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Isaiah J. Thompson Quartet: Tiny Desk Concert

Jazz may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of The Juilliard School, but perhaps this series of Tiny Desks will change that. Tiny Desk and Jazz Night in America celebrate the 20th anniversary of Juilliard Jazz with three Tiny Desk concerts featuring performances by current students and alumni of the prestigious institution.


Before Isaiah J. Thompson walked into NPR's office, special preparations for his Tiny Desk concert were already underway: the arrival and tuning of a piano for the Steinway artist, who performed the final concert in our Juilliard Jazz 20th anniversary series. When the soft-spoken pianist and his sharply-dressed bandmates touched down, I knew we were in for a treat.

A common thread throughout the group's musical selections is a commitment to honoring the fibers that make up the rich fabric of African American culture. Thompson's first composition, "Maestros of the Community," is an uptempo dedication to the indelible impact of seeing his identity reflected and amplified by unsunned mentors. The following song, "Thank You Betsy," is a warm, dreamy ballad that highlights tenor saxophonist Julian Lee (previously featured on Jazz Night) and bassist Felix Moseholm.

The quartet's chemistry is undeniable, its long history of playing together evident in the way the members read each other's quick glances and their ability to pivot and improvise, unphased, when the unexpected occurs. (Blink and you might miss drummer Kyle Poole swiftly picking up a brush when his stick slips from his grasp.) The set ends with "The Highest Calling," a fast-paced toe-tapper which gives each musician a chance to stretch. The quartet's sound, channeled through Thompson's compositions, becomes an elegant statement that combines jazz's past and present to paint a beautiful portrait of its future.

SET LIST

  • "Maestros of the Community"
  • "Thank You Betsy"
  • "The Highest Calling"
  • MUSICIANS

  • Isaiah J. Thompson: piano
  • Julian Lee: tenor saxophone
  • Felix Moseholm: bass
  • Kyle Poole: drums
  • TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producer: Nikki Birch
  • Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin 
  • Director: Kara Frame 
  • Creative Director: Bob Boilen
  • Series Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Editor: Michael Zamora
  • Animator: Alanté Serene
  • Videographers: Kara Frame, Joshua Bryant, Michael Zamora
  • Production Assistant: Jill Britton
  • Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Marissa Lorusso, Hazel Cills, Ashley Pointer, Maia Stern
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
  • Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Nikki Birch