The Staten Island Jazz Festival returns for its 22nd annual music marathon

Anyone can throw a jazz concert, but you know you’re doing something special when the monster players are in the audience as well as on stage.
Just last week, Universal Temple of the Arts co-founder Sajda Ladner got a phone call from Rob Hamilton, who wanted to purchase tickets for her 22nd annual Staten Island Jazz Festival. Hamilton, an S.I. resident, is more than a fan — he’s the former drummer for soulful jazz chameleon Nina Simone.
"I asked him if he knew Leopoldo Fleming, who is on our program this year," says Ladner. "Leopoldo played with Nina Simone as well. Bobby said yes, but Leopoldo — who is a percussionist — came after him."
Ladner, whose late husband Edward Curtis Ladner founded UTA with her, has long demonstrated her knowledge of jazz history with this annual event, which again features notable acts and workshops for enthusiasts and aspiring musicians. Staten Island-grown ensembles like WaFoo and Queen Tipsy get to trade riffs with NYC veterans such as bassist Bob Cunningham, who’s composed and toured with Yusef Lateef, not to mention jammed with Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Sun Ra, Art Blakey and Freddie Hubbard.
"You are certainly influenced and inspired by playing with new people," says Cunningham, 74, who drove his old Pontiac and his double bass from Cleveland to join the New York City jazz scene in October 1960. "And that inspires you to reach for higher places. It feeds your creativity."
Sponsored by the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, the S.I. Economic Development Corp., Con Edison, Richmond County Savings Bank Foundation, state Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn) & Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D-North Shore).
When: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Oct. 17.
Where: The Music Hall at Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, 1000 Richmond Terr., Livingston.
Tickets: $25 for adults, $10 for seniors and children in advance; $30 and $15, respectively, at the door. All workshops are $10 and the panel discussion is free.
More info: Call 718-273-5610 or visit
The schedule:
11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Workshops for kids and adults of all ages.

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