Chester Thompson - Keyboards
Thompson started playing the piano at his home in Oklahoma City at age five, picking out the notes from
popular songs he heard on the radio. His parents quickly recognized his innate talent and arranged for formal piano lessons. And,
it wasn't long before Thompson started playing both piano and organ for the choir at his church.
By the age of 13, Thompson had discovered jazz, which became a major, life-long influence, and by the age
of 16, he had switched almost exclusively to the Hammond organ, and was playing in high school rock bands.
It was while still in high school that Thompson realized he could make a living as a professional musician.
He'd been performing in bands at gigs throughout the state of Oklahoma for a couple of years, when he caught the ear of Rudy
Johnson. As he was losing his keyboardist, Johnson asked Thompson to join the Rudy Johnson Trio and, at age 19, Thompson packed
his bags and spent the next three years touring the country with that group.
One of Thompson's first performances with the Rudy Johnson Trio was in San Francisco. He liked the city
enough to make it his home, and he moved to the Bay Area permanently when the band decided to split up in 1969. At first, he took
a day job at a bank while he broke into the San Francisco music scene by playing clubs at night. He spent the next few years
playing around the Bay Area, and landed a regular gig as the keyboardist with Jules Broussard, which eventually evolved into
Thompson leading his own band. It was during this time that Thompson also released his first album under the Black Jazz label, a
solo project titled, "Powerhouse".
In 1973, Thompson was playing at a club and was heard by a member of Tower of Power. Although Thompson had
'retired' from the road, he was convinced to join the band as keyboardist. And, for the next ten years, Thompson not only filled
out the band's distinctive R & B/funk sound with his dynamic keyboard style.
Chester joined the Santana band in 1983 and starting with his debut on "Beyond Appearances", Thompson has
injected the band's music with a powerful, creative energy that has added new dimension to their sound. In addition, he has
continued to make contributions in other areas. He not only co-wrote, with Carlos, the songs on the instrumental album, "Blues for
Salvador" , he also provided an inspirational spark during the recording of it's Grammy Award-winning title track. In addition,
Thompson also collaborated with Carlos on nine songs that were included on "Spirits Dancing In the Flesh".
Since joining Santana, he's had opportunities to play with some of the other great musicians and groups,
including Wayne Shorter, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Temptations and many others.
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