Obituary: Barbara Thompson, saxophonist who wrote the tune featured on television’s ‘A Touch of Frost’

Barbara Thompson, who has died aged 77, was an avant-garde saxophonist and trumpeter who overcame barriers to break into the male-dominated world of British jazz, becoming famous for her groundbreaking fusion music, especially with Paraphernalia, the creative band she’s been with for over 30 years.

et it was the unlikely catalyst of a TV show that catapulted her into mainstream culture, as her haunting sax solo featured prominently in ITV’s long-running detective series A Touch of Froststarring David Jason.

Partly based on The Fanaid GroveA dreary Irish folk tune from Donegal, the theme was rewritten by Thompson and her husband, Jon Hiseman, serving as the show’s emotional theme music and becoming synonymous with Frost during its 18 years of operation. This success makes little difference to Thompson’s philosophy, which is grounded in the beliefs embodied in her 2020 autobiography, Journey to an unknown destinationthat “music is a door to the world – there is no limit to where it can lead and the challenges never stop”.

In the end, she turned her back on a promising classical music career to pursue her passion for jazz, overcoming many obstacles to discover new directions for music.

Barbara Gracey Thompson was born in Oxford on 27 July 1944, the daughter of David Thompson, registrar at the Court of Criminal Appeal, and Joan. As a child, she studied the phonograph, clarinet and piano at school, then played with the London School Symphony Orchestra. She went on to college secretarial school and played in various student bands, and in 1964 she won a place at the Royal College of Music, studying clarinet, flute, piano, saxophone and clarinet. work.

However, watching the great American alto sax artist Johnny Hodges in concert with Duke Ellington sparked her fascination with sax.

The rare sight of a young woman holding a saxophone has attracted considerable attention. She had brief stints with the Ivy Benson Girls Band and all-girl pop group The She Trinity, who have supported The Who on numerous occasions.

However, her early attempts to be accepted as a serious jazz musician were often unsuccessful; When it comes to auditions, she will be caught with silent looks or told that she will have to do her own makeup and wear sexy clothes to get anywhere.

Letting her sax do the talking, she slowly cemented her place at the vanguard of British new jazz, making her mark with the New Jazz Orchestra, conducted by Neil Ardley, and working with leading contemporary artists such as Ian Carr, Jack Bruce, Graham Bond, Georgie Fame, John Mayall and most significantly Jon Hiseman, the drummer for the band Colosseum, with whom she married in 1967 and collaborated on many projects. judgment.

A performance at the Palace Theater in London playing in the performance’s cavernous orchestra Bar She had a desire to create and play her own music, and she formed the Barbara Thompson Quartet and became a regular at Ronnie Scott’s club in Soho.

She formed her oldest band, Paraphernalia, in 1975, and through various incarnations, they released 17 albums, cementing her reputation as one of the finest jazz musicians. UK best.

One of her most surprising – and celebrated – collaborations was with Andrew Lloyd Webber, originally on the 1978 album, Variationsled to a friendship and bond, and she contributed to his programs Cats, Starlight Express and Tell me on a Sunday.

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She was appointed MBE for music services in 1996, and a box set of 14 CDs, Live at BBCreleased in 2020.

Thompson’s husband, Hiseman, passed away in 2018, and she is survived by their son and daughter.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] Obituary: Barbara Thompson, saxophonist who wrote the tune featured on television’s ‘A Touch of Frost’

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