Since he was a child, Brandon Douthitt has been fascinated with jazz music.
“I always loved music — I was always humming, whistling or doing something,” Douthitt says. “But with jazz, I was attracted to the syncopated rhythms and the sound of the saxophone.”
After pleading with his parents to buy him a saxophone, Douthitt finally got his wish at the age of 11, and he hasn’t put it down since. Having now played all over the country, Douthitt is being honored as a 2023 Featured Artist as part of Indy Arts Council’s Art & Soul Festival, which aims to expand the city’s awareness and appreciation of African American art and music in Indy.
Born and raised in Indianapolis, Douthitt started to get serious about playing saxophone while attending Lawrence North High School. These musical pursuits would only continue as he moved on to attend Butler University.
“When I went to Butler, it helped that Dr. Pivec and the jazz program would offer opportunities to the students that were serious,” Douthitt says. “They’d pass along gigs and different playing opportunities.”
During his college years, Douthitt also began to venture out into the city, occasionally sitting in at the Chatterbox Jazz Club. Here, he was mentored by some of the city’s best players, including Jared Thompson of Premium Blend.
“I was able to sit in with Jared Thompson — he was a big influence for me,” Douthitt says. “Especially when I was in college, he would let me come and sit in with his band and learn. He was always a very good person who nurtured a lot of the young cats in town, so I always appreciated him pushing me to be better.”
Following his time at Butler, Douthitt went on to get his master’s from Queens College, where he studied under esteemed saxophonist Antonio Hart. While at Queens College, Douthitt was able to gain confidence while also becoming more disciplined.
“You have to have confidence and belief in yourself that you can accomplish what you want to accomplish and that you can hang,” Douthitt says. “That was my main reason for going out there.”
Since strengthening his self-belief, Douthitt has landed several marquee gigs. Most notably, he played saxophone in Solange’s band from 2017 to 2018.
“My buddy Chris McBride from Chicago (who’s a fantastic saxophone player) had played with her,” Douthitt says. “At the time, he had a connect and was playing with Solange in Chicago. She was coming to New York and was going to stay there for a while, doing some shows. She was looking for some more horn players to fill out her section, so he passed along my name. I then got an email from her artistic director, and the rest is history.”
Now based in Indy once again, Douthitt is currently focused on writing an album of his own.
“I’ve been writing a lot of music,” he says. “I’m trying to get an album cut this year — hopefully before my birthday in June.”
When it comes to his performance at the Art & Soul Featured Artist Showcase — happening on Feb. 8 at the Jazz Kitchen — Douthitt says to expect a great deal of emotion.
“I consider myself and the band high-energy players,” he says. “I’m a really spiritual person, so I just try to push everything that I’m feeling through the horn.”
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