The Air Train Festival was back for another Thursday, drawing a crowd to the Air bar for some good food, drink and music. This time the Bobby Sexton Trio was playing the event. The group is only a year old, but comprised of talented musicians. Andy Whit plays drums, Al Quinn is on Hammond B3 Organ, and none other than Bobby Sexton is on guitar.
Bobby Sexton had grandparents who were music teachers, and it was at their school that he learned the basics of music theory and notation. The classical training was important, but as a kid he was interested in bands like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. So he went to a local music store where he could take guitar lessons from teachers who knew how to teach the style of music he liked. In high school he played rock music and wrote his own original work for a long time. After school he almost strictly played blues guitar for a while, but his next step was jazz guitar—a style he had always loved. His only problem was that he could never figure out how to play it. “It was like a game almost—I can’t do this, but I’ve got to learn it,” Bobby said about his early attempts at jazz. One day, years after his guitar lessons at the music store, he found a good teacher who got him started on jazz guitar. Within two months of lessons, Bobby had found a weekly gig playing jazz with a group whose leader had played with the likes of Grant Green and George Benson, who was one of Bobby’s biggest influences besides Miles Davis, Django Reinhardt, Pat Martino, and Joe Pass. Though Bobby didn’t have much experience, the leader of the group gave him plenty of pointers and could tell he was making progress. Bobby still practices his art to this day, transcribing music written by his favorite musicians and continuing to take jazz guitar lessons. Despite all his training, Bobby insists “you are your own best teacher. You learn what you can from your teacher, take what you can into your DNA, but you’re going to sound like you no matter what.”
Jazz is a complex music genre that many people have little knowledge about these days. Bobby Sexton helped explain what jazz is made of. He believes the best answers is that “in Jazz there are three elements: Swing, blues, and improvisation.” If any one of those elements is left out, it’s like trying to make gumbo without any shrimp in it. Bobby thinks blues is an especially important element, and without it the music isn’t really jazz. The complexity and deep thought that goes into playing jazz is the reason he started with playing blues guitar. It was a good foundation for him to learn on, until he was experienced enough to take on a genre as challenging as jazz. Though there’s many different ways a musician can play jazz, Bobby Sexton likes to keep it rooted in blues.
Mainstream music has taken a very different path that is not easy for jazz to follow. Elements in most songs today are digitally produced, with vocals subject to auto-tune. You won’t find this in jazz, and Bobby Sexton knows a lot of friends who want to turn their nose up to the changes they see in music. However, he tries not to look for the faults in new music, explaining that “even as kid, growing up in the 80s, I didn’t really like the pop music. But now I listen back on that music and wonder ‘wow, why did I go to sleep on that—that was great music.’” He also finds a lot of good, new music isn’t necessarily only what’s playing on the radio. Just the other day, Bobby saw a video of one of his friends playing at a venue in Brooklyn. The music seemed to have elements of funk and rap, but the best he could sum it up as was “now-sounding.” Bobby continues, “It’s hard for me to say I don’t like the music of today…to tell you the truth, I try to give everything a chance. Even if I’m not crazy about it, I listen to it. Do I have my preferences? Yeah. When I go to sleep at night, some Miles Davis is cool because it’s mellow. I’m not going to put on Imagine Dragons, because it won’t help me sleep, but I appreciate it.” His appreciation for modern music stems from the fact that he also gives private guitar lessons. It’s important for teachers to keep an open mind. His students often bring him new songs they want to learn, and he realizes that some of what they bring him is pretty great.
The Bobby Sexton trio enjoyed their time playing the Air Train Jazz Festival as much as the audience. Bobby explained that sometimes, when playing jazz, groups get booked at venues, like restaurants, where the music must be played softly, but the crowd is noisy because everyone’s talking to each other. At the Air Train festival, the space offers fantastic sound quality and a surprisingly low noise level for a public area. You can listen to the sounds of Bobby Sexton on Soundcloud.com, where the trio has uploaded their music. If you want to hear some more great jazz bands like Bobby Sexton’s, you should show up at the JFK Air Train terminal in Jamaica between 5 and 7 pm next Thursday.
Free Concerts in Gantry Plaza State Park
Against a stunning backdrop of a vibrant sunset and the New York City skyline, Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College will host free concerts at Gantry Plaza State Park as part of their summer series Live at the Gantries. The series aims to highlight up-and-coming and established Queens-based artists as diverse as the borough.
Free and open to the public.
Percussion/vocal group Akoko Nante Ensemble will perform music from the African diaspora.
Tuesday, August 20, 2019, from 7 – 9 p.m.
Gantry Plaza State Park
4-09 47th Road
Long Island City, NY 11101
Subway: 7 train to Vernon/Jackson (first stop in Queens). Walk west toward the river on 50th Avenue.
Ferry: East River Ferry to Hunters’ Point. Walk north on 2nd Street.
Formed in 2011, Akoko Nante’s mission is to display the beauty and diversity of Africa; weaving together the musical threads of many nations to compose sonic tapestries. The ensemble has performed at several venues across the world and outdoor festivals, such as Celebrate Brooklyn, the International African Arts Festival, and more.
About Kupferberg Center for the Arts
Sponsored by New York Community Bank, The Kupferberg Presents 2019-2020 season features a vibrant lineup of world-class cultural events, concerts, and family programs at Colden Auditorium, Lefrak Concert Hall, Goldstein Theatre, and select off-campus locations for the 2.2 million residents of New York City’s most diverse borough. Since 1961, Kupferberg Center for the Arts has provided accessible and affordable world-class cultural entertainment to the NYC region. From classical and pop performances, to concerts and school residences, to a wide range of family events, over 350,000 individuals attend events at Kupferberg Center for the Arts each year. For tickets and information, visit www.kupferbergcenter.org or call the box office at (718) 793-8080. The box office hours are Tuesday through Friday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and up to one hour prior to all performances.
The Harvest Festival returns for its 3rd year
It’s In Queens! | March 29 to April 3
Where to begin this week? Get covered in colored talcum powder at the Phagwah Parade or swim in bubbles at a circus. Build wonderful creations at Brick Fest or fall in love at a romantic concert. Rock out at a jam or explore a 19th century Civil War fortress. Express yourself through painting or treat yourself to a hilarious one-man show. Where to end?
March 29, B: The Underwater Bubble Show, 8 pm. Straight from Latvia, B is a musical fairy tale that transports audiences to an underwater world inspired by Cirque du Soleil. Expect laser technology, snow cannons, optical illusions, and some surprises. Queens College’s Colden Auditorium, 153-49 Reeves Ave., Flushing.
March 29, Joe Kye: Migrants, 8 pm. Kye brings his unique blend of violin looping, electronics, singing, and storytelling, with a special guest, Chinese-American hip-hop artist Jason Chu. Workshop at 7 pm. Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Blvd.
March 29, Live Jazz, 6:30 pm. The Bayo Fayemi Group creates a sonic landscape that explores the band namesake’s self identify through the lens of his predecessors’ homeland, Africa, and his Queens neighborhood. $15. King Manor Museum, 153rd Street and Jamaica Avenue, Jamaica.
March 29, Welcome to La Misa, Baby!, March 31. In response to attacks on the LGBTQ community, performer and activist Migguel Anggelo presents his new one-man show. Using music, dance, and a kaleidoscope of personalities, he pays homage to one of the most sacred spaces in gay culture: the disco. Shows are March 29 and 30 at 7 pm and March 31 at 2:30 pm. LaGuardia Performing Arts Center Little Theatre, 31-10 Thomson Ave., M Building, LIC.
March 30, Brick Fest Live, March 31. The ultimate LEGO fan experience with sculptures, collaborative building projects, hands-on activities, a glow gallery, a wall, and more. Open 10 am to 6 pm on both days. New York Hall of Science, 47-01 111th St., Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
March 30, Mike Leigh’s Period Pictures, April 3. On the occasion of Leigh’s ambitious new film “Peterloo,” he attends screenings of his historical dramas. Schedule: “Topsy-Turvy,” March 30, 1:30 pm; “Mr. Turner,” March 30, 4:30 pm; “Vera Drake,” March 31, 7 pm; and an advance screening of “Peterloo,” April 3, 7 pm. Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35th Ave., Astoria’s Kaufman Arts District.
March 30, The Romantic Heart, 7:30 pm. The Queens Symphony Orchestra presents the first concert in its Masterworks Series. Expect romance with Wagner, Mendelssohn, and Beethoven. Free with online RSVP. Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Blvd.
March 30, Book Event, 2 pm. Art Shamsky and Erik Sherman discuss their forthcoming book “After the Miracle: The Lasting Brotherhood of the ’69 Mets.” Shamsky was on this team, and the book is an inside account of the consistently last-place team that turned it around for one season. Book Culture LIC, 26-09 Jackson Ave., LIC.
March 30, Footsteps for Progress Fun Run, 8 am. A five-kilometer walk/run to raise funds for Queens Center for Progress, a service provider for people with developmental disabilities. Meet at 81-15 164th St., Jamaica.
March 31, Phagwah Parade, noon. For the 39th year, floats filled with colorfully clad revelers kick off from 133rd Street and Liberty Avenue and roll to Phil Rizutto Park (formerly Smokey Oval Park) in Richmond Hill for food, music, dancing, chanting, and plenty of incense.
March 31, The Platters with Special Guest Bradd Marquis, 3 pm. One of the most successful vocal groups of all time with 40 Billboard Hot 100 singles, The Platters burst onto the world stage 50 years ago. Special guest Bradd Marquis presents a tribute to Sam Cooke with such songs as “You Send Me” and “Twistin’ The Night Away.” Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, 34-24 203rd St., Bayside.
March 31, Queens Jazz OverGround Spring Fest, noon. A free, daylong series of jazz workshops and performances by student combos, master classes, and school bands. The evening lineup has six Queens-based ensembles. Free with online RSVP. Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Blvd.
March 31, From W.C. Fields to Goodfellas, 2:30 pm. Jason Antos, the author of six books on the borough, lectures on the motion picture industry in Queens. Since 1900, the borough has hosted various movie studios. Some of Hollywood’s earliest superstars lived here before the days of Beverly Hills and Malibu. Queens Historical Society, 143-35 37th Ave., Flushing.
March 31, Behind-the-Scenes Fort Totten, noon. Explore a 19th century Civil War fortress with the New York Adventure Club and an Urban Park Ranger. $29-$32. Meet at the Fort Totten Visitor Center, Lee Road, Bayside.
March 31, Holi, the Spring Festival of Colors, 2:30 pm. Colorful dances and music in celebration of the Hindu holiday Holi, which marks regeneration. The Hindu Temple Society of North America co-sponsors. Queens Museum, NYC Building, Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
April 2, Wine and Watercolors, 6 pm. Paint an original watercolor with professional artist Lisa Zilker and sample some classic French wines perfect for spring. Each participant goes home with artwork, a bottle of one of the wines, and a gift bag. $40. RSVP to Lisa Zilker at firstname.lastname@example.org. SquareWine & Spirits, 24-20 Jackson Ave., LIC.
April 2, Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, 12:30 pm. Quintet of the Americas, the borough’s renowned woodwind quintet, presents jazz, blues, minimalism, Latin, Middle Eastern, and Pop. The guest artists are Renee Manning on vocals, Earl McIntyre on tuba, and Carlos Maldonado on percussion. Free. York College CUNY, 94-20 Guy R. Brewer Blvd., Jamaica.
April 3, Monthly Jazz Jam, 7 pm. Musicians gather and play under the direction of saxophone legend Carol Sudhalter. Don’t play? Come and listen. The theme is Louis Armstrong. Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Blvd.
April 3, Lauren Bakst: More Problems with Form, April 6. Video and dance unfold via a three-act structure. The work includes many multiples of Bakst, sometimes played by herself and sometimes by others in videos featuring her fellow group therapy members, lover, and mother. Every night at 8 pm. $20. The Chocolate Factory Theatre, 5-49 49th Ave., LIC.
Continued from the previous week
Queens World Film Festival, until March 31. This ninth annual extravaganza screens more than 200 movies from 31 nations. The lineup includes 16 world premieres, 79 films by women, 14 with LGBTQ themes, 15 by Asian filmmakers, and six by children at two locations in Astoria’s Kaufman Arts District: Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35th Ave.; and Zukor Theatre, 35th Street between 34th and 35th avenues.
Bringing Steel to Life: An Exhibition of Sculpture, until April 26. See works by LIC-based artist Jack Howard-Potter spanning the last 16 years of his career. LIC Arts Open Raw Gallery at The Factory, 30-30 47th Ave., LIC.
The Tempest, until March 31. The Secret Theatre offers a classic Shakespeare comedy in an 8,000-square-foot space with dance, projections, and moving scenes. All shows are at 7:30 pm. $25 at the door. Plaxall Gallery, 5-25 46th Ave., LIC.
Flamenco with Danza España, until March 31. A Latin music-and-dance adaptation of “The Bacchae” by Euripides. $42-$45. Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, and Sunday at 4 pm. Thalía Spanish Theatre, 41-17 Greenpoint Ave., Sunnyside.
Noises Off with Samuel French Inc., until March 31. Remaining performances are March 29 at 8 pm and March 31 at 2:30 pm. $20. Maggie’s Little Theater, St. Margaret Parish Hall, 66-05 79th Pl., Middle Village.