Chicago, Illinois, who went to the same high school as Art Farmer, Dexter
Gordon and Chico Hamilton, and went on to enjoy similar success. Upon graduation, he enrolled in L.A.
City College with the intent to study sociology, but music beckoned. He moved eastward piecemeal,
stopping off for a short time to live with his dad, also a drummer, in St.
In 1951, he completed
the second half of his journey to the Big Apple, and found work quickly
with Cootie Williams at The Savoy Ballroom. He stayed with this group until 1952
and band-hopped to and fro, betwixt and between Jutta
Hipp, Johnny Hodges, Bud Powell, and Lennie Tristano. He even served briefly in the armed
services. Upon release, he
hooked up with Dinah Washington.
Between 1956 and 1959, he was a member of The Billy Taylor
Trio. In 1959, he changed bands
once again, this time joining the newly re-formed Oscar Peterson Trio. The trio recorded an astounding 50+
albums in a span of six years.
In 1966, Ed
released an album under his own name, Out
of the Storm, on the Verve label.
Then he moved back to L.A. in 1967 and concentrated on session
work. It did not keep him off
the road for long, however. Ed
spent much of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s on tour with Ella
In 1972, he
moved to Copenhagen, Denmark.
Living in Europe allowed him to play with a cosmopolitan mix of
artists such as Monty Alexander, Sven Asmussen,
Alice Babs, Kenny Drew, Milt Jackson, Thad Jones,
Clark Terry, Sylvia Vrethammer, and Ernie
He also made
his mark on music education, teaching at Copenhagen’s Rhythmic
Conservatory and writing several books, including Be Our Guest (with bassist Ray Brown), Ed Thigpen Talking Drums, Rhythm
Analysis and Basic Coordination, and The Sound of Brushes.
In 2002, he
received the Humanitarian Award from the International Association of Jazz
Education, and was enshrined in The Percussive Arts Society Hall of
Fame. One of his last live
appearances was at The Copenhagen Jazzfestival on
1st July 2008. He
passed away in Copenhagen,
Denmark, on 13th January
2010 when he was
80 years old.