Astoria resident Carol Sudhalter placed ninth in the 2012 jazz readers’ poll by DownBeat magazine, the genre’s go-to bible of all things jazz, in the category of International Best Flutist.
“It feels like a birthday gift for a big birthday coming up in January,” Sudhalter said. “It feels great to get this kind of recognition after a life of working reasonably hard on my craft.”
Sudhalter began playing the piano at age 7 and then picked up the flute her senior year of university as a biology major at Smith College, which she later dropped to become the first student at the college to graduate with a major in jazz. And as if two instruments were just not enough she learned the saxophone when she was 32.
She played alongside the late Tito Puente, the Latin jazz star and salsa musician, in the first all-female Latin band, Latin Fever, at the 1978 Salsa Festival at Madison Square Garden. She often tours in Italy and has released albums under an Italian label.
Here in Queens she founded the Astoria Big Band, for which she plays baritone saxophone and has received over 25 grants.
Sudhalter uses some of those funds, awarded by the Queens Council on the Arts, to put on performances in the borough with a rotating group of bandmates. One series funded by these grants celebrated octengenarian jazz musicians. In April the band played with musician and composer David Amram, 81, who hung out with Beat Generation icons such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.
Coming up in another series, the Big Band, with 16 members this time around, will play at Steinway Reformed Church, at 41 Street and Ditmars Boulevard, on Saturday, Dec. 1 at 3 p.m.