Feb. 6, 2023 By Carlotta Mohamed
In celebration of Black History Month, Flushing Town Hall kicked off the first part of its ‘Black History Three-Part Trilogy’ series on Friday, Feb. 3 honoring the late Chuck Berry, and will continue to spotlight outstanding performers paying tribute to influential African American musicians, dancers and entertainers.
“I am very excited about the lineup of artists,” says Clyde Bullard, Flushing Town Hall’s jazz producer and curator for the Trilogy. “The music presentations are soulful tributes to Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, Al Green, Otis Redding, and music from a few of the greatest African American film soundtracks. There will also be an astonishing dance tribute to the Lindy Hop and dances from the Savoy Ballroom.”
Flushing Town Hall presented Part 1 of the Black History Trilogy with The Chuck Berry Rock & Roll Concert Party, featuring an energetic performance from premier vocalist and blues guitarist Keith “The Captain” Gamble in celebration of one of the founding fathers of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
A singer/songwriter, guitarist, and harmonica player, Keith “The Captain” Gamble’s heart and soul are rooted in blues music. He serves as a guest instructor with Jazzmobile in Harlem and guest artist for the LaGuardia Community College lecture series on the Blues. He is also the co-writer of ‘From the Root to the Fruit – A Chronicle of the Blues,’ a documentary film later staged as a musical production. The Captain has toured throughout Europe and to Zambia and Ghana, commissioned by the U.S. State Department, and he served as lead guitarist and male vocalist for ABC’s “The View” house band, the Mile High Club.
The trilogy continues with Part 2 on Friday, Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. with The Challenge to Defy Gravity.
Audiences will travel back in time to the 1920s Savoy Ballroom to celebrate the gravity-defying contributions of dancers Frankie Manning and Norma Miller, known for their famous Lindy Hop and air steps. Music director Frank Owens teams up with choreographer and dance historian Mickey Davidson to present a dance experience like no other. Audiences will learn swing-era dance moves at the 7 p.m. pre-concert workshop, which they can put into practice at 8 p.m. while enjoying a lively dance performance and concert with special guests Theara J. Ward, Music Director Patience Higgins, The Savoy Swingers, and Harvest Moon Hoppers.
Davidson is primary choreographer and director for Mickey D. & Friends, a group of dancers and musicians that explores and performs the interlocking relationship between music and dance. From 1993 to 2013 Davidson led the arts-in-education Okra Dance Co., presenting multicultural dance programs in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. She’s taught jazz dance and tap and has served as a visiting lecturer at Wesleyan University for seventeen years.
Davidson has been affiliated with Lindy Hop since 1985 when she started rehearsing with Norma Miller and her Jazz Dancers. Since Miller’s return to Las Vegas, Davidson has maintained the group under the name “Savoy Swingers.”
Davison teaches special Lindy Hop and Lindy-related workshops nationally and internationally and frequently partners with Lindy Hop legend Frankie Manning in workshops, live performances, and televised presentations. She was one of three choreographers for the European Tour of the Broadway production of Black and Blue. Davidson. sets and maintained the Swing and Blues choreography inherited from Mr. Manning.
The Trilogy concludes on Friday, Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. with Soul men: The Music of Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, and More. Extraordinary vocalist Billy Cliff will lead audiences through a fun and funky mix of cinema and soul music history, featuring the works of Isaac Hayes’ composition for Shaft, Curtis Mayfield’s soundtrack for SuperFly, and Marvin Gaye’s film score for Trouble Man.
Born in Brooklyn and raised in the Bronx, Cliff first emerged in the music industry as a background singer for famed vocalist Angela Bofill and platinum recording artist Freddie Jackson. He has also performed with Dianne Reeves, Will Downing, The Shop Boys, and David Byrne of The Talking Heads. He has toured as lead vocalist with the mega rhythm & blues pop group Kool & The Gang.
In-person tickets for each Trilogy performance are $15 or $12 for members, seniors, and students with ID. Flushing Town Hall is accessible by car, bus, train and foot – located a short distance from the 7 train – at 137-35 Northern Blvd., in Flushing. Access for wheelchair users and individuals with limited mobility is available.