By Merle Exit
Flushing Town Hall has a celebration planned to honor jazz legend Jimmy Heath’s Queens Jazz Orchestra.
On June 29 at 8 p.m., the air will be filled with music to celebrate the orchestra’s 10th anniversary. all performed by jazz heroes. Since 2008, FTH’s Queens Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of NEA Jazz Master Dr. Jimmy Heath, has performed for thousands of jazz lovers. The 10th anniversary concert will be a journey through Heath’s life.
Heath, a Corona resident, has long been recognized as a both a brilliant instrumentalist and a magnificent composer and arranger. After having just concluded 11 years as a professor of music at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, Heath, 91, maintains an extensive performance schedule. Aside from performing with his band, he conducts workshops and clinics throughout the United States, Europe, and Canada.
“I was one of the people who started the big band at FTH,” Heath said.
He recorded his first album, “Little Man, Big Band,” when he first put the band together. His other recorded albums include, “Turn Up the Heath” and “Togetherness.”
“New York is the jazz capital of the world,” Heath said. “Jazz played in Harlem before moving to the Village. Many members of the present band have been playing with me for all of the 10 years.
Heath said he was “raised up with the big bands such as Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Duke Ellington,” and had a big band in Philadelphia before moving to New York.
In 1986, he began teaching composition and arrangement for saxophone music at Queens College.
Heath brought his band to perform at the Louis Armstrong House Museum when it was named as a landmark in 1988. He has been performing with his big band each year at Flushing Town Hall and plays once a year with the jazz masters. Health said that he considers jazz to be “America’s classical music.”
“We are thrilled to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Flushing Town Hall’s Queens Jazz Orchestra by honoring National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Jimmy Heath, who has led the orchestra since its inception,” said Ellen Kodadek, the executive and artistic director at Flushing Town Hall. “Like so many of his peers from Queens, Dr. Heath has made countless contributions to jazz, and we are so grateful that he continues to share his gifts and passion with us.”
Jazz Big Band consists of Jimmy Heath (music director, leader, tenor saxophone), Antonio Hart (alto and soprano saxophone), Sharel Cassidy (alto and soprano saxophone), Bobby LaVell (tenor saxophone), Sam Dillon, (tenor saxophone), Gary Smulyan (baritone saxophone), John Mosca (trombone), Steve Davis (trombone), Jason Jackson (trombone), Douglas Purviance (bass trombone), Frank Greene (trumpet), Nathan Eklund (trumpet), Mike Rodriguez (trumpet), Freddie Hendrix (trumpet), Michael Weiss (piano), Mike Karn (bass), and Willie Jones III (drums).
Flushing Town Hall’s theatre — located at 137-35 Northern Boulevard — will be rearranged, removing the row seats and substituting tables and chairs for a more cabaret setting.