LIC theater jazzes up its offerings

The Secret Theatre is hardly being hush-hush about its latest endeavor. The three-year-old Long Island City establishment aims to become a top-notch live music venue, the likes of which Queens has never seen, said the theater’s artistic director and owner, Richard Mazda.

The aspiration might seem a lofty one for a locale typically inclined toward dramatic works rather than musical ensembles. But, when you consider Mazda’s past as a record producer with a few 1980s hits to his name – not to mention a Rolodex of music greats – you begin to think the man’s mission might not be so impossible after all.

For starters, Mazda fancies The Secret Theatre as more of a multimedia experience than a pay-sit-and-watch type of venue.

The upcoming Long Island City Jazz Festival – taking place Sunday, March 28, in the theater’s four-month-old, custom-built space, the Big Secret – is an all-day affair featuring an exhibition of previously-unseen photos of jazz greats and possibly a documentary film screening.

Of course, in tribute to Queens’ rich jazz history – the borough was once home to Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and John Coltrane, among others – music is the highlight of the program. Twelve local jazz bands will take the stage from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m, beginning with a jazz brunch of bagels and coffee provided by LIC eateries Breadbox Café and Sweetleaf.

The festival, which Mazda and co-organizer Gustavo Rodriguez hope is the first of many, builds on Secret Theatre events held in the past three months honoring the legacies of Bill Withers and Johnny Cash.

“What we’re doing is trying to create music events for the local community,” Mazda explained. “We’re giving them an alternative to having to go to Manhattan to see good music.”

Mazda was quick to note, however, that Queens certainly has its fair share of bars and pubs where great local bands can ply their trade. But, he said of his theater’s new programming, “This is different. This is not a restaurant, so the focus is on music.”

With a $17.50 festival pass, guests have access to performances by J. Walter Hawkes, Steve Blanco, Christian Coleman, Natalia Bernal, The Claude Diallo Situation, Anthony Cekay, Andrea Logato, Hiromi Suda, Aram Bajakian, Martin Kelley, David Shenton and Erin Shields.

For tickets and more information, visit www.secrettheatre.com or call 718-392-0722. The theater is located at 44-02 23rd Street in Long Island City.

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