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Jo Thompson


Jo Thompson – born in Detroit, Michigan, has appeared on television and in swank nightclubs that have taken her all over the world. London, Paris, Madrid, Havana, Montreal, Hollywood, Miami and New York are only a few of the cities that have hosted her talents. She has performed in such notable nightspots as San Souci in Cuba, the Keyboard Club in Beverly Hills, California, Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe, Cafe Society and Michael’s Pub in New York, as well as the Stork Room in London, England, and Ciro’s in Miami.

Jo Thompson’s successes have included achievements such as having jazz great Lionel Hampton present her in a one-woman show at New York’s acclaimed Carnegie Hall to benefit her late husband’s scholarship fund, the Albert Dunmore Journalism Scholarship. After performing to rave reviews at Carnegie Hall, Ms. Thompson was summoned to do her one-woman show in a “Command Performance” for the Queen, that is-the “Queen of Soul”-Miss Aretha Franklin! In 1992, after being away from the Manhattan club scene for more than 30 years, Ms. Thompson was held over for five weeks at New York’s legendary nightclub, Michaels Pub. Other recent club successes include gaining new fans from appearances at noted New York night spots such as Eighty-Eights, The Supper Club, Tavern on the Green, the Blue Note Jazz Club, The Rainbow Room and Iridium Jazz Club.

As well as being musically gifted, Ms. Thompson is an award-winning fashion designer. Along with her son Gregory Dunmore, under the name “Carlos Nina”, they have created dramatic and stunning evening wear.

Jo Thompson’s outstanding repertoire is filled with every type song imaginable–from blues to ballads, old and new love songs, and ditties known only to Ms. Thompson. She was the first vocalist (acknowledged by composer Ron Miller) to sing what was to become the pop classic “For Once in My Life.” Miller is quoted as saying, “She sang it first and also the best!”

Reviews from New York City media proved that Jo Thompson is a captivating and impressive talent. Stephen Holden of the New York Times wrote she has a “thumping vitality” and a “robust sense of humor.” He added, “Stylistically, Ms. Thompson’s singing falls somewhere between the blues of Alberta Hunter and the more open-hearted rhythm and blues of Ruth Brown.” The Daily News’ Howard Kissel stated, “She plays a mean honky tonk piano and she performs with drive.” And, he also wrote, “She looks young, vital and sexy, as if her career had just began. After 30 years, she has returned with no less energy and spunk than she must have had in the 1950s.”

Jerry Tallmer of the New York Post stated, “It takes guts to make a comeback in New York after 30 years and Jo Thompson is obviously a lady with plenty of guts. She sings the familiar old songs and some not so familiar with force and flair. ” “She is a classic,” concludes Roy Sander of Back Stage. “Thompson is, in a word, terrific. Amazing is another word that comes to mind,” stated the New York Post’s Donna Coe.

Summing up, in “Jo Thompson takes Manhattan,” New York’s Amsterdam News’ theatrical critic, Herb Boyd, wrote: “An evening with songstress/pianist Jo Thompson is to experience a veritablecavalcade of great entertainers. Depending on the song or her interpretation, the likes of Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Tony Bennett, Nat ‘King’ Cole, the Mills Brothers, Nellie Lutcher or Fats Waller is conjured.” (Michael’s Pub owner Gil Wiest said, “If you close your eyes when Jo Thompson is doing a Waller tune, it’s as if Fats Waller was actually at the piano. Remarkable!”) Boyd concluded his review by saying, “Jo Thompson is a consummate storyteller whether standing or at the keyboard.” Indeed, Jo Thompson is remarkable!

Currently, Jo Thompson is performing with the J.C. Heard Orchestra directed by Walt Szymanski and will be touring in a tribute to Lena Horne (which debuted to great success at New York’s legendary Blue Note Jazz Club with an encore performance in Manhattan at the Metropolitan Room.) In a show titled: “THANK YOU LENA!!!”, Jo Thompson brings to each performance more than 50 years worth of experience. She is a definitive entertainer extraordinaire. Her style of music and entertainment is a classic musical blend of time-tested songs, humor, sophistication, glamour and beauty.

Shirley Eder, columnist in the Detroit Free Press and the recipient of the Publicists Guild of America’s National Press Award states, “To me, Jo Thompson is a piano playing Lena Horne, a singing Hazel Scott and/or a combination of all the wonderful talents of which Bobby Short is made.” She possesses that certain indefinable quality that lifts a super talent into upper-crust entertainment. Three words best describe Ms. Jo Thompson- SOPHISTICATION, TALENT AND EXCITEMENT!!!


As a renowned drummer and bandleader, the late great J.C. Heard epitomized class with a dazzling array of flash and musical excitement. Having fine-tuned his skills over a career that spanned half a century, Heard’s orchestra sound was among the best swing ensembles in the country. Moreover, his drumming was compared with such superstar drummers as Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. The orchestra’s influences are a Who’s Who of jazz: Dizzy Gillespie, Cuba Austin of the McKinney Cotton Pickers, Chick Webb, Coleman Hawkins, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker and Teddy Wilson. Although often under-recognized (in comparison to such big bands as Count Basie, Lionel Hampton and Duke Ellington) J.C.Heard’s Orchestra was just as prolific.

Toward the end of his life, while living in Detroit, J.C. Heard (with the help of his longtime musical director, trumpeter, composer and arranger-Walt Syzmanski) began planning a re-emergence of his orchestra, starting with an international tour. Blessed with multi-level talents, well developed beyond his young years, Szymanski was hand-picked by Heard to be his musical director. It is a position Walt Szymanski fined tuned and filled during the last seven years of Heard’s life.

After Heard’s death, Szymanski became principle horn player and musical director for jazz/cabaret singer-pianist Jo Thompson. Ms. Thompson with Walt as the musical director of her show have played New York’s most sophisticated venues from Tavern on the Green to the Lincoln Center. Her style was influenced by J.C. Heard (as was Lena Horne who acknowledged Heard as being responsible for her first professional break as a vocalist at Café Society.)

Early in Ms. Thompson’s career, she too was fortunate to have had Heard as her drummer on several engagements from New York’s famed Café Society to Miami Beach clubs and Cuba’s most glamorous hot spots. Her impressive career includes such high points as “girl singer” with the Noble Sissle Orchestra at Manhattan’s Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe Supper Club, many appearances in Europe and is the recipient of Back Stage magazine’s coveted Bistro Award for Outstanding Vocalist/Instrumentalist. She starred (with jazz vocalist Harvey Thompson) in the Emmy nominated special “Detroit Jazz Jewels” that aired nationally on the Comcast network.

Currently, Jo Thompson is backed by the J. C. Heard Orchestra led by Walt Szymanski. With her swinging big band, she is starring in a tribute show (conceived by Greg Dunmore) in honor of Lena Horne, appropriately titled: “Thank You Lena!!!” It debuted to rave reviews at the Blue Note with a recent encore performance and similar reviews at New York’s Metropolitan Room.

Together, Jo, Walt and the big band are wowing audiences by blending their talents carrying on the outstanding tradition of the J.C. Heard Orchestra as it would have sounded at its very best. Recreating an era of music that is gaining new fans and endearing itself to loyal ones only proves there always is a demand for good music and timeless entertainment!!!

–Greg Dunmore (Co Chair NABJ Arts & Entertainment Task Force/