Thompson died at an assisted living facility on July 30, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday. The cause of death was not given.
Thompson played tenor sax with Billy Eckstine and Count Basie before his 21st birthday. Through the years he went on to play with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Stan Kenton and Miles Davis among others, and could be heard on hundreds of jazz recordings, the Times said.
Considered one of the best saxmen in jazz, he abruptly quit in the early 1970s and gave his instruments to a dentist to pay a bill.
After that, he dropped out of public view and it was widely believed he was homeless, the Times said. He eventually settled in Seattle in the late 1980s and entered an assisted living facility in 1994.
He is survived by a son, a daughter and two grandchildren.