The story of the legendary saxophonist and composer Barbara Thompson is quite simply astonishing. With a career that has spanned five incredible decades, countless awards including an MBE, she is an inspiration and a role model to many, and it is high time her career was explored.
Barbara shares her world with us through this incredible auto biography, starting with falling in love with the sound of the clarinet at the age of ten, up to her plans for 2020. She takes us with her as she explores music and her determination to become an artist, and her honesty throughout this journey, is at times, breath taking. Her relationship with her late husband, the legendary drummer Jon Hiseman, is explored honestly, discussing working and living together for many years and the challenges this brings, along with the immense joy they clearly both felt. The strength and support she found in him when she was first diagnosed with, as she refers to it, ‘An Unwelcome Visitor’, Parkinson’s Disease, and the impact of his death from a brain tumour in 2018 had on her. It is emotional stuff.
What is especially engaging about this book is not just that it is Barbara’s own words, but the way she describes her journey. Her honesty and transparency give this book an intimacy that allows you to be with her as she takes you on her inspiring ride. You feel her excitement as she creates new work and sees this work come to fruition; you understand and respect her commitment to being a successful mother, wife and musician and you absolutely hear her strength and feistiness as she navigated her way around as the only female saxophonist. The photography included in the book is wonderful - newspaper clippings, behind the scenes shots, family photos - and it enhances her words and gives it an intimate and almost personal scrapbook feel at times, which only serves to bring you closer to her life and her experiences.
This books clearly demonstrates why Barbara Thompson has inspired so many over the years. Where there were so few female instrumentalists being promoted and given opportunities, she was there leading the way and sharing her artistry, passion, dedication and love with the world and as she says: ‘For me, music is a gateway to the world. There is no limit to where it can lead, and the challenges never stop’
I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Reviewer: Fiona Ross
No. of pages: 278
Size: Crown Quarto
Paper: 115gsm Arctic silk (printed in full colour throughout)
Publication date: 22nd October 2020