Tag Archives: jazz

Astoria saxophonist for ‘The Tonight Show’ adds gig at local smokehouse to array of projects

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Rondettejazz.com

Saxophonist Ian Hendrickson-Smith has played with longtime funk band Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and Amy Winehouse, and is currently accompanying The Roots on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”

Starting this month, Hendrickson-Smith will bring his brand of funk to The Strand Smokehouse in Astoria every Sunday night.

An Astoria resident for the past five years, Hendrickson-Smith said he attended his “neighborhood watering hole” frequently and became friends with the manager and bartenders. Once they discovered that he was a professional saxophonist, the group invited him to perform at the restaurant.

Hendrickson-Smith, along with four professional musicians who he has dubbed “The Strand Band,” played a few one-off shows and were successful in stirring the crowd, he said.

“Two weeks ago, it was the Sunday before Memorial Day and it was jammed in there and we had people dancing on the tables and freaking out,” Hendrickson-Smith said. “I mean, when the place is packed we can lift them up into a frenzy.”

The staff at The Strand Smokehouse invited the group back and they will now be playing free shows every Sunday night at 7 p.m. for the next several months.

Hendrickson-Smith has assembled a diverse group including Clark Gayton on trombone, guitarist Al Street, organ player Eric Finland and drummer Eric Kalb. Each of the musicians have many years of experience, and have individually played with performers such as Sting, Bruce Springsteen, St. Vincent, David Byrne and more. The ensemble will be playing a “funky” and “swampy” collection of music at the restaurant.

Hendrickson-Smith began playing the flute in the fourth grade and discovered then that he wanted to make music his career. He switched to saxophone right before attending the Manhattan School of Music.

Ten albums and many performances later, he was asked to join The Roots crew when Jimmy Fallon took over hosting duties for Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show.”

“It was a very sudden thing. I got the phone call on a Friday and I was at work on Monday,” Hendrickson-Smith said. “It was pretty unexpected.”

The saxophonist said he really enjoys working with band leader Questlove, who is “very clear and concise about what he wants,” which allows for the true vision of the music to shine through.

Hendrickson-Smith also owns and operates his own record label, Rondette Jazz. Started in 2014, the record label was originally a vehicle for releasing his own music but he soon started releasing records for his friends. This is his second attempt at running a label, he said, after the first label he owned with his friends was unsuccessful. This time, the musician controls every aspect of a release including mixing, promotion and artwork.

“This is a labor of love for sure because I’m putting out jazz music primarily,” Hendrickson-Smith said. “So the market for jazz is very slim but I love the genre so much. I’m really swamped but you know, it’s a joy [and] I love doing it.”

Though his career is filled with unexpected twists and turns — he was given one night’s notice to play a show with U2 at Madison Square Garden earlier this summer — Hendrickson-Smith said the uncertainty keeps his music “palette interesting” and allows him to play a variety of music. He said he is excited to showcase the music he and his friends have been working on and will eventually record The Strand Band’s music in a studio.

“I think it’s a really unique, cool, interesting thing that even in Manhattan I think would stick out a little bit,” he said. “And the fact that it’s in Astoria and there’s no cover charge, I would just push people to come out and give it a try and at least see if they dig it.”

The ensemble is scheduled to play for a few months but Hendrickson-Smith said it all depends on the community’s reaction. He’s hoping that people will spread the word and tell their friends about the shows because “[there are only] so many times I can ask my friends to come out [so] we’re depending on the neighborhood to respond.”

The Strand Smokehouse is located at 25-27 Broadway and serves a variety of smoked meats, sides and brunch items.


Queens College honors late jazz great

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo by James Fidela

The legacy of a late Queens College music professor will live on with a memorial scholarship in his name.

Queens College and the Aaron Copland School of Music paid tribute to Howard Brofsky Tuesday, establishing the Howard Brofsky Memorial Scholarship in Jazz in his honor.

Brofsky passed away on October 17 at age 86. He taught up until 10 days before he died, officials said.

“He especially loved the classroom,” said Edward Smaldone, director of the Aaron Copland School of Music. “He will be missed by the entire Aaron Copland School of Music and Queens College family.”

Photo courtesy of Queens College

Brofsky, a lifelong jazz performer, chaired the music department shortly after beginning his career at the college in the 1960s. He is also credited for swaying administration to start a jazz program, despite early resistance that “sometimes disheartened” Brofsky, said his wife, Robin Westen.

“But he believed in the power of jazz and its importance. That’s why he persevered. It came from his heart,” she said. “He set up the program and then quietly stepped back and let it unfold and blossom.”

Brofsky’s “quiet strength” paved the way for the program to become one of the best in New York, the college said in a release.






Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com


Wednesday: Partly cloudy. High of 81. Breezy. Winds from the NW at 15 to 20 mph. Wednesday night: Overcast in the evening, then partly cloudy with a chance of rain. Low of 61. Winds from the North at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Monthly Jazz Jam at  Flushing Town Hall

Come and enjoy live jazz by some of the borough’s top artists. Flushing Town Hall presents its monthly jazz jam, featuring performances by professional jazz musicians, grad students studying jazz, musical educators and special guest artists the Pablo Mayor Quintet. The event is free and starts at 7 p.m. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Man fatally jumps in front of N train in Astoria

Severed limbs flew onto an Astoria street Tuesday evening after a man threw himself in front of a Queens-bound N train, witnesses and a police source said. Read more: The Queens Courier

New York City Council to take up ban on foam containers

A bill is expected to be introduced to the New York City Council Wednesday that bans the use of polystyrene foam foodservice in New York City. Read more: ABC New York

NYC Landmarks Commission hears pleas from Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, others to preserve historic Forest Park Carousel

Fans of the Forest Park Carousel got a chance Tuesday to plead their case that the beloved ride should be designated as a city landmark. Read more: New York Daily News

Queens couple get prison for sex trafficking

A Queens man and his girlfriend have been sentenced to prison for sex trafficking. Read more: AP

Many Queens homeowners face skyrocketing flood insurance premiums or major repairs to meet demands of new federal codes

Homeowners in the Sandy-wrecked Rockaways may be forced to abandon their homes or spend up to $100,000 to raise them on stilts, thanks to new codes issued by the federal government. Read more: New York Daily News

Across U.S., nearly half say government spying OK within limits: PollNearly half of all Americans say the U.S. government’s broad surveillance tactics are acceptable within limits, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll on Tuesday that also found widespread concern about the methods that were revealed last week. Read more: Reuters

Flushing Town Hall to host jazz festival

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com


Jazz is coming to Flushing Town Hall. The town hall and the Queens Jazz OverGround (QJOG), which promotes jazz education and musical enrichment, are hosting the first annual Spring Jazz Festival on Saturday, April 27.

Three founding members of QJOG, a nonprofit collective, along with Ellen Kodadek, Flushing Town Hall executive and artistic director, trumpeted the event on Tuesday, April 23. Guitarist Amanda Monaco, bassist Mark Wade and trumpeter Josh Deutsch also played an original composition by Deutsch called “Take the 7 train.”

“It’s going to be a very fun learning experience,” Kodadek said. It will “strengthen jazz for years to come.”

The free festival will begin at noon and run through 9:30 p.m. It will feature free music workshops for children and adults, master classes for students and live performances by seven Queens-based jazz groups playing original pieces. Renowned saxophone and flute player James Spaulding is scheduled to perform.

The festival will also feature the talents of middle and high school bands.

The event is free and open to the public at Flushing Town Hall, located at 137-35 Northern Boulevard. The last performance of the evening is scheduled for 9:30 p.m.

“We welcome as many walk-ins as we can fit in here,” said Wade.

The festival is part of Flushing Town Hall’s jam session series designed to bring jazz to members of different communities.



Bringing jazz to Queens

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Daniel Sheehan and Erika Kapin

Josh Deutsch loves jazz.

He can speak to it in excess, understands it and appreciates all the jazz greats.

Originally a pianist before switching to trumpet, jazz is Deutsch’s life — in every component.

Teaching, when coinciding with performing, is one of Deutsch’s favorite parts of music as he helps his students explore the technical and creative aspects of jazz. While telling his students they need to develop their ear, Deutsch says he himself will start to do the same when rehearsing. At the same time, watching students improvise and write their first pieces is personally rewarding.

But it isn’t necessarily Miles Davis’ skills as a trumpeter Deutsch says he tries to emulate. Rather, it’s Davis’ ability to arrange a select group of musicians with varying styles that all come together. An example he cites is “Miles Smiles,” Davis’ 1967 album, which featured pianist Herbie Hancock, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, drummer Tony Williams and bassist Ron Carter.

Davis’ desire to find the exact sound he wanted drove him to forming some of the most storied groups in music history.

“The way that he set up the group, the conception for a band – idea for the overall sound he wanted,” he said almost at a loss of words to describe Davis’ abilities.

He has in part brought this dynamic to one of his groups: Pannonia, which he describes as “a very New York band.”

The five-man ensemble is made up of violinist Zach Brock, trombonist Brian Drye, bassist Gary Wang and percussionist Ronen Itzik. Deutsch, when composing for the group, considers what each member’s style is and uses it as a base for each musician’s innovation.

“I’m not just bringing in a tune,” he said. “I’m bringing in music for individual musicians. I have both the instrumentation picked out, but then it’s almost like another level of innovations [by the musician].”

The Seattle-born trumpeter who grew up in a culture where jazz was surprisingly popular among middle and high school programs said he gravitated toward New York and Queens, by the wide range of musicians that have made the city their home.

“As far as putting projects together: the level of musicians here [have a] good variety,” he said.

Lately, he’s been focusing on more shows in Queens to expand jazz to a wider base of listeners. He helped establish the Queens Jazz Overground, which he says is a response to the Brooklyn Jazz Underground. The project is a collection of Queens-based Jazz ground, including Deutsch’s group  Pannonia.

The Overground is intended bring in music listeners — mainly families — who might not travel to Brooklyn or Manhattan to take in some Jazz. The project’s goal is to “connect with people that may be music fans, but wouldn’t want to go to Brooklyn and Manhattan to go to a music club.”

“Since I’ve been here,” he said. “I don’t think people think about going to music in Queens.”

Deutsch is happy where his music is going, and aims on starting more projects with new sounds. Deutsch is currently working on several projects, and the smaller ones allow him to travel out of New York once and a while and get more exposure.

While New York has a slew of music lovers, and musicians, listeners outside of the five boroughs really take an ear to jazz and all music in general.

“Obviously, as musicians, I think we want to get the music out there to as wide of an audience as possible,” he said.“When you get out of New York and play your music in other places…people get really into it.”



LIC jazz guitarist strikes a chord

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Amanda Monaco

At age 12, Amanda Monaco picked up a guitar. One hasn’t left her hands since.

The Long Island City jazz guitarist, whose strumming floats through neighborhood wine bars and music venues, now leads the Queens Jazz Overground. A spinoff of the nonprofit Brooklyn Jazz Underground, it is a local resource for jazz musicians and fans.

“I started playing this music because it was fun and had community attached to it,” said Monaco. “You could really connect with people and it was adventurous. I think people are missing out.”

The New Haven, Connecticut, native’s love of jazz began with “The Muppet Show.”

Jim Henson, inventor of the Muppets and renowned jazz fan, implemented the musical style into many of his creations. Monaco recalled a particular episode of the program she watched as a child where the characters Wayne and Wanda sang “Autumn Leaves.”

“They took jazz and had fun with it,” said Monaco.

Growing up, Monaco’s father played in a local dance band and James Brown tunes regularly echoed from her family’s home. Her dad ran a cruise night where guys would bring their cars, show them off and fix them up. Monaco’s oldies cover band scored the gig and entertained the crowds with Motown hits.

Monaco studied music at Rutgers and William Paterson universities before attending graduate school at City College, at the encouragement of her father.

“He was always really supportive,” she said of her dad, who passed away in 2006 from pancreatic cancer.

Last September, Monaco accepted a position as an assistant professor in Berklee College’s jazz department. Once a week, she travels from New York to Boston to teach, a job that has secured Monaco’s necessary health insurance. The guitarist was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis three months before her 2005 wedding.

“Getting insurance was a big priority for me,” said Monaco. “People just don’t think about it.”

The musician feels jazz is frequently pigeonholed — many believe a deep knowledge of the art form is required to appreciate it. The Overground hopes to erase the stigma, informing people that jazz is entertaining without being overly intellectual. The collective, which originally formed as the LIC Jazz Alliance in 2010, consists of five members, many of whom have been playing music together since their college days.

“All of us agree that jazz is something really fun,” she said.

Monaco’s vision for the Overground is to secure a dedicated space for the jazz community to come together, a goal she hopes to achieve over the next five years.

“Being creative is something that helps everyone,” she said.

War in Iraq officially over

| jlane@queenscourier.com

The Round Up

War in Iraq officially over

After nearly nine years, 4,500 American dead, 32,000 wounded and more than $800 billion, U.S. officials formally shut down the war in Iraq — a conflict that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said was worth the price in blood and money, as it set Iraq on a path to democracy. Panetta stepped off his military plane in Baghdad Thursday as the leader of America’s war in Iraq, but will leave as one of many top U.S. and global officials who hope to work with the struggling nation as it tries to find its new place in the Middle East and the broader world. Read More: Daily News

Figoski helped Brooklyn teen turn life around

Slain cop Peter Figoski had four daughters of his own and could not stand to see a young woman about their age take the wrong path. That woman, now 21, credits him with turning her life around. Velina Chaunce met Figoski when her mother, in desperation, called the 75th Precinct in gritty East New York to report her then-teenage daughter was acting out. Read More: New York Post

Scandals taking poll toll on Liu

Embattled city Comptroller John Liu is turning into a real Liu-ser with voters. A poll out today shows that Liu’s popularity has plummeted — following a torrent of negative publicity centering on a federal probe of his fund-raising operations and other shenanigans. Only 38 percent of voters now approve of the job Liu is doing, with 35 percent disapproving, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. His approval rating is down drastically from a Quinnipiac poll in May, when 57 percent approved of his job performance and 14 percent disapproved. Read More: New York Post

Uniting to help Woodside fire victims

The Woodside community has united to extinguish the needs of the 24 people whose lives were recently devastated by a fatal fire. Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer joined Pastor Daniel Gilland, representatives from the American Red Cross and members of the families displaced by the two-alarm blaze — which spawned in and destroyed the two-story house located at 40-38 61st Street before spreading and causing severe damage to two neighboring homes — to announce a benefit drive organized in support of the victims. Read More: Queens Courier

On Queens Block, Losing a Link to Louis Armstrong

Selma Heraldo lived the entirety of her 88 years in a white, two-story house on 107th Street in Corona, Queens, and her life may have been very different had she not gained new next-door neighbors in 1943 — Louis Armstrong and his wife, Lucille. Heraldo quickly became known as Louis Armstrong’s next-door neighbor, a good friend to the jazz great. After Armstrong died in 1971 and Lucille Armstrong died in 1983, and their house was transformed into the Louis Armstrong House Museum, Heraldo became the main local living link to the couple. But now that link is gone. Heraldo died on December 2 in her house, where she had lived alone for many years. Read More: New York Times

New York Community Trust grant helps find jobs for Far Rockaway residents

At least 60 Far Rockaway residents will land jobs throughout the city in 2012 thanks to a new grant aimed at giving a boost to the isolated neighborhood in southeast Queens. The New York Community Trust awarded a $40,000 grant this month to Ocean Bay Community Development Corp., a local group that partners with public housing residents in Far Rockaway with job initiatives. Read More: Daily News

Jet ‘drug’ rage

The cowardly thug busted for sucker-punching Jet fan James Mohr outside MetLife Stadium Sunday is a drug-dealing ex-con with a lengthy rap sheet, public records show. Merle Lee, 35, of Newton, NJ, was charged with aggravated assault for the attack outside the New Jersey Meadowlands stadium after the Jets’ 37-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday. The brute allegedly sucker-punched Mohr, 23, after the Queens schoolteacher objected to a woman screaming, “F–k New York!” and, “You all deserved what happened on 9/11!” Read More: New York Post

Malcolm X’s daughter locked up after she fails to pay Queens woman she swindled 

Malcolm X’s youngest daughter has been jailed for failing to make good on a promise to pay back the $55,000 she swindled from an elderly Queens woman. A Queens judge ordered Malikah Shabazz held Tuesday night after probation officials said she’d failed to make any of the monthly $1,229 restitution payments she agreed to as part of a plea deal. Shabazz ignored a judge’s order requiring her to live in New York while she serves out a five-year probation, court officials say. They say she’s apparently been living in St. Albans, Vt., above a bar that she’s looking to buy. She had $800 in her pocket when she was busted for the probation violation, a court official said. Read More: Daily News