Collective Action and what it means for jazz in Queens – and jazz for you!

About a year ago, I began working with Marty Khan, a super cool and super wise man with 30-plus years’ experience in the jazz business as well as the author of the best jazz business book ever written, Straight Ahead. Marty’s ideas are simple yet powerful; they are so simple, in fact, that many don’t get what he’s trying to do, which is to create sustainability in the life of a jazz artist through logical steps, one of which is the concept of Collective Action.

For me, Collective Action comes in the form of the Queens Jazz OverGround. Together with trumpeter Josh Deutsch,  bassist Mark Wade, and drummer Brian Woodruff, the four of us meet regularly to pursue our mission of bringing more jazz to the borough of Queens – or, as I like to say, bringing jazz home to Queens. For Queens used to be – and continues to be – home to more jazz musicians than you would think.  From Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong to Jimmy Heath and James Spaulding (the latter two still residents of the borough), Queens is a jazz home.

There’s this long hallway that connects the AirTrain to JFK to the Long Island Railroad and ends at the Sutphin Blvd Subway Station. In this hallway, you will see numerous banners listing all of the jazz legends who lived in Queens at one time or another (or still do). There’s also a sign that says “Queens: Home to Jazz Legends” and also lists their names on the wall. (You can see a photo HERE.)

It is because of this Collective Action that we have some exciting news: less than one year into the start of the Queens Jazz OverGround, we are thrilled to be presenting an all-day jazz festival at Flushing Town Hall. There will be collage workshops for the kids; middle and high school jazz bands performing all day; improvisation workshops and rhythm section workshops; and concerts starting at 5 p.m. with the York College Jazz Orchestra and continuing with bandleaders from Queens.

The highlight of the evening will be the performance of Queens resident and Jazz Legend James Spaulding, a saxophonist and flutist who you’ve heard on recordings by Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, among others. We are beyond excited that he will be playing at our first ever jazz festival.

Did I mention that the entire event is free? We are generously supported by the Queens Council on the Arts, M&T Bank, Poets&Writers Inc., as well as too many individuals to list here.

I never could have done this by myself. Many thanks to Josh, Mark, and Brian, as well as to J.Walter Hawkes (our IT guy/resident trombonist) and Teri Wade (our fearless logistics leader). This is Collective Action at its finest. And we are having a blast; and are able to share this music that we love with you.

I do hope we see you there on April 27.




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Crawling into the 21st century…

Every January I tell myself, “this will be the year of blogging!” and every January SOMETHING comes up. Or I get overwhelmed.

This year’s excuse? My new web site.

I know, I know…a new web site? That’s good news, right? And YES, it IS good news. And Mary K Elkins did a FANTASTIC job on it, methinks. And now that the Mayan Apocalypse is behind us (though I hear there is an Inca Apocalypse on its way…) I am committed to getting. this. technology. thing. together.

It’s amazing what an age difference of a few years can make. My 31-year-old guitar student (ok, so he does work in computers) can build web sites with his eyes closed and one hand tied behind his back, while I sit here thinking, “if I type the wrong letter will the computer explode?!” and I walk away. It’s kind of like when I was a kid in Phys. Ed. and someone would throw the ball to me; instead of catching it, I would block its path by crossing both of my arms in front of my face and shrieking. As I enter my 40th year (the big birthday is October 27!) I realize that while it’s not that far away from 31, from a technology standpoint, it’s light years behind. But my student has graciously offered to help me. He is a very patient man.

Besides, it all boils down to this: “I can’t. I have to practice.” My mantra. Forever. Every once in a while I will see this sign posted randomly in some classroom or office when I am in Boston for my weekly teaching gig at Berklee College of Music, and it makes me feel like I’m home. So I’ll always gravitate to the guitar before anything else; I’ve been that way since 1985, why stop now?

But I’ll make more time for technology this year. That’s a promise; or a threat, depending on how you see it. Until next time,

Big Hugs,

p.s. As I tried to update my news page with this new post, I almost wrecked the entire programming of the page! Fortunately it didn’t allow me to. I need to be more careful…




Independent Music for the Holidays, Anyone?

Ah, December. It’s hard to believe that as I type this, we’re thick in the middle of the holiday season. Where did the time go? I think the older I get, the faster the time goes…

It was an amazing year. Teaching at Berklee has been super and I’m looking forward to the Spring semester, when I teach my first class, a Jazz Styles Lab. (This semester I had private students only. They were fantastic!)

This year also saw the release of “The Pirkei Avot Project, Vol. 1″, my CD of music composed to excerpts from an ancient collection of rabbinical wisdom. Thanks to the generosity of many, the project was partially fueled through RocketHub, a crowdfunding site that brings people together to support projects they believe in.

And with a new CD put out on one’s own label comes…boxes. Boxes of CDs. HUNDREDS of them.

At last count, I have released five CDs as a leader or a co-leader. Four of these five CDs are sitting in my closet, begging to be played on someone’s stereo. These CDs are:

amanda monaco 4 (2003 – with Jason Gillenwater, Fraser Hollins, Jeff Davis)
Intention (2006 – with Jason Gillenwater, Fraser Hollins, Jeff Davis)
I Think I’ll Keep You (2009 – with Michael Attias, Sean Conly, Satoshi Takeishi)
The Pirkei Avot Project, Vol. 1 (2011 – with Ayelet Rose Gottlieb, Daphna Mor, Sean Conly, Satoshi Takeishi)

And since ’tis the season for giving gifts, I’ve decided that I will sell these CDs at very special prices, autograph them, wrap them in festive paper, and mail them to you. Buy one CD for $8, two for $14, three for $18, four for $20. I accept PayPal at and also checks mailed to:

PO Box 1695
Long Island City NY 11101

Thank you for continuing to give me the opportunity to share my music with you. May your holiday season be joyous, filled with laughter, love, and peace.

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