Jamaica Downtown Jazz Festival to bring history and jams to the neighborhood next month

Wiki Commons

Jamaica Avenue is set to come alive with jazz and celebration at the inaugural Jamaica Downtown Jazz Festival next month.

Hosted by the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, the festival aims to get a new generation hip to the rich history of the legendary jazz musicianship to come out of the Queens neighborhood.

“The program allows young artists opportunities to connect to the local community,” said Rio Sakairi, artistic director of the Jazz Gallery and co-artistic director of the festival.

“The festival will make the music even more accessible to audience[s] in the neighborhood and I believe these young artists will enjoy bringing their craft to new sets of ears,” Sakairi said.

The festival will begin on Friday, July 12, and jam through Sunday, July 14. It is set to feature some of the biggest names in jazz to come out of Jamaica. Several movie screenings and walking tours will also be available as part of the celebration.

While most of the festival is free, several of the events on the lineup will require paid tickets.

Milford Graves, a jazz drummer and percussionist who’s spent his entire life in Jamaica, will headline the festival and perform on the main stage at 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 13.

Many consider Graves to be a pioneer of the free jazz movement. His avant-garde contributions were colored by the Afro-Cuban rhythms and Latin percussion he brought into the context of jazz through his own percussion.

Graves performed with Paul Bley and the New York Art Quartet, featuring John Tchicai, Roswell Rudd and Reggie Workman during the 1960s, his most prolific era.

Just 10 minutes away from Jamaica Avenue, Graves still lives in the Jamaica home his grandparents used to live in.

A screening of The Full Mantis, a documentary about Graves will kick off the festival at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 12. The film will show inside the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning.

Additionally, a new documentary about Aretha Franklin will also be shown. The film, “The Amazing Grace,” features the artist recording her 1972 live album of the same name.

Later in the festival, participants will be able to join the JazzWalk, a guided tour about the Addisleigh Park section of Jamaica, considered by many to be the “home of jazz.”

All concerts and events will take place in venues along Jamaica Avenue, mostly between the Jamaica Arts Center and Jamaica Performing Arts center. Ticketed events will be sold separately.

See the full lineup below.


Friday, July 12

5 p.m. – Screening of The Full Mantis, Milford Graves (JCAL, $10)

8 p.m. – Tribute performance by Jason Moran and Tyshawn Sorey (JCAL, $20)


Saturday, July 13

10 a.m. – JazzWalk Tour, pick up and drop off at Jamaica Arts Center ($25)

Noon – Screening of The Amazing Grace, Aretha Franklin (JPAC, $10)

1 p.m. – Keith Jordan (Queens Central Library)

2 p.m. – Camille Thurman with the Darrell Green Trio (JCAL Gallery)

2 p.m. – York College Alumni Combo (Queens Central Library)

3 p.m. – Napoleon Revels-Bey (King Manor Museum)

3 p.m. – Secret Mall (JPAC Front Lawn)

3 p.m. – Giveton Gelin (JCAL Theater)

4 p.m. – Simona Premazzi (JCAL Gallery)

4 p.m. – Morgan Guerin (King Manor Museum)

5 p.m. – Kendra Shank (JPAC Front Lawn)

5 p.m. – Jonathan Finlayson (JCAL Theater)


Main Stage Concert at Jamaica Performing Arts Center ($30)

7 p.m. – Milford Graves

8 p.m. – Don Byron

9 p.m. – Alchemy Sound Project


Sunday, July 14

10 a.m. – JazzWalk Tour, pick up and drop off at Jamaica Arts Center ($25)

2 p.m. – Tomoko Omura (JCAL Gallery)

3 p.m. – Chris Morrissey (JCAL Theater)

4 p.m. – Jarawa Brian Gray (JCAL Gallery)

5 p.m. – Flamenco Latino (JCAL Theater)

6 p.m. – Roopa Mahadevan (JCAL Gallery)

7 p.m. – Pheeroan akLaff (JCAL Theater)