Hundreds attend first LIC Jazz Fest

Miles was there. So was Dizzy. And Ella. And Ornette. In fact, the roster of jazz legends kind enough to show their faces at the first annual Long Island City Jazz Festival meandered through the alphabet all the way to Wynton.

Sure, the influence of Davis, Gillespie, Fitzgerald and their contemporaries was undoubtedly present in the music of the 12 bands that took to The Secret Theatre’s (TST) stage on March 28. But, in keeping with the mission of TST’s owner and artistic director, Richard Mazda, the venue offered a multimedia music experience complete with never-before-seen black and white photographs of dozens of jazz greats.

Nevertheless, in a neighborhood that local musicians say is brimming with jazz players, the focus of the day-long festival was the music. In TST’s new custom-built space, The Big Secret, jazz flowed in the form of bebop, traditional, avant-garde, fusion, smooth vocal and Latin.

Festival masterminds Mazda and Gustavo Rodriguez – who books and produces shows at the nearby LIC Bar – were clearly smitten with the talent and the turnout of enthusiastic jazz fans, who numbered around 200. And it didn’t take long for the duo to begin planning the 2011 LIC Jazz Festival.

“We thought, ‘Wow, this is great!’ and we decided during the event that we wanted to do a next one,” Rodriguez recalled with a laugh.

But, perhaps more importantly, attendees and the musicians themselves relished in a day packed with jazz, right in their own backyards.

“People are sitting down and listening intently. Man, what a great day!” said LIC resident Pete Macnamara, the self-described “hobbyist” and “shutterbug” – not to mention professional musician – behind the photography exhibition. “You like to say things like ‘watershed moment.’ I don’t know – the game is here, in one place at one time.”

As for Mazda and Rodriguez, they think they’re on to something with utilizing a theater space – with surprisingly good acoustics – for full-blown music events. Next on their playlist? A folk festival, debuting sometime in the next few months.

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