For the start of its 50th annual season, Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL) announced a residency by acclaimed painter, author and poet Danny Simmons, a Jamaica native and Tony Award winner.
Entitled “Homecoming” and presented in association with KMW Studio, Simmons’ residency will span eight months and include a jazz and spoken word performance with legendary musician and recording artist Ron Carter, a major retrospective of Simmons’ work, artists talks and more.
In spring 2022, Simmons’ residency will culminate with a reunion performance of the original cast of HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam,” and a 50th Annual Gala for JCAL with Simmons as the artist honoree.
“If you’re an artist from Queens, particularly southeast Queens, and you say you’re hosting a residency for Danny Simmons, the excitement starts to build,” JCAL Interim Artistic Director Courtney Ffrench said. “Our community has long been blessed by extraordinary artists, but only a special few can legitimately be called a ‘legend.’ Danny Simmons is a legend.”
“Homecoming” will officially kickoff JCAL’s 50th anniversary year with a performance at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2, at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center, located at 153-10 Jamaica Ave. — pairing Simmons with legendary two-time Grammy-winning bassist Ron Carter, whose appearances on 2,221 recording sessions make him the most-recorded jazz bassist in history.
Joining Simmons and Carter will be host and guest performer Lezlie Harrison, Ron Carter’s Golden Striker Trio and spoken-word artists Ursula Rucker, Derick Cross and Bonafide Rojas.
JCAL Interim Executive Director Leonard Jacobs explained that the idea for the residency arose a year ago when COVID-19 prevented in-person meetings but offered time to dream.
“Danny has been a visionary for the scope of his residency but also for what it means for JCAL, where Danny has had so much history,” Jacobs said. “2022 marks a half-century since a group of visual artists forged an arts institution in a shuttered Jamaica Avenue landmark, motivated by the belief that arts and culture is the birthright of everyone in our community, borough and beyond. Danny is the living embodiment of this spirit, what it means to live the artists’ life, and of the importance of giving back.”
JCAL has numerous “Homecoming” performances over the winter and spring leading up to the much-anticipated June reunion of the beloved original cast of “Def Poetry Jam,” the critically acclaimed show co-created by Simmons that aired on HBO from 2002 to 2007.
JCAL will then hold its 50th anniversary gala at JPAC, with Simmons as the artist honoree of the evening.
“His contributions to art and performance are only equaled by his stature as one of our industry’s great philanthropists,” Ffrench said. “He’s the pride of Queens. Welcome back, Danny. We’re so honored to return you to JCAL as a resident of our Golden Anniversary season.”
For more information, visit the JCAL website at jcal.org.