Legendary Jazz Masters To Perform At Flushing Town Hall

NFA Jazz Masters Concert will continue for the 18th year in a row at the Flushing Town Hall. This beloved event is an annual highlight for New York City’s many jazz aficionados who know the Queens venue to be one of the city’s finest to find the best jazz artists. 

Flushing Town Hall began a significant tradition when it hosted the first-ever NEA Jazz Masters concert on November 17, 2006. This remarkable occasion showcased three iconic NEA Jazz Masters: Jimmy Heath (saxophone); Clark Terry (trumpet); and Dr. Billy Taylor (piano). Since then, the Smithsonian affiliate has continued to dazzle jazz enthusiasts by welcoming a roster of luminaries most often found frequenting Manhattan’s renowned clubs. The Queens stage has witnessed performances by Earl May, Benny Powell, Albert “Tootie” Heath, Cándido Camero, Paquito D’Rivera, Reggie Workman, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Joey DeFrancesco, Dr. Barry Harris, Sheila Jordan, Antonio Hart, Bill Charlap, Gustavo Casenave, and many other jazz greats.

This year, the NEA Jazz Masters concert will bring arrangements of several NEA Jazz Masters and their own compositions to the stage, including performers Jimmy Owens, Gary Bartz, Louis Haves, Joann Brackeen, Ron Carter, and Wycliffe Gordon.

Jimmy Owens (2021 NEA Jazz Master) has over forty-five years of experience as a jazz trumpeter, composer, arranger, lecturer, and music education consultant. His experience covers a wide range of international musical achievements, which include extensive work as a studio musician, soloist, bandleader, and composer of orchestral compositions, movie scores, and ballets. Owens is one of the few trumpeters of his generation who performed with many extraordinary jazz leaders, including sitting in with Miles Davis at age 15 and playing with Kenny Barron, Count Basie, Kenny Burrell, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Golson, Lionel Hampton, Charles Mingus, Max Roach, Archie Shepp, Billy Taylor, and Gerald Wilson. 

Gary Bartz (2024 NEA Jazz Master) was born in 1940 in Baltimore, Maryland, to nightclub-owning parents. Because of his upbringing, Gary Bartz was exposed to many great jazz artists early on. Renowned for his “informal composition” (as opposed to improvisation) on alto saxophone since the 1960s, he collaborated with jazz luminaries like Max Roach, Charles Mingus, Art Blakey, and Miles Davis. With over 45 solo albums and 200 guest appearances, Bartz also mentors emerging jazz talents today. Music serves a higher purpose for him, passionately advocating for Black Americans and their musical heritage. Through his saxophone (alto and soprano) and vocals, Bartz communicates profound convictions about the role of Black Americans today.

Louis Hayes (2023 NEA Jazz Master) was born in 1937 in Detroit, Michigan. Hayes’ musical journey began with piano, before his father gave him a set of drums at age 10. Guided by a cousin who recognized his talent and was inspired by Detroit’s vibrant music scene in the 1950s, he honed his skills alongside luminaries like Yusef Lateef, Kenny Burrell, and Doug Watkins. At age 18, Hayes joined the Horace Silver Quintet in New York, making his mark with the iconic “Six Pieces Of Silver.” Over the next decade, he led and co-led dynamic, electrifying ensembles which included talents like Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Barron, and Dexter Gordon. Notable recent engagements include The Kennedy Center for the Arts and the Chivas Jazz Festival in Brazil. His latest endeavor, “Serenade for Horace,” pays tribute to his mentor Horace Silver, and marks his debut as a leader on Blue Note Records.

Joanne Brackeen (2018 NEA Jazz Master) was a child prodigy and learned piano at 11 in six months by transcribing eight Frankie Carle solos and began professional performances at 12. Early influences include Art Farmer and Dexter Gordon. She was offered a full scholarship from the Los Angeles Conservatory and attended classes less than one week before deciding the bandstand was more significant. Her distinct style demands attention in various musical settings, from solo to quintet. Her captivating improvisations and intricate, rhythmically daring compositions span a wide range of styles. As a full-time professor at Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA) and a guest professor at the New School (New York City), Brackeen imparts her expertise. Brackeen, an award-winning artist, tours globally, having played in 46 countries.

Ron Carter (1998 NEA Jazz Master) is among the most original, prolific, and influential bassists in jazz. He has recorded over 2200 albums and has a Guinness world record to prove it. From 1963 to 1968, he was a member of the acclaimed Miles Davis Quintet. Over his 60-year career, he has recorded with many of the jazz greats: Lena Horne, Bill Evans, B.B. King, Dexter Gordon, Wes Montgomery, Bobby Timmons, Eric Dolphy, Cannonball Adderley, and Jaki Byard. He can be heard on many iconic jazz records of the 60s and 70s such as Speak No Evil, Maiden Voyage, Red Clay, Speak Like a Child, Nefertiti, and Miles Smiles, to name a few. In 2015 Carter earned a Guinness World Record as the most recorded jazz bassist with 2,221 recordings and has recorded hundreds more since then.

Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon boasts an impressive career touring the world, performing to great acclaim from audiences and critics alike. He received the “Trombonist of the Year” accolade from the Jazz Journalists Association a record-breaking 13 times and claimed “Best Trombone” in the Downbeat Critics Poll an unprecedented six times (2020, 2018, 2016, 2014, 2013 & 2012).  With a mantle adorned by the “Louie Award,” the International Trombone Award, and the Satchmo Award, among others, Wycliffe stands out as a prolific recording artist. He is celebrated for his distinctive signature sound, plunger technique, and unique vocals. His music graces numerous recordings, soundtracks, live DVDs, and documentaries, resonating with musicians and ensembles worldwide, and his arrangement of NPR’s “All Things Considered” theme song is heard daily across the globe.

“I feel truly privileged to welcome two of the newest NEA Jazz Masters, Gary Bartz, and Louis Hayes, alongside the return of some seasoned Masters and outstanding jazz talents to our stage…”Queens is the borough so many jazz legends have called home, and our annual NEA Jazz Masters concert upholds the borough’s history as a go-to destination for jazz icons and audiences alike.”

Ellen Kodadek, Executive and Artistic Director at Flushing Town Hall

The Legendary Jazz Masters concert at Flushing Town Hall on Friday, December 15, begins at 8:00 PM. Tickets are $40/$32 members and seniors, $20 students with ID. Table packages for two with refreshments are available for $130/$110 members. 

From 5:00- 6:30 PM, patrons with paid tickets for the concert are invited to join a free pre-concert workshop, “NEA Jazz Masters in Conversation,” discussing the icons that the Masters have performed with, including Max Roach, Oscar Peterson, Charles Mingus, Art Blakey, and Billy Taylor.

For ticket information, visit this website. For the Flushing Town Hall schedule, visit this website.

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