Flushing Town Hall Celebrates “Octogenarian Women of Jazz”

Article Contributed by Anat | Published on Monday, March 6, 2023

On Friday, March 24 at 8 PM, Flushing Town Hall will present Octogenarian Women of Jazz during Women’s History Month.

Flutist/tenor saxophonist Carol Sudhalter, beloved as Flushing Town Hall’s house band leader, will celebrate her 80th birthday leading a very special quintet of Octogenarians for the occasion. She will be joined in the band by world-renowned pianist Bertha Hope (86), drummer Paula Hampton (87) of the legendary jazz Hampton family, and widely popular vocalist Keisha St. Joan (84). In addition, the concert will feature the rare participation of revered bassist Bill Crow, joining the women on stage at an impressive 95 years of age. Performing well past the typical age of retirement and still very much in their artistic prime, this quintet proves that music, like wine, gets better with age.

"Looking at movies, books, and general depictions, we are accustomed to thinking of 80 as an ending, as an age when the mind and body begin to decline," says Carol Sudhalter." But now that I am 80, I realize that it is just the beginning of a new life and such a rewarding culmination of past years' work at the same time. I am so excited to share the stage with my fellow Octogenarians to bring a wonderful evening of jazz to the audiences in Queens."

“I have been honored to have Carol lead the house band of our popular Louis Armstrong Legacy Monthly Jazz Jams for several years now and am excited to see her take the stage with this extraordinary ensemble for her big birthday,” says Flushing Town Hall’s Executive and Artistic Director Ellen Kodadek. “Carol’s work is extremely important to Flushing Town Hall and the Queens jazz community — and we are so excited to celebrate her birthday with this special concert.”

The concert begins at 8:00 PM EST on Friday, March 24th. Tickets are $15/$10 for members, seniors, and students with ID. Tickets can be purchased here.

About the Quintet:


Flutist, baritone, and tenor saxophonist Carol Sudhalter (80) is the youngest of the musical Sudhalters, long recognized for their contributions to jazz research and performance, and for their role in the historic Boston jazz scene (brother Dick Sudhalter, father Al Sudhalter violinist/alto saxophonist played with Bobby Hackett, Eddy Duchin.). She was the first graduate of Smith College to become a jazz musician and played with the first-ever all-female Latin band, Latin Fever, at the Salsa Festival at Madison Square Garden alongside Tito Puente. She is the founder of and plays baritone sax in the Astoria Big Band, which has received 20+ performance grants and has played at Mary Lou Williams Festival. The band presents both a concert of works by women composers and a “Jazz History of Queens.”

In 2016, Sudhalter became the director and house band leader of the Flushing Town Hall Louis Armstrong Legacy Monthly Jazz Jam, one of the leading jazz events in the borough of Queens. Within her term, the jam has had great success and doubled in attendance.

Sudhalter placed 9th for ”Best International Jazz Flutist” in Down Beat Magazine’s 77th Annual Jazz Readers’ Poll 2012, and her 2019 CD ‘Carol Sudhalter Quartet Live at St. Peter’s Church” (on baritone sax and flute) was reviewed in the June 2019 issue of Down Beat Magazine. In 2022 Sudhalter was honored to participate in the debut performance of composer/pianist Mickey Tucker’s Spiritual Collage for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra, in Bloomington, Indiana, alongside such legendary players as Cyrus Chestnut and Gary Bartz.


Seasoned jazz vocalist Keisha St. Joan (84), a fixture on the New York City scene for decades, is a “garrulous, warm, expansive presence with an easy laugh…but a closer look reveals a depth of character that is at once expressed in her soulfulness on the bandstand, and in her unyielding commitment to truth and dignity in her daily life” (Todd Weeks).

Born Joan Broadbelt on 119th Street in Harlem in 1939, she gained access, through family connections, to recordings of opera, which became a fixation. At age 5, she announced that she was going to be an opera singer. The family lived in the Phipps Houses, where Thelonious Monk also lived: she would hear him playing piano. Shortly after, Keisha began singing lessons. At 17, St. Joan was already singing professionally with the Harlem Opera Group. She appeared in “La Boheme,” and “Carmen,” and sang the role of Marguerite in “Faust.” Soon she was exposed to Miles and Dave Brubeck.

At age 36, finally feeling ready to begin a full-time career in music, she left her day job. She met and heard the legendary hipster vocalist Babs Gonzales, who introduced her to Pastor John Garcia Gensel at St. Peter’s, where she was often featured at the weekly Jazz Vespers service and at the famed annual All Night Soul celebration. In the 70s, she began to front her own bands, which included artists such as pianists Stan Hope and Eric Reed, bassists Ollie Richardson and Peck Morrison, trumpeter Richard Williams, and the great hard-bop drummer Walter Perkins.


Bertha Hope (86) is a jazz pianist and educator. Born in Los Angeles, California, she began having an interest in jazz through the playing of Bud Powell. In the late 1950s, Bertha began working professionally in Los Angeles jazz clubs, where she met the great Elmo Hope, whom she later married and with whom she worked extensively. In 1961, the two moved to the East Coast and released a duo album for Riverside, entitled “Hope-Full.” Some years after Elmo died, Bertha created the ELMOllenium project to preserve the musical legacy of her late husband, by performing and teaching his work to other artists.

In 1982, she joined the all-female Kit McClure Band as a pianist and vocalist and performed across the East Coast and toured extensively in Japan. During the same period, Hope formed Jazzberry Jam!, an all-women quartet. Jazzberry Jam! performed at some of the most prestigious jazz clubs and venues and toured nationally. Internationally, in 1999, Jazzberry Jam! was featured in a documentary entitled “Les Femmes du Jazz” for the French Arts Channel, which received the award for Best Documentary at France’s Biarritz Film Festival.

Hope is the recipient of two-lifetime achievement awards (2002 from Cobi Narita's Jazz Coalition, 2005 by the late Dr. Billy Taylor in 2005 at the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival). The International Women in Jazz honored Bertha in 2012 with its jazz award. In 2018, she won the National Jazz Museum in Harlem’s Legends of Jazz Award, and in 2021, she was feted as a Jazz Trailblazer, receiving an Osceola Macarthy Adams Award.


Drummer and vocalist Paula Hampton (87) is a rarity in the field of jazz; and is the heir to a unique musical heritage. Hampton’s illustrious career began at a very early age when she performed at the famous Cotton Club in Indianapolis with her uncles’ band. Known as “The Hampton Family Band,” their extensive national tour culminated in a classic ‘battle of the bands’ pitting them against another famous Hampton: her uncle, the late Lionel Hampton. Hampton is proof that talent runs in families, hers having a show business history dating as far back as the days of “Black Vaudeville” to the present day.

Hampton is a member of an elite group of female drummers who have had extensive instrumental training. Her studies also included vocal instruction with composer/arranger Brook Benton and Belford “Sinky” Hendricks. Her talents have taken her around the world, performing with pianist Amina-Claudine Myers; vocalist Evelyn Blakey and her group, “Celebration;” touring Europe in 1985 with a show entitled “Late Great Ladies of Jazz and Blues,” featuring vocalist/actress Sandra Reaves-Phillips; and recording and performing with vocalist Dakota Staton.

Hampton has also led her own band and played at innumerable venues in the tri-state area. Her talents do not stop with the traps -- she made her cabaret debut in the acclaimed revue “Life is What?” where she received rave reviews from The New York Post. She is the recipient of the coveted Bistro Award from Backstage Magazine.

Hampton is currently performing and touring with her group, Jazzberry Jam!, an all-women’s band, and is continually called upon to record with renowned musicians.


Bill Crow (95) began his career as a jazz bassist with the Teddy Charles Trio in 1950. In the 1950s and 60s, he was featured on the big bands of Claude Thornhill, Gerry Mulligan and Benny Goodman, as well as many small jazz groups. He toured in Europe and Japan with Mulligan, played with Goodman at the Seattle World's Fair, and on his Russian tour in 1962.

Between 1970 and 1983, Crow played in the pits of a number of Broadway shows, including the long runs "The King and I" and "42nd Street," doubling on string bass and tuba. During this period, he also frequently appeared in jazz venues with the Al Cohn quartet, the Bernie Leighton trio, the Kenny Davern quintet, the Eddie Bert quartet, and guitar duos with Chuck Wayne, Tal Farlow, Eddie Diehl, Carl Thompson and Joe Puma. In the 1990s, Crow appeared with many jazz groups, including the Kansas City Sound, the Doug Proper Quartet, and small groups led by Dick Sudhalter, Giacomo Gates, Rio Clemente, Joe Morello, Carmen Leggio, Joe Beck and Marian McPartland. He now appears frequently with the Ryo Sasaki Trio in New York, and with his own groups in the greater New York area. A sideman on numerous recordings with other jazz leaders, he has also made two compact discs with his own quartet for Venus Records of Japan.

Crow is also the author of two books. His first, Jazz Anecdotes, (Oxford University Press, 1990) was voted "Best Jazz Book" in the 1991 Jazz Times readers’ poll and his autobiography ”From Birdland to Broadway (Oxford University Press, 1992), which where both translated into Japanese by author Haruki Murakami. A Korean translation of Jazz Anecdotes was published in 2001.

For the venue’s full schedule of 2023 events, visit: https://www.flushingtownhall.org/events.