and often in Switzerland, Germany, Scandinavia, and eventually Japan and Egypt.
By the late ‘90s, Thompson was known as a leading authority on early jazz. He served as a development consultant on the 1992 Broadway hit Jelly’s Last Jam, which starred Gregory Hines. He also joined the touring company of the off-Broadway hit Jelly Roll! The Music and the Man, playing several runs with that show in New York and with its touring company through 1997.