“I’m a senior citizen, I won’t say my age,” acclaimed jazz musician Carol Sudhalter said with a laugh, “and I wonder what I will do when I’m 80. Then I look around at all these musicians still performing into their 80s.”
And so the theme “Octogenarian of Jazz” arose for a four-show jazz series, which begins Saturday.
Her band, Astoria Jazz Band, will play with guest of honor musician and composer David Amram, 81, at the Sunnyside Reformed Church at 7 p.m, April 21. The other shows will be on May 18, Sept. 16 and in early October. (Check the website for exact locations.)
So how does Amram stay energetic?
“It’s really good for our health to do what you love to do. That’s true with everyone and every line of work,” said Amram, who performs on stage with swathes of jeweled necklaces and an infectious amount of enthusiasm. He plays the piano, penny whistle and is acknowledged as one of the first musicians to improvise jazz with the french horn.
Sudhalter began playing the piano at age 7, the flute her senior year of college as a biology major at Smith, and the sax when she was 32. She will play the flute and sax at Saturday’s performance.
Also in the Astoria Jazz Band are Jack Davis of Flushing on the trombone, Eric Lemon of Jamaica on the bass, Doug Richardson of Manhattan on the drums and possibly on the 21st a guitarist.
Audience members of all ages can bring their instruments to participate in a show- ending jam session.
“Real music eliminates that age barrier,” Amram said. “My job is to encourage all the youngsters to hang in there. It can be very rewarding to spend a lifetime as an artist.”
Sudhalter received a Queens Council of the Arts grant to produce the series in the borough she has called home for about 30 years.
Throughout the years Sudhalter has actively brought jazz concerts to Queens parks.
“It’s a nice way to get the community involved,” she said.
Sudhalter and Amram met at the Cornelia Street Cafe in Greenwich Village where Amram lived for 30 years before moving to the small farm he now lives on upstate. Sudhalter originally went there to hear Amram play, and later joined him on stage.
A spot in the concert series cropped up and Sudhalter asked Amram to join.
“I automatically said yes. When I get a chance to do something with such a nice nature I do it without question,” he said.
Amram has shared the stage with big name stars ranging from Willie Nelson to Dizzy Gillespie, and shared cups of coffee with Beat Generation legends such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.
Amram worked with Kerouac on the Beat Generation-centric short film, “Pull My Daisy.” Ginsberg was a star performer in the film.
The Beat Generation began with a group of New York City writers in the 1950s. They inspired a subculture that encouraged travel and a nomadic, non-materialistic lifestyle; an interest in Eastern religions; as well as experimentation with drugs.
“We [Larry Rivers, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and Amram] were dubbed the executive board of the Beat Generation, but the reality is we were just sitting at a diner hanging out,” said Amram.
“One thing we had in common is we weren’t part of any club. We were just trying to be the best artists and people.”
Amram still embraces the nomadic ideals of the Beat Generation by visiting the world. Sudhalter also has the travel bug and makes annual six-week trips to Italy where she performs and teaches a “masters class,“ English diction for singers.
Astoria Jazz Band
When: Saturday, April 21, 7 p.m.
Where: Sunnyside Reformed Church, 48th Street/Skillman Avenue