Flushing Town Hall strikes up the jazz bands
By Merle Exit

Jazz might have been born in New Orleans, but it grew up in Queens.

From Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald to Billie Holiday, Lena Horne and John Coltrane, the borough has served as home base for dozens of jazz legends over the years.

Today, Queens’ jazz culture continues to thrive, thanks to places like Flushing Town Hall and to residents who serve on the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts.

“Although we have a lot of jazz, we still have a little bit of something for everyone,” Malika Granville, director of communications at Flushing Town Hall, said. “One of our producers, Clyde Bullard, is committed to cultivating jazz talent.”

Clarence “Clyde” Bullard is the son of Atlantic Records executive Clarence “CB” Bullard, who helped launched the careers of Paula Abdul, Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack and The Rolling Stones. The younger Bullard was introduced to the music business by his father and his uncle, Bill Withers, the Grammy-winning singer and songwriter who penned “Lean on Me.”

With such a musical lineage, it’s no wonder Bullard entered the family business. He is a professional bassist and has served as producer at Flushing Town Hall since 1998.

“It all began with the original live series by the founders of Flushing Town Hall that included my father,” Bullard said. “After my father passed, I was asked to take over the position. Now we offer performances by the same jazz musicians that you would find at well-known jazz venues in Manhattan that include Lincoln Center.”

One of the musicians Bullard has produced is Barbara Rosene, who has developed a loyal following for her takes on the classics from the 1920s and ’30s.

She is a passionate vocalist whose interpretations uncover the richness of jazz classics through the subtle, skilled delivery of one truly in love with the genre she sings.

Rosene is personally committed to the significance of jazz music in American popular song and in America’s roots and spirit. Finding the soul of a song and linking its heart and expression with her own story brings this seductive blonde singer the satisfaction of a career well-spent. Recently she has begun lecturing on the Tin Pan Alley composers and early women jazz singers.

Rosene will be performing on Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. with her show, “The Jazz Age & The Charleston — 1920s Speakwasy Music.”

Then there is Alex Blake, who Bullard describes as being, “one of the most phenomenal bassists in the world. His resumé is astonishing.”

Blake, who was born in Panama, started playing professionally at the age of 12 with people like Dizzy Gillespie and Tito Puente.

“My music culture is a combination of Latin with Afro-American,” Blake said.

He is always happy to play for a place like Flushing Town Hall.

“It is a great venue for musicians,” Blake said. “I like that they are open to the arts because the arts are being attacked in so many ways. Everyone has the opportunity to both learn and get involved in the arts regardless of their age.”

Flushing Town Hall is located at 137-35 Northern Blvd. at the corner of Linden Place. For more information on upcoming events, call (718) 463-7700 or go to www.flushingtownhall.org.

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