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Meet rising jazz piano star Isaiah J. Thompson

Isaiah J. Thompson at the piano
Paolo Soriani
Courtesy of the artist
Isaiah J. Thompson at the piano

You've been hearing music from Isaiah J. Thompson's album "Isaiah J. Thompson Plays the Music of Buddy Montgomery" on KNKX's Midday and Evening Jazz. Learn more about this exceptional young artist.

Isaiah Thompson started playing the piano when he was just 5 years old, studying at The Calderone School of Music. He then went on to the Jazz House Kids and New Jersey Performing Arts Center's (NJPAC) Jazz For Teens programs.

He says his parents were convinced that there was nothing more dangerous than a young person with nothing to do. So they put him into oratorical competitions, fencing, basketball, swimming and piano. Piano stuck.

Thompson grew up listening mostly to R&B and gospel because that's what his parents played on the radio. Later, he had a piano teacher who introduced him to playing blues, R&B and jazz. Once he joined programs like Jazz House Kids and NJPAC Jazz For Teens, he started to realize how serious you have to be to play the music and to truly appreciate its cultural significance.

Thompson received both his Bachelor’s of Music and Master’s of Music from Juilliard.

Thompson's recently released album, "Isaiah J. Thompson Plays the Music of Buddy Montgomery," was his first official album as a leader. It celebrates compositions of the pianist and vibraphonist who was one of guitarist Wes Montgomery's brothers.

Thompson also worked on the soundtrack for the 2019 film "Motherless Brooklyn" and has recorded with Wynton Marsalis's Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

His advice to young musicians: "Your sound on the instrument is not wrong, delve into it. The most significant contribution you can make to art and to yourself is to be just that, yourself."

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.