Ahead of the musical curve 

Indy introduces 10-year-old jazz prodigy

A new local saxophone sensation appeared on the jazz scene this summer in the form of 10-year-old Bryan Thompson. Not only is this young man unique in his musical gifts, but he has been playing the sax for less than a year.

Before he got a saxophone, Thompson researched how to build his own instrument online and actually pieced a sax together out of tinfoil and used nails as keys, according to Bryan’s mother, Yvette. “He is a good artist and drew the saxophone in detail on paper,” she adds. “We decided then that he needed a [real] saxophone.”

Thompson has been singing since age 6 in the church choir and at other functions. A straight-A student at IPS 83, he constantly surfs the Internet to research topics that interest him. It’s evident he has a thirst for knowledge.

Gregg Bacon, who has become Thompson’s mentor, met the boy at a music store and was blown away by his talent. Since then, Thompson has been making public appearances, performing with Bacon’s group. He’s even picked up how to play the flute after Bacon introduced the instrument to him. But his instrument of choice, the sax, comes from idolizing Kenny G and David Sanborn.

“You could tell his love for the instrument; he absolutely loves that horn,” Bacon says. “He does his homework in the car, because when he gets home he is going to [play] that horn until they make him go to bed.”

Audiences are astounded with how passionately Thompson plays with a musical savvy twice his age. One thing he does is set a tip bucket in front when he plays to raise money for the saxophone of his dreams. Thompson recently made over $600 in his tip bucket after five minutes of playing just one tune, Kenny G’s “Songbird.” Thompson says he knows how to play more than 70 other songs as well.

Like Bacon, Brian Patterson, president of the Indianapolis Jazz Foundation and the Lilly Jazz Club, was greatly impressed when he saw Thompson perform live.

“He is clearly a young musician way beyond his years,” Patterson says. “He has got such a bright future in front of him. His poise and presence on the stage is that of a very mature musician. After his performance at the [Indianapolis] zoo with Gregg Bacon’s group, I knew I wanted him to play with Gregg Bacon at the Holiday Showcase.”

Thompson is a musical prodigy whose future is a bright light for the Indianapolis jazz scene, but he’s still a typical 10-year-old boy. He plays soccer, football and studies trains and the weather. Though, when asked what he wants to do as an adult, he answers enthusiastically: “I want to be a musician!”

The Indianapolis Jazz Foundation will present its 2007 Holiday Showcase Thursday, Nov. 29 at the Madame Walker Theatre. The proceeds of the Holiday Showcase support the Indianapolis Jazz Foundation’s educational scholarships and opportunities for promising young jazz students. Artists scheduled to perform are Gregg Bacon & Sir James Simmons Group with their guest Bryan Thompson; Frank Glover & Claude Sifferlen; Mary Moss; Everett Greene; Monika Herzig and Peter Kienle. The event will also feature a sneak preview segment of the documentary Take Two by Emmy Award-winning producer Ben Strout, which examines the lengthy performing musical relationship of Glover and Sifferlen.

WHAT: Indianapolis Jazz Foundation’s 2007 Holiday Showcase

WHERE: Madame Walker Theatre, fourth-floor ballroom

WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 29, 6-9:30 p.m., $25/$30, all-ages

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