The Most Fun, but Most Challenging Genre in Music:
An Interview with Lon Ivey at the AirTrain Jazz Festival
Last Thursday, the Airbar at the JFK AirTrain terminal offered an escape from the LIRR station’s typical chaos. Travelers and businessmen slowed their rushing steps to stop and listen to the sounds of Lon Ivey’s 4th Millennium Band. The third annual AirTrain Jazz Festival hosts jazz artists on Thursday every week through May. Lon Ivey’s band is made up of musicians who have lead groups of their own and performed with top artists spanning the entire globe. Our World on Sutphin had the opportunity to interview the talented band leader Lon Ivey.
Vocalist, drummer, and band leader, Lon Ivey, has been practicing his art for about thirty years, getting his start in music by singing and playing piano at a young age. His passion for percussion blossomed when his father took him to a concert where a man named Max Roach was banging the drums. The 13-year-old Lon Ivey was inspired by this fantastic drummer who was “one of the guys who changed the whole dialogue in music” according to Ivey. After the concert, Lon Ivey describes telling his father to “get rid of this piano and clarinet, and get me some drums!” He finds truth in the notion that “we stand on the shoulders of giants,” and Max Roach was one of them for Ivey. Other influential figures for Lon Ivey were his teachers like Tony Williams, Roy Brooks, Walter “Baby Sweets” Perkins. He says “you also have got to love Buddy Rich, Bobby Mason, Steve Gadd—there’s so many great musicians, and I’m considered one of the best in my field.” His lively performance on the drums and vocals was evidence of his experience and standing in the world of music. Lon Ivey now has students of his own and teaches them about the deep roots of jazz music which stretch back into the blues rhythms that originated from West Africa.
Though the AirTrain Festival centers on Jazz, Lon Ivey takes pleasure in playing many different styles of music, including R&B, Hip Hop, Funk, Metal and Classic Rock. He’s also been playing contemporary gospel as a drummer at the First Baptist Church of Glen Cove (attended by Grammy award-winning singer, Ashanti) for five years. Despite his love for playing everything, his opinion on jazz is that it’s “the most fun, because it’s the most creative.” Apart from it being the most fun, he mentions that it’s the most difficult kind of music to master. His explanation is that “jazz is a discipline. There are some definite ensembles you play together in a group, but its variations on a theme. You take a core theme and you improvise around that core, central idea. That’s really what makes it so great, and so challenging. You almost have to sculpt air. When you play pop music, or heavy metal, you play a repetitive form. The difference in jazz is that it allows you to completely deconstruct and reconstruct the piece of music. No other style of music does that.”
With hit movies like “La La Land” bringing up the discussion of jazz music’s relevance in our society, it spurs the question: Is jazz dying? Does it need to be saved? Lon Ivey’s response is “I don’t think so,” and continues to explain, “Jazz has always traditionally had a smaller audience, but a very loyal audience. Most of the major universities have jazz pedagogies. I teach at a school called mind builders in the Bronx, affiliated with Julliard and JALC. So jazz is not dying—we would like to see more outlets for it, of course, and we play a lot of it.” Another factor that may contribute to the difficulty of being a jazz musician and the perception that the craft is dying is that it isn’t as easy to earn a living by playing jazz music. Even when a musician plays as much jazz as they do R&B, funk, or gospel, a greater reward is usually offered to those who play the latter.
Lon Ivey’s 4th millennium band will be playing events all over the city. They often play festivals like the AirTrain Jazz Festival and the past eight Fort Green Jazz festivals in a row. He plays with four other groups as well, and you can catch him playing venues such as Cleopatra’s Needle in the city, and other locations in the outer boroughs. There’s an open mic Jazz series at Rustik on 478 Dekalb Avenue every first Tuesday of the month where Eric Fraizer, who was on the conga drums with Lon Ivey’s band at the AirTrain Festival, has played with Eric Fraizer’s Trio for 12 years.
These are only a few of the wonderful jazz events you can attend when you’re in need of a little relaxation after a long day. Mark your calendars, because the next AirTrain Jazz Festival will take place from 6pm to 7pm on Thursday October, 19th, and it’s an event you won’t want to miss.
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.