Jazz maestro to return to Queens for the first time in nearly 50 years

Jazz legend Monty Alexander will be performing at the Jamaica Center for the Arts and Learning.
Photo by Joe Martinez
By Naeisha Rose

Celebrated jazz musician Monty Alexander is returning Queens to perform in the borough for the first time in nearly 50 years on Saturday, according to the Jamaica Center for the Arts and Learning.

The Kingston, Jamaica native will perform his piano concert “Love Notes” at 7 p.m. at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center — located at 153-10 Jamaica Ave.

“Known as the ‘home of jazz’, Queens has nurtured some of the greatest jazz legends in history, such as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie,” said JCAL Executive Director Cathy Hung. ”This summer, we started to develop a ‘headliner’ series [that] aims to bring some of the living legends to perform at the community and to continue the history.”

“We want to bring the vibrant Queens Jazz scene in downtown Jamaica and build an audience for the culture that lives right here,” Hung added.

Alexander, 74, infuses his jazz with calypso, reggae, mento, and other island music, and at other times has instilled his repertoire with the American songbook of blues, gospel and bebop in over 70 albums, according to Alexander’s publicist. He is the only jazz pianist to be nominated for a Grammy for Best Reggae album.

During his career, Alexander has either met or performed with the likes of jazz giants Ray Brown, Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra, according to his publicist.

In November, the jazz maestro was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of the West Indies and in 2000, he received the Commander of Distinction from the Jamaican Government, according to Alexander’s publicist.

“Looking forward to playing in Queens this weekend,” said Alexander. “My first and only time playing in Queens was quite a long time ago… in the summer of 1969 during the Moon landing. Happy to return 50 years later.”

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

More from Around New York