The United Jazz+Rock Ensemble – Plays Barbara Thompson (2002)

FrontCover1The United Jazz + Rock Ensemble (abbr. “United” or “UJRE”) developed from a group of jazz musicians that was formed for a 1974 to 1975 television show of Süddeutscher Rundfunk (South German Broadcasting). Almost all future members of “United” were present from the beginning.

The group played mostly original compositions ranging from jazz to rock. Charlie Mariano’s experience with Indian music occasionally brought in ethnic elements. Because all band members extensively played in their own bands before and after UJRE was formed, the ensemble was often called the ‘Band of Band Leaders’. Some of the members hold teaching positions with various musical colleges.

During the 27 years of its existence, the band produced fourteen albums, all of them on Mood Records.


In 2002, the group went on their “Farewell Tour 2002”. Among the reasons was Barbara Thompson’s suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

The final cast of 2002 was Wolfgang Dauner (piano), Barbara Thompson (saxophone), Jon Hiseman (drums), Dave King (bass), Ian Carr (trumpet), Volker Kriegel (guitar), Rüdiger Baldauf (trumpet), Ack van Rooyen (trumpet, fluegelhorn), Albert Mangelsdorff (trombone), Christof Lauer (saxophone)

Former members include Eberhard Weber, bass, Kenny Wheeler, trumpet, Johannes Faber, trumpet, Charlie Mariano, saxophone and ethnic instruments, Thorsten Benkenstein, trumpet, Peter O’Mara, guitar. (wikipedia)


Featuring some of the finest avant-garde jazz players from Germany and beyond, the United Jazz + Rock Ensemble began life as a loose studio aggregation assembled for a youth-oriented German television show in 1975. Hoping for a contemporary balance between rock and jazz, producer Werner Schretzmeier called upon pianist Wolfgang Dauner, the former leader of Et Cetera, an avant-garde jazz group Schretzmeier had managed until their breakup in 1972. Initially recruiting musicians from his home base of Stuttgart (then a hotbed of avant-garde jazz), Dauner put together a rotating cast of musicians that were at first dubbed the Eleven and a Half Ensemble (after the program’s airtime); this group featured guitarist Volker Kriegel (who shared writing and arranging duties with Dauner), drummer Jon Hiseman, trumpeter Ack Van Rooyen, and trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff.


As demand for recordings and public performances grew, Dauner solidified the lineup with saxophonist Charlie Mariano, saxophonist/flutist Barbara Thompson, trumpeter Ian Carr, and bassist Eberhard Weber. This nine-piece aggregation recorded the first album under the United Jazz + Rock Ensemble name, Live im Schutzenhaus, in 1977; released on the group’s own Mood Records label, the album was a hit, eventually becoming the best-selling German jazz record of all time.


The Ensemble recorded and toured fairly regularly after the success of Live im Schutzenhaus; 1978’s Teamwork and 1979’s The Break Even Point placed the group in a studio setting, with the latter featuring trumpeter Kenny Wheeler. 1981’s double-LP Live in Berlin was another success, and was followed by United Live Opus Sechs in 1984, with Wheeler back in tow. On 1987’s studio album Round Seven, trumpeter Johannes Faber filled in for Wheeler; Wheeler returned once again for the 1992 studio set Na Endlich!, which also featured new bassist Dave King. Mariano was subsequently replaced by tenor saxophonist Christof Lauer, who made his recorded debut on the 1996 concert album Die Neunte von United. In 2002, after well over two decades together, the group announced that it was embarking on a farewell tour, after which its members would move on to other projects (possibly collaborative). (by Steve Huey)

United Jazz + Rock Ensemble

Barbara Gracey Thompson MBE (27 July 1944 – 9 July 2022) was an English jazz saxophonist, flautist and composer. She studied clarinet, flute, piano and classical composition at the Royal College of Music, but the music of Duke Ellington and John Coltrane made her shift her interests to jazz and saxophone. She was married to drummer Jon Hiseman of Colosseum from 1967 until his death in 2018.

Barbara Thompson01

Around 1970, Thompson was part of Neil Ardley’s New Jazz Orchestra and appeared on albums by Colosseum. Beginning in 1975, she was involved in the foundation of three bands:

United Jazz and Rock Ensemble, a “band of bandleaders” with Wolfgang Dauner (p), Volker Kriegel (g), Albert Mangelsdorff (tb), Eberhard Weber (b), Ian Carr (tp), Charlie Mariano (sax), Ack van Rooyen (tp) and Jon Hiseman
Barbara Thompson’s Jubiaba (9-piece Latin/rock band) including Peter Lemer, Roy Babbington, Henry Lowther, Ian Hamer, Derek Wadsworth, Trevor Tomkins, Bill Le Sage, Glyn Thomas.
Barbara Thompson’s Paraphernalia, a band with Peter Lemer (p), Billy Thompson (v), Dave Ball (b) and Jon Hiseman on drums.

Barbara Thompson02She was awarded the MBE in 1996 for services to music. Due to Parkinson’s disease, which was diagnosed in 1997, she retired as an active saxophonist in 2001 with a farewell tour. After a period of working as a composer exclusively, she returned to the stage in 2003 for a tour with Colosseum.

After she was hospitalised with atrial fibrillation, her attendance in an accident and emergency department was featured in an episode of the Channel 4 fly-on-the-wall television documentary 24 Hours in A&E in October 2020.

Thompson worked closely with Andrew Lloyd Webber on musicals such as Cats and Starlight Express, his Requiem, and Lloyd Webber’s 1978 classical-fusion album Variations. She wrote several classical compositions, music for film and television, a musical of her own and songs for the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble, Barbara Thompson’s Paraphernalia and her big band Moving Parts. She was a regular, along with her husband drummer Jon Hiseman and bassist David “Dill” Katz in the underground “Cellar Bar” at South Hill Park Arts Centre in Bracknell during the late 1970s and 1980s.

She played the incidental music in the ITV police series A Touch of Frost, starring David Jason. She also played flute on Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds.
Personal life

Thompson was married to Colosseum drummer Jon Hiseman, from 1967 until his death in June 2018.[13] The couple’s son Marcus was born in 1972, and their daughter Anna (now known as singer/songwriter Ana Gracey) in 1975.

Thompson died on 9 July 2022, aged 77, after having Parkinson’s disease for 25 years. (wikipedia)

Barbara Thompson03

When the great days of the United Jazz + Rock Ensemble were over, their parent label, Mood Records, released various recordings with different compilations of earlier recordings, one of which is “Plays Barbara Thompson” (another is called “Plays Volker Kriegel”).

This compilation, released in 2002, contains five pieces composed by Barbara Thompson (in addition to a Duke Ellington and John Hiseman composition), which were performed live or in the studio with the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble between 1978 and 1999.

The rest of the ensemble’s “Farewell” tour took place in the same year.

And of course, this compilation is great … although I imagine that the Thompson compositions were the smoothest of the ensemble.

Rarely has this modern big band sound sounded so refreshing as with the United Jazz + Rock Ensemble. Please see for yourself !


Thorsten Benkenstein (trumpet)
Ian Carr (trumpet)
Wolfgang Dauner (piano)
Johannes Faber (trumpet)
Jon Hiseman (drums)
Dave King (bass)
Volker Kriegel (guitar)
Christof Lauer (saxophone)
Albert Mangelsdorff (trombone)
Charlie Mariano (saxophone)
Peter O’Mara (guitar)
Ack van Rooyen (trumpet)
Barbara Thompson (saxophone)
Eberhard Weber (bass)
Kenny Wheeler (trumpet)

Barbara Thompson04

01. Die Wiederkehr (Thompson) 8.16
02. Echoes Of Harlem (Ellington) 11.02
03. Sicilian Steel (Thompson) 6.587
04. Ode To Sappho (Thompson) 7.45
05. In Memory (Thompson) 7.02
06. Voices Behind Locked Doors (Thompson) 5.19
07. Thompson’s Tango (Hiseman) 7.45


More from the United Jazz + Rock Ensemble:

Barbara Thompson05

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