In December 2014 Joe was delighted to be asked by the family of Dame Judy Dench to play (solo) for her 80th birthday party, which was a blast. Then, within 4 weeks Joe was playing (with his trio) for the 80th birthday party of Dame Judy’s fellow doyenne and friend of 55 years, Dame Maggie Smith. Two wonderful parties, two wonderful ladies, and a great way to kick off 2015.
For London’s historical Blackheath Conservatoire Joe has created a unique educational family jazz series, bringing in some of London’s best jazz musicians to offer children and their families an opportunity to hear some top drawer (grown-up) jazz, while exploring musical opposites in performance and the power of contrast.
“Our family jazz series has been incredibly successful. Joe has a fantastic way of connecting with the kids because he never treats them as any less sophisticated than their adult counterparts – he plays them the same jazz, with the same artistic quality and the same expectation that it will move them just as much as it moves grown ups. The success of the concerts prove what most of us in arts education have always known – that the best way to get kids into art and music is to give them the highest quality examples you can find. And Joe’s music is certainly that.”
Chief Executive, The Conservatoire
Joe often gets asked to help actors perform piano parts in movies, bringing them rapidly up to speed on how to master pieces, poise and performance – even if they’ve never played a note before.
As part of his coaching on the much-anticipated “Testament of Youth” (opening January 2015), Joe prepared Taron Egerton who had the tough job of learning four demanding bars of Chopin, from scratch. “Once he’d mastered it, he didn’t have to think about acting anymore because he was just so mesmerised by his own playing. He has since written to me asking for more lessons. He’s hooked.”
Joe coached Alicia Vikander, currently feted for her leading role in the forthcoming Testament of Youth, to ensure her piano-playing was totally convincing and heartfelt throughout the filming.
Joe commented at the time that “You never have to ask an actor to try it once more because they will just keep going until they get it right. Alicia Vikander was the best example of this. What a work ethic!”
Also during production on Testament of Youth Joe arranged his first ever piano “trio” for 6 hands. “Film is obviously a completely demanding art form, so even as ‘teacher’ I’m also learning new things as we navigate through the demands of the script and ‘the shot’. It’s never less than a blast to work with actors and directors at this level.”
The film opens on general release in January 2015.
As reported in such an august publication as the UK’s very own Daily Mail, Joe was joined onstage by Jessie Buckley at his 100 Club birthday bash in November 2013, for a trio of beautiful songs. In the breathless coverage that followed it was established that:
“Jessie’s Cabaret turn is a hit Preparing to star in the West End opposite Jude Law is surely nerve-wracking enough, but it didn’t stop actress Jessie Buckley finding time to put in a remarkable singing performance at the legendary 100 Club in London’s Oxford Street.
Killarney-born Jessie, 23, will play Princess Katharine opposite Law in Henry V, opening at the Noel Coward Theatre next week.
But at the weekend she put Shakespeare on hold as she returned to her musical roots with a version of Liza Minnelli hit Cabaret to pay tribute to her friend and mentor Joe Thompson, resident pianist of the Ivy Club. It earned her a standing ovation.”
Joe is the man who taught Jane Austen how to play the piano. Well, he certainly taught Anne Hathaway, playing the celebrated novelist, to play the piano in the film Becoming Jane back in 2007. Director Julian Jarrold wanted to ensure that the scenes where Jane plays her upright piano at home, were both lyrical and accurate. Joe worked with Anne intensively up to and during the shoot in Northern Ireland to make sure the musical scenes really sang.
Joe played a rather beautiful version of the old songbook standard “More than you know”, sung by the incomparable Jessie Buckley at Dean Street’s Pizza Express – one of London’s oldest running jazz venues. Check it out: