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Column

At only 15, saxophonist takes music to higher plane

By ERNEST HOOPER
Published February 1, 2007


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Bernard "B.K." Jackson grabs hold of his saxophone and takes the stage before a lounge full of folks out to hear good jazz.

He begins to play and patrons stare in amazement as his smooth tones weave perfectly into various background harmonies. It may be the chic atmosphere of St. Bart's Island House Grill in SoHo or the downtown environs of Dino's in St. Petersburg, but B.K. seldom fails to wow the crowd.

Maybe it's because only his body remains onstage. His mind goes to another plane.

"When I play, I feel like I'm not in this world anymore," B.K. said. "It's like I'm outside of this world, connecting with people on a higher level than earth."

The thoughts match the maturity of B.K.'s performances and belie the fact that he's just 15 years old.

"People come up and act like I'm a grown up," he said, "but I'm still a 15-year-old child. I meet different people and a lot of them are surprised, but I'm just 'B.K., a 15-year-old teenager going to Blake High.' "

In a little more than two years, B.K. has become a local entertainment favorite. He's played gatherings ranging from the DeBartolo Family Foundation All-Star event to the Florida Baptist Convention to last weekend's Robert W. Saunders Library Foundation gala. He opened for nationally-renowned jazz bassist Wayman Tisdale at the Black Heritage Festival.

B.K. is equally adept at jazz, gospel and contemporary Christian music.

The gigs at St. Bart's and Dino's are relatively new, and he envisions a professional career much like that of friend and Tampa native Eric Darius, whose Just Getting Started album reached the top 10 on Billboard's Jazz Chart last summer.

But B.K.'s music is also firmly rooted in his love of Jesus.

"I think when he started taking his saxophone to church, his life turned because of that," said his mother, Regina Jackson Underwood, who attends the 34th Street Church of God. "He had an interview on WTAN radio and he said, 'I want God to use me as an instrument to touch the lives of those who hear me.' "

B.K. has a musical pedigree. His late father, the Rev. Bernard Jackson, played trombone in the Bethune-Cookman College band, and Regina has several siblings who are musically inclined.

B.K. doesn't want to stop until he becomes one of the industry's best. His mother and stepfather, Ralph Underwood, provide guidance. Regina says attending college is "non-negotiable."

No matter what, B.K. says he can't stray from the talent God has given him, and he remains grateful for opportunities.

"I don't want to think of where I would be right now if I lost sight of God," B.K. said. "I could be working at McDonald's or Burger King or the movie theater, but I get to do something I love."

B.K. will do what he loves Friday at Tampa's annual Black History Month Celebration in the Tampa Convention Center at 11 a.m., and at St. Bart's on Friday night.

"If it's playing in the church, I'm connecting with people on a spiritual level. If I'm playing at an event, I'm connecting with people on an entertainment level."

If you get a chance to connect with B.K., don't pass it up.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper can be reached at hooper@sptimes.com or 813 226-3406.

[Last modified February 1, 2007, 05:52:20]


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