By Bryan Schwartzman
But Jamaal has plenty of time – he's only 11 – and the saxophone may not even be his best instrument. He also practices on the flute and trumpet every day.
“It's a matter of opinion which I play the best,” said Jamaal. “I like the saxophone the best, I like the way you can improvise.”
“With the sax you can have your own style or take to someone else's style,” he said.
Jamaal is preparing for a holiday performance Monday, Dec. 13, at the Chapin Home for the Aging in Jamaica.
“I'm going to play some Christmas music and some Miles Davis,” Jamaal said.
Lisa Thompson, Jamaal's mother, said her son performs good deeds by playing periodically at senior centers and churches in southeast Queens. Jamaal is a regular musical performer at the Rush Temple AME Church on Jamaica Ave.
“I like to perform in front of people,” he said, “although sometimes I get a little nervous.
Jamaal looks natural practicing in his basement as if playing an instrument were as much a part of his life as eating or breathing.
He also does modeling and acting. The 11-year-old just finished a two-week run in a jazz opera called “The Running Man” in Pittsfield, Mass.
This is the first year the seventh grader is being home-schooled by his mother instead of attending public or private school. He was enrolled at the Redeemer Lutheran School in Bayside, but Thompson said her son was bored in school.
“He finished his assignments so quickly they would send him on errands,” said Thompson.
So Thompson, a former full-time public school teacher, instructs her son in science, social studies, history and English. Math and music tutors visit the house once a week to help Jamaal in his studies.
He still has friends from public and private school, although he has not seen them in a long time.
Lisa Thompson is essentially Jamaal's manager as well as his teacher. She also teaches at an after-school program nearby.
“I have no life,” said Thompson. “My whole world revolves around him.”
Jamaal said his favorite subject is geography and he wants to be a classical composer.
“I like to listen to jazz, watch educational videos, and play tennis,” he said.
He loves to travel since his father, Larry Thompson, is a conductor for Amtrak.
“I've been to Idaho, New Orleans. Portland, Oregon is really nice,” he said.
When looking at the map on his wall, Jamaal eyes drifted toward Africa.
“I need to go to South Africa one day,” he said.
Lisa Thompson thinks her son has the potential to cross the divide between the older generation who grew up with jazz and the younger generation that listens to rap and hip-hop.
“I am going to bridge that gap,” he said.