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St. Albans celebrates its musical history at 11th jazz festival

Bill Jacobs takes a bow after performing at the St. Albans Jazz Festival in 2011.
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St. Albans, the southeast Queens mecca for jazz musicians, pays tribute to its musical heritage with the 11th annual St. Albans Jazz Festival this weekend at St. Albans Memorial Park.

Organized by The Black Spectrum Theatre Co. and Jazz Knight Inc., the festival nurtures the community’s cultural jazz atmosphere with tributes to the past and celebrations of today’s artists.

The neighborhood, once home to legendary names in jazz from the 1920s to ’60s such as William James “Count” Basie, “Fats” Waller and John Coltrane, always looks for ways to foster the musical traditions of its past.

“The festival grew out of conversations from the jazz greats that once thrived and still live in St. Albans,” said Carl Clay, founder, CEO and executive director of Black Spectrum Theatre, the Jamaica-based, African-American theater production company that has organized the jazz fest for 11 years.

Every year the jazz festival switches its lineup to incorporate new, local artists.

“We have people submit music every year and together we listen and decide who to choose for the festival,” Clay said. “We try and make it as open as possible. We have had musicians in the past such as Roy Ayers and the Bartletts.”

On Friday, July 12, R&B artist Melba Moore headlines the show along with artists from Black Spectrum Theatre’s Talent for Tomorrow Tour.

Saturday, July 13’s performance pays tribute to St. Albans jazz icons Micheal Lawson, Dave Jackson and Donald Blackman and features musicians Ed Jackson, Mike Flythe’s Atomic Band, U4ouria and Bill Jacobs’ Ensemble.

The festival is sponsored by insurance company Wellcare-A Healthcare, CWA Local Union 1182, City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and Borough President Helen Marshall.

The councilman’s annual family event will also take place at the park Saturday at noon, when children can participate in crafts, games and music.

“It’s a tribute to the rich culture of St. Albans. We urge people to come out and bring a blanket,” said Clay.

If You Go

St. Albans Jazz Festival

Where: St. Albans Memorial Park, Sayres Avenue and 173rd Street, St. Albans

When: Friday, July 12, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, July 13, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Cost: Free

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