July 7, 2015 By Michael Florio
A Jackson Heights resident is launching the first ever Jackson Heights Jazz Festival this summer.
Joe Knipes, 45, a professional jazz musician and long time Jackson Heights resident, is hosting performances and a one-day jazz academy over two weekends.
The first event kicks off on July 25th, with the second on August 2nd.
Knipes decided to start the festival since he believes that the neighborhood has plenty of talented musicians. He said it is hard to quantify a number, but he knows more that 10 jazz musicians who live in the neighborhood, including Antonio Sanchez, who composed the music for the movie Birdman.
“Someone has to bring them all together and showcase the musicians Jackson Heights has to offer,” he said.
The neighborhood is often credited for its restaurants and diversity, Knipes said, but not its musicians.
“So many musicians call Jackson Heights home but have to go elsewhere to play,” he said.
The festival is set to take off on July 25th, with a Jazz workshop, hosted by the New York Jazz Academy and Javier Arau, a professor at the academy.
The workshop is scheduled for 3 pm at the Jackson Heights Library, located at 35-51 81st Street.
The workshop will be an introductory course for audience members and will discuss how jazz players improvise while performing. Following the workshop, Arau will perform for those in attendance.
“We are unsure just how many people will show up here, but we can seat 90 and it would be terrific to fill up all the seats,” Knipes said.
The event will continue that evening, when Knipes and fellow Jackson Heights resident Ed Fuqua team up for a Jazz guitar and acoustic bass duet performance. The performance will be held at Espresso 77, located at 35-57 77th Street, at 8 pm.
Knipes expects the café to fill up, as there is limited seating. However, he said people should still be able to get in to see the show.
The festival will continue the following weekend on August 2nd, with a concert by Japanese jazz musician Daisuke Abe and his band, UoU. The concert will be at the Playstreet Stage in Travers Park, at 4 pm.
“I saw UoU last year and they are just amazing live,” he said. “Abe is a great guitarist and it will be a great showcase to the community.”
Aba recently moved to the neighborhood, according to Knipes.
Knipes said he expects more than 200 people to attend the performance.
Knipes, who has lived in Jackson Heights for the past 15 years, has been playing professionally for 25 years.
His aim is to get more into the production side of the business and to direct events.
His goal is to expand the festival next year, where it will be held at more venues. He also hopes to have Sanchez perform next year.