Chicago trumpeter Malachi Thompson died at his home on Sunday morning, July 16, from lymphoma. The disease had been in remission since the early 90s, but it resurged in the last few weeks. He was 56.
Thompson was long-time member of the AACM, and early in his career he formed key partnerships with saxophonist Carter Jefferson and Art Ensemble of Chicago trumpeter Lester Bowie—Thompson was a one-time member of Bowie’s popular Brass Fantasy group. Bowie was clearly in the trumpeter’s mind when he put together his long-running Africa Brass project—a 13-strong outfit that made three albums for the local Delmark label. Thompson’s Freebop Band also recorded for the label, featuring regular appearances by the likes of Billy Harper, Oliver Lake, Jefferson, and Gary Bartz. Thompson also founded the Sutherland Community Arts Initiative in 1991, a nonprofit under whose auspices he eventually launched the Hyde Park/Kenwood Jaaz Festival.
Thompson’s Africa Brass was booked for this year’s Chicago Jazz Festival, with Harper as a guest. The gig will go on, but it’s now refocused as a tribute to the band’s founder.