Queens Jazz Orchestra to Honor Beloved Radio Host Phil Schaap and The Genius of Charlie Parker with “Bird Flight”

Article Contributed by Anat | Published on Thursday, June 9, 2022

On Friday, June 17, 2022, Flushing Town Hall’s Queens Jazz Orchestra (QJO) returns live to the stage with "Bird Flight," a special tribute program honoring Phil Schaap and the genius of Charlie Parker. Antonio Hart, GRAMMY-nominated jazz artist and an original member of the QJO, will be making his debut as the orchestra’s new conductor, following the 2020 passing of its longtime leader, NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Heath.

The concert’s title pays homage to America’s beloved radio broadcaster, record producer, and jazz scholar, Phil Schaap (1951-2021), best known as the host of Bird Flight, a radio show on Columbia University’s WKCR devoted to Charlie Parker, which he launched in 1970 and continued for 52 years. Widely regarded for the breadth and detail of his jazz knowledge, Schaap received six GRAMMY Awards for his compilations of vintage jazz recordings and was awarded America’s highest honor in jazz when he was named an NEA Jazz Master in 2021. Schaap, who lived in Hollis, Queens, regularly promoted and supported jazz programs at Flushing Town Hall and attended several concerts at the venue. The June 17th event will include special commentary from his colleagues.

The QJO performance will feature the work of American jazz saxophonist, bandleader and composer Charlie Parker Jr. (1920-1955), nicknamed "Bird" or "Yardbird." During his short life, Parker changed the course of jazz music. Like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane, Parker was a pioneering composer and improviser who ushered in a new era of jazz and influenced subsequent generations of musicians, writers, and artists. The GRAMMY-winning musician was inducted multiple times into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame, an award that honors recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance that are at least 25 years old, and he was recognized with the GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award in 1985. Parker was also inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame (1979) and Jazz at Lincoln Center: Nesuhi Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame (2009).

Antonio Hart, saxophonist and Director of Jazz Studios at the Queens College Aaron Copland School of Music, will make his debut on June 17 as the QJO’s new conductor. Hart was personally selected for the role by his mentor, the late NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Heath who was QJO’s original Music Director. To honor his memory, Hart will also lead the QJO in a performance of special music composed by Master Heath.

“We are thrilled to once again welcome Flushing Town Hall’s Queens Jazz Orchestra for the first time since the onset of the pandemic,” says Executive and Artistic Director Ellen Kodadek. “Antonio Hart is an amazing musician and conductor, who was personally selected by Dr. Jimmy Heath to be his successor for QJO.  We can’t wait to see him lead the full orchestra of amazingly talented artists at our beautiful venue! Jazz and Queens lovers, rejoice!”

The orchestra features the incredible lineup of Antonio Hart as Music Director & Conductor, Mark Gross (alto Sax), David DeJesus (alto Sax), Bobby LaVell (tenor sax), Sam Dillon (tenor sax), Gary Smulyan (baritone sax), on the trumpet: Jon Owens, Nathan Eklund, Michael Mossman, and Brandon Lee, on the trombones: John Mosca, Steve Davis, James Burton, and Douglas Purviance, Jeb Patton (piano), David Wong (bass), and Evan Sherman (drums).

Queens Jazz Orchestra was co-founded in 2008 by NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Heath and Flushing Town Hall’s jazz producer Clyde Bullard. This 17-piece orchestra is dedicated to preserving the heritage of jazz in Queens and nurturing the next generations of great jazz musicians.

Queens Jazz Orchestra will perform at Flushing Town Hall on Friday, June 17th at 8 PM ET. In-Person Tickets are $45/$35 Members/$20 Students. This performance will be streamed live for FREE on Flushing Town Hall's YouTube Channel. (RSVP HERE to receive the streaming link and reminder email!)

This engagement is made possible through the Jazz Touring Network program of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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