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Celebrating jazz at Jamaica’s Carmichael’s

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Jan. 8 marked the beginning of the regular jazz season for the Creative Jazz Organization located in the basement of the historical Carmichael’s Diner.

You’ll not only find some of the area’s best soul food being served upstairs but unquestionably some of the metro area’s finest tunes being played in the club under the diner in South Jamaica at the intersection of Guy R. Brewer and Foch boulevards.

After about 27 years of activity in the basement of the diner, it still holds true that on Wednesday evenings between the hours of 7:30 p.m. and 11 p.m., like clockwork, this gem of a club is where you’re likely to experience (if you get there early enough) some of the best music played by some of New York’s most grooving and most accomplished (though less publicized) purveyors of the art form.

Once in the door, after passing the greeting table and paying your $8 admission, you are quickly reminded of one of the several jazz clubs of the fifties found along 52nd Street in the Big Apple.

Here, you’ll find a dedicated and seasoned older crowd of aficionados, visiting jazz artists and jazz educators reveling in the tight jazz offering of the club’s musical talent, led by director and emcee, Hank “The Pied Piper” Wentz.

Wentz, a talented tenor saxophone artist with a sultry Stan Getz and Sonny Stit style to his sound, heads up the regulars, including the extremely talented Ed Stout, a big man with a big and sophisticated mastery of the 88’s; the always-smiling world class drummer and indefatigable combo energizer Walter “Perk” Perkins; a drummer who just dropped in to help celebrate the new season by sitting in for a set, “Tootsie Bean”; one of my favorite regulars, an elder statesman on trumpet, Hank Turner; and the younger, but equally as melodic and hot, contra bassist Gerald Lindsey.

Additionally, that evening, featured on alto sax, was the very talented Lou Mochson, and a Queens resident and club regular with a rich baritone voice, Joe Holmes who sang, “All the Things You Are.”

Also featured that evening were Enrique Prince on electric violin and the renowned vocalist Mildred Williams, who really brought the old times into the house with the beautiful tune “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.”

After the first set, the artists, club members and the club’s newly elected president Rubin Bankhead dedicated the evening to one of Queens’ own local stars and a club regular, Gwen Cleveland, who recently died. Bankhead also emphasized that besides continuing the jazz performance tradition in Queens, one of the things the organization was also deeply committed to was that of continuing to provide a $500 scholarship per semester for two consecutive years to a needy and deserving Queens student concentrating in music, and specifically in jazz.

To find out more about the Creative Jazz Organization of Queens as it continues the tradition of bringing quality entertainment to the local residents, visitors, and providing a venue for talented jazz artists to share their musical gifts, send an e-mail to musical director Hank Wentz at piedpiperman@aol.com.

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