By Tammy Scileppi
In the 1940s and ’50s, many folks who lived in Addisleigh Park in St. Albans made up a virtual Who’s Who of African-American celebrities and music legends: Singer Ella Fitzgerald, jazz musicians John Coltrane and Milt “Judge” Hinton, singer and actress Lena Horne, and jazz great Fats Waller, to name a few.
By 1952, the area became known as home to some of the most gifted African-Americans in New York.
Rising guitarist/bandleader/composer Bayo Fayemi and his group of talented young musicians, play cool, rhythmically contagious music, inspired by that memorable jazz scene.
During a recent performance at King Manor Museum in Jamaica, they performed an eclectic mix of original songs, as well as tunes that were made famous by those iconic jazz luminaries.
“I played a set dedicated to a number of musicians who have lived in Addisleigh Park, like Milt “Judge” Hinton, Fats Waller, John Coltrane, Earl Bostic, and Ella Fitzgerald,” said Fayemi, who calls St. Albans home. “Our great band did our best to honor the tradition, as well as pushing it forward.”
But describing his true music style, the artist said he’s really into black American music, and that’s what he loves to play.
“Well, this event was not a typical night for us,” Fayemi said.
“The wonderful people at King’s Manor Museum contacted me about a night honoring the greats that lived in the area. This gave me a chance to dig into the awesome history that is jazz in St. Albans.
“Generally, the group plays my own modern jazz compositions and the occasional standard. My compositions are generally reflective of my personal feelings or thoughts during a particular point in my life. A more recent one, titled ‘There was Doubt,’ was an attempt to conceptualize the need to finish college (I now hold a BA in Music Performance from CUNY York College).”
Bayo Fayemi Group is generally made up of five or six musicians playing upright bass, drums, piano/keyboard – the typical jazz rhythm section.
Then there’s a saxophonist playing melody, who may be joined by a trumpet player. And leading the bunch is Fayemi on electric guitar.
“My band members are usually comprised of sidemen from my days at CUNY or stellar musicians I have met or were referred to me in the New York City music scene,” he said.
“This is generally how most jazz groups come together.”
The band that played at Kings Manor included past students of CUNY York, SUNY Purchase, and current students aiming for degrees at both the BA and MA level at City College and Queens College, according to the 24-year-old musician.
Fayemi is already making a name for himself throughout Gotham. As a bandleader or sideman, he has played a variety of venues, including B.B. King’s Lucille Room and Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan, at Jamaica Performing Arts Center, and The Milton G. Bassin Performing Arts Center at York College (located at 94-20 Guy R. Brewer Blvd., Jamaica), where Fayemi and Friends will be returning and headlining a night of his original music, as part of their fall series, on Nov. 9, at 8 p.m.
You can also catch him groovin’ at Jamaica’s Air Train Jazz Festival, at 93-40 Sutphin Blvd., on Nov. 16, at 5 p.m., where he’ll be playing some standards, along with his own songs
The artist points out that, as far as jazz is concerned, it seems limited to restaurants and bars.
“It’s not like Manhattan or Brooklyn that are dedicated to the art form,” said Fayemi. “However, amazing venues like Flushing Town Hall, Jamaica Performing Arts Center, and King Manor Museum are making great strides to bring this amazing music to the citizens of Queens.”
So, if you’re a jazz fan, or just in the mood for some relaxing, mellow sounds and upbeat jazz grooves, there are plenty of neighborhood spots across the borough to choose from.
You can check out popular haunts like The Astor Room or Blackbird’s, and jazzy speakeasys like Crescent & Vine in Astoria. Sayra’s Wine Bar on Rockaway Beach Blvd. is another good live jazz option.
Other date or friends night out options include Hunter Point’s Domaine Bar a Vins, The Keep in Ridgewood, Jack & Nellie’s in Forest Hills, and La Flor in Woodside. Most, like John Brown Smokehouse in Long Island City, have live jazz on Sundays.
If you’re celebrating Oktoberfest, the Forest Hills restaurant, aptly called Manor Oktobefest, features great jazz bands on Friday nights.
Looking back, the artist remembered that as a budding musician his pursuit of music started “pretty late.”
Though he was already 14 or 15 when he got his first anxiously awaited guitar, he said, “I wouldn’t let that deter me at all. In a private lesson, touring jazz musician Matthew Stevens once told me, ‘It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get there, as long as you get there one day.’ ”
Fayemi noted some of his favorite musicians and performers are as Miles Davis, Christian Scott, Chance the Rapper, Lianna La Havas, Gilad Helmsman, and Isiah Sharkey.
“I just love their artistry and would like to incorporate their charisma and techniques into my own playing and composing as I grow.
“I’m mostly inspired by the desire to always be moving forward. I believe success is measured by your own personal happiness. When it comes to music, I jokingly love to quote Chance, who said, ‘I’m just having fun with it!’