ST. ALBANS (jazz greats), Queens

New York City is a world mecca for tourism and entertainment. Throngs flock to Times Square every day of the year. Dozens of movies and TV shows are shot in NYC’s streets every week. At any given time, hundreds of musical performances and stage plays are being produced. But some of New York City’s entertainment meccas are little-known. St. George, Staten Island and Bayside, Queens could each claim status as actors’ colonies in the past, and early motion pictures were shot at Brooklyn’s Vitagraph Studios in Midwood.

When you think of jazz, you think of New Orleans, Chicago, Harlem, or even Greenwich Village. Queens doesn’t come immediately to mind. Yet, some of the greatest jazz and big band names were either born, spent a great deal of their lives, or died in Queens. On this page, we’ll show you just a few of them.

Remember, these are all private dwellings; be discreet when you view them. I won’t give exact addresses to protect the privacy of the buildings’ current owners.

Clarence Williams & Eva Taylor

Southern Queens’ ascendance as a mecca for jazz musicians began in 1923 when Clarence Williams, a successful musician and entrepreneur from Plaquemine, Louisiana, purchased a home and eight lots at 171-37 108th Avenue. Anticipating the increasing popularity of jazz in the north, Williams moved first to Chicago in 1920 and then to New York with his wife, singer Eva Taylor, in 1923. Desiring open spaces reminiscent of his upbringing in the Louisiana delta, Williams made his home in Queens. He would be the first in a lengthy line of jazz musicians to come to southern Queens.

Addisleigh Park is a small part of the larger St. Albans neighborhood in Queens. Addisleigh is mostly clustered in the named streets (unusual for Queens) located north, south and west of Farmers and Linden Boulevards.

There are precious few memorials to St. Albans/Addisleigh Park’s jazz heritage. This now-fading mural on the northern side of Linden Boulevard as it passes under the Long Island Railroad depicts many of the jazz and entertainment giants who resided here.

New Mural

In 2004, a new mural was painted replacing the old one, which had been chipping away for some time.

Billie Holiday

The south side of the overpass depicts St. Albans as it was when the railroad first arrived, with a chuffing steam engine.

The mural depicts baseball stars such as Jackie Robinson who made their home in St. Albans. BELOW: mural credits.


Having grown up in New Jersey, Count Basie arrived in NYC in 1923 and joined Fats Waller’s (see below) band as an organist in 1924. After playing with Benny Moten’s band, forging a new swing-based sound in Kansas City in 1927, he returned to the big apple in 1936 as the leader of the Count Basie Orchestra, which featured Lester Young and Herschell Evans on sax, trumpeters Buck Clayton and Harry Edison and vocalists Billie Holiday, Jimmy Rushingand Helen Humes. Their residence at the Woodside Hotel in Harlem inspired 1938’s “Jumpin’ at the Woodside.”

Count Basie’s home on Adelaide Road and 175th Street, St. Albans

In the 50s, Basie formed a new band that included the new sound of bebop and more blues-y elements. Basie’s pop hits include “One O’Clock Jump,” “Blue Skies,” and the #1 “Open the Door, Richard!” in 1947; in 1963 he enjoyed a Top Five album with Frank Sinatra, “Sinatra-Basie.”

Count Basie moved to the new neighborhood of Addisleigh Park in 1946.


“Among all of us who sing, Ella was the best”. — Johnny Mathis

“I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them.”
–Ira Gershwin

Ella Fitzgerald performed for 58 years, won 13 Grammy Awards and sold in excess of 40 million records. “The First Lady of Song” was born in Newport News, VA, and was orphaned young in life. She was discovered in an amateur contest sponsored by Harlem’s famed Apollo Theatre in 1934 and was soon the featured vocalist in Chick Webb‘s band.

Ella lived on Murdock Avenue between 179th and 180th Street. She moved to Addisleigh Park in the 1950s.

“I was delighted when Ella moved here. I could go up to her bar at her house and drink up all of her whiskey, and then go through somebody’s yard and go home.”­Illinois Jacquet

Ella enjoyed her first big smash in 1938 with “A-Tisket, a Tasket” and led Webb’s band for three years after his death in 1939. After enjoying dozens of hits on the Decca label, including “I’m Making Believe” in 1944, “I Love You For Sentimental Reasons” in 1946 and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Louis Jordan in 1949, Ella moved on the the new Verve label in 1955 and reinterpreted classics by Cole PorterDuke Ellington and Rodgers and Hart on albums featuring Nelson Riddle arrangements.

Ella’s famed ‘scat-singing’ technique is best heard on hits like “Smooth Sailing” in 1951.

MILT HINTON (1910-2000)

Milt Hinton, The dean of jazz bassists, “The Judge” was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi and moved to Chicago with his family in 1921. After working through the 1920s a s afreelance musician with such legendary jazz artists including Zutty Singleton, Jabbo Smith, Eddie South, Erskine Tate, and Art Tatum, he joined Cab Calloway‘s band in 1936, remaining with Cab for 15 years.

Milt Hinton lived in this house at 113th Avenue and Marne Place.Hinton was a Queens resident from 1950 until his death in 2000.

Striking out on his own in the early 1950s, Hinton went on to play on thousands of recordings and toured extensively, performing with such giants as Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby,Charles MingusJohn Coltrane, and even pop musicans such as Bette Midler and Paul McCartney.

Milt Hinton was also an educator and author, teaching at Hunter and Baruch Colleges. He also became an exhibited photographer, having taken over 60,000 images from his years on the road; many were published in his his book “Bass Line.”

THOMAS "FATS" WALLER (1904-1943)

Fats appears to be in an enviable position in this undated photo.

His derby tilted rakishly to one side, Fats Waller plinked the 88s and dotted his playful, high-spirited jazz-pop songs with bawdy ad-libs. Waller, one of the 1930s’ consummate crowd-pleasers, was born in Greenwich Village in 1904, was playing piano by ear at age six, and at his reverend father’s encouragement, learned violin, bass violin and organ.

Waller got his professional start at ‘rent parties’ (where admission was charged to help out with rent payments) and vaudeville. In 1927, he collaborated on his first hit show, “Keep Shufflin'”, and his next show, “Hot Chocolates” contained his first big hit, “Ain’t Misbehavin.'”

Waller went on to score and perform in dozens of shows. His biggest hit, “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie”, came in 1936, and he wrote and performed time-tested classics like “Honeysuckle Rose,” The Joint Is Jumpin,'” and “Lulu’s Back in Town.”


photo: Jeff Saltzman

Fats Waller was reportedly the first African American to live in Addisleigh Park. He resided in this house at Sayres Avenue and 174th Street. His home had a built-in Hammond organ and a Steinway grand.

Waller suffered from drinking and overweight problems his entire life. He also considered himself a serious musician, but racism in the period prevented him from realizing these ambitions. Soon after finishing work in “Stormy Weather” in 1943 he collapsed and died of bronchial pneumonia.

Speaking of “Stormy Weather”…

LENA HORNE (1917-)

Lena Horne was born in Brooklyn in 1917 and has been performing since she was a teenager. She danced and later sung at the Cotton Club beginning in 1933 and made her first recordings in 1937 with Teddy Wilson’s orchestra. She joined Charlie Barnet‘s orchestra in 1940, and while Barnet’s behavior was exemplary (he was one of the first white bandleaders to hire African Americans) she tired of the draining segregation and racism that was such a constant durng that time. Upon signing with MGM in 1940, she shrewdly had a clause written in that prevented her from depicting domestics, in a jungle native role, or other cliché images. Her appearance in 1943’sStormy Weather was a sensation; her rendition of the title song was her biggest hit and remains her signature song. Lena Horne left Hollywood in the early fifties to concentrate on her singing.

178th Street between 112th Avenue and Murdock Avenue. Like many of her contemporaries, Lena Horne resided here beginning in the 1940s.

During the Joe McCarthy era, she was blacklisted for her left-wing associations, but in 1956 she was taken off the list and resumed her career. She found great success during the sixties and seventies. In 1981, she appeared on Broadway in her own show,Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, which became the longest-running one-woman show in the history of Broadway. She continues recording to this day. Lena Horne lives in New York City.

Before we move on to other parts of Queens, let’s mention other artists who have also made St. Albans and Addisleigh Park their home…

Saxophonist John Coltrane(left), who along with Charlie Parker is regarded by many fans as the greatest jazz performer in history, lived on Mexico Street near Quencer Road; Mercer Ellington, Duke’s son, who took over the Ellington Orchestra after his father’s death and wrote Duke’s biography, lived on 175th Street near 113th Avenue; saxophonist Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Foch Boulevard near 171st Street; saxophonist Illinois Jacquet and his brother, trumpeter Russell Jacquet, in nearby houses on 179th Street near 112th Avenue; and saxophonist Earl Bostic, pianist/organist Wild Bill Davis, bassist Slam Stewart, trumpeter Cootie Williams, saxophonist Oliver Nelson, drummer James “Osie” Johnson, saxophonist Lester Young, and singer Rose Murphy also lived in St. Albans.





Categorized in: Neighborhoods Tagged with:

44 Responses to ST. ALBANS (jazz greats), Queens

  1. Maria says:

    I am relly interested in the history of the night club scene in the Jamaica , Southeast Queens neighborhood. My parents and their friends went to these clubs back in the 50s,60s and 70s.
    I would love to have more information about them. Or where can I find this info. It was such and exciting time for blacks back then but no one talks about it. Thanks

    • noel says:

      There was also the jazz club named CLUB RUBY, situated on Linden Blvdi in St. Albans. After my family moved to St. Albans in 1959 I attended Club Ruby one night in either 1960 or ’61 and photographed Charles Mingus who was performing there. I believe John Coltrane also played there the same night. (After Mingus played he came up to me and said thought he had seen me in Boston where he just left from playing a gig.) That information might be in his discography or bio to indicated when he played in St. Albans, Queens. Much later on there was another Queens spot where jazz was played. I had moved to Canada in ’64 and returned in the ’90s to visit a friend to took me there. The name of the place was CARMICHAELS, a restaurant with jazz on weekday nights in the basement.
      I hope this helps your curiosity.


      • cheryl says:

        actually Club Ruby was on Baisley Blvd across from the oldd barracks of ST. Albans Naval Hosp near Baisley & Merrick

        • Jewel Dantzler says:

          Question did James Brown lived in St. Albans, when I was much earlier in age I was always told that James Brown resided in the area, is this information I heard isn’t true or not. By the way my mom was a bartender at the BUCKET OF BLOOD Merrick and Liberty or Jamaica Ave.

          • Duane J Gourdin says:

            Yes James resided on Linden Blvd and about 175th st a couple of blocks to the Count’s home
            ———-the home had a moot built around the entrance——–polka dot kitchen

          • Tony Marrero says:

            Taking the bus to Jamaica, I always enjoyed passing by Mr Brown’s home. He also had an awning off the front door during the early sixties as I recall.

          • Blake says:

            The answer is yes at 175th place and linden Blvd.

          • Rich Greenidge says:

            Jewel, I used to deliver James Brown’s mail for one summer. He was in a middle of a divorce and his wife used to send him mail with no stamps in ’70. Later same year, I saw him, Bootsy and Catfish etc, up at Grand Forks ND, he was performing at ND University, near the airforce base, he was shocked to see me or and black folks up there. My buddies talked about the bucket of blood, but I thought it was NY Blvd or South Road, now that I can’t be sure of where it was I’ve never went there.

          • Anonymous says:

            On linden 174 or 175

        • Jewel Dantzler says:

          My mom and auntie talked about CLUB RUBY, mom use to walk from the club feeling good they call it then, no one would bother you, the men will take off their hats and say hello, they even took their hats off when they pass a church in the neighborhood, how sweet it must have been back then, the thought of being who you were back then, BLACK with dignity and style, how sweet is was back then among the people African American. This is one of the reason why it so pricey there in St. Albans, there were only a few people I knew who can afford to live there. They were legends who made these homes historical area in which are still standing today.

      • Tony says:

        CARMICHAELS, a diner owned and operated by an African American family was located on New York Blvd (today the name was changed to Guy R. Brewer Blvd) at Foch Blvd. in Jamaica NY. It was opened through the 1990’s. I’m wondering if there is a connection here with the place which played jazz in the basement way back in the day? Btw, when I worked in the area I’d have breakfast there daily. Eggs, bacon, toast, grits 🙂

        • I played at Carmichael’s located at 117-08 Guy R. Brewer Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens. They had jazz on Wednesday evenings. I also promoted jazz on Monday nights in 1970’s downstairs in basement. My first guest was Dwight Gassaway in 1970. Politicians, musicians, all met a Carmichael’s. King the owner was robbed one night and shot. While he recovered the place still ran. King was also one of the greatest Gospel sponsors. The Mighty Clouds o Joy and many others.

          • Gilda says:

            I went to Andrew Jackson High School with Dwight..what a talent..may he continue to RIP.

      • Gilda says:

        Noel..correction..Club Ruby was on Baisley Blvd. and 120th Avenue.

    • Anonymous says:

      My father was a musician…
      He also managed a club called “The Galaxy Supper Club”, and the .
      Village Door. He later on owned a bar called AP’s on linden,across the street from another bar called “The Castle Inn”…

  2. Gregory Jones says:

    You Forgot to add the Godfather of Soul. James Brown had a house on 175 Place and Linden Blvd. Brook Benton had a house on 175 Place and Murdock Ave. Roy Campenella lived on Murdock across from Lena Horne , Arthur Prysock live in Hollis but I’m not sure where,Finally LL Cool J lived in Hollis also.

  3. Rickey Zizzo says:

    Many thanks for the great article, I was searching for details similar to this, visiting have a look at the other articles.

  4. Many thanks for the great post, I was looking for details similar to this, going to visit the various other articles.

  5. Virginia E Brown says:

    Living in south Jamaica for the last 46 years. I like Black history. I past by these house just about 4-5 times a week.

  6. Brian Thomas says:

    My folks still live in that Neighborhood since 1968 and I got to meet some of these people as well as see all the homes growing up. My aunt Rita actually lived in Lena Horne’s old house till she moved to Long Island in her later years. Neighborhood is very rich in entertainment history. Part of the movie Malcom X was shot on those streets.

  7. And let’s not forget the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, who lived in St. Albans, in a mini-castle with a moat, yes, a moat, surrounding his home. And how about Brook Benton, who left one Rainy Night in Georgia to make St. Albans his home as well. As a St. Albans kid, I remember riding my bike through Addisleigh Park admiring the homes and being proud of all the famous, well-to-do Black folks who made it their home as well.

  8. TheGirl says:

    Very nice history, especially as I recognized some of the homes and streets that they are on.

  9. Emeric Thomas says:

    as a current resident of Addisleigh Park i am proud of its rich history and the fact that the area maintaining its rich history

  10. cheryl says:

    good article, the picture of the mural under the LIRR on Linden Blvd takes me back . I used to ride my bike from Sullivan rd , down Linden through Addisleigh to piano teacher who lived around the corner from Count Basie. We used to peek through the fence to get a glimpse of Basie or his family who always were friendly to us . We were of course from the “other side of the tracks”- but we all lived in St Albans!

  11. Kathryn Lawrence says:

    St. Albans was my hood many years ago 1958 – 1971. I started sing professional at the age of 15 years old. I was the lead singer of a very popular group call “The Barletts Contemporaries”. I met William and Catherine Basie on a professional level and hung out as a back up singer with James Brown as well. What memories. We had many hot night clubs back then. Bowman’s Showplace, The Galaxy, Club Ruby, The Flamingo Club and St. Albans Plaza, and The Linden Manor. St. Albans Plaza was a hot spot for the upcoming stars and so was The Galaxy where I witness Sam Cooke and Dinah Washington their fabulous shows!

  12. gary hill says:

    Mr. Barlett was my music teacher at Junior High School 192. Hope he’s doing well

  13. gary hill says:

    Also LL Cool J is from Saint Albans, so is Marcus Miller and former NBA great and now commentator Mark Jackson.

    I also heard Babe Ruth once lived in Saint Albans. Anyone else? Of course we can’t forget Hurricane Jackson – some may remember he was the first to pick people up from the bus-stops via his Hurricane Jackson vehicle at a lesser price than the bus and drive them to Jamaica Ave

    • M Ross says:

      I remember that car!

    • Tony says:

      Because of the work I was doing at the time, I had a chance to go into the Babe Ruth home. I went all the way upstairs aa well and I looked out the window envisioning the Babe and other famous people in that home at one time. I was so intrigued.

    • Anonymous says:

      Floyd Patterson lived in St. Albans for a brief moment also. He lived around the corner from me with his first wife, Sandra, and his mother in-law.

    • Fred says:

      Floyd Patterson also lived in St. Albans for a brief period.

  14. Marie says:

    I lived in Jamaica from birth until about 70 years of age. I am now 80+
    Thank you for that article. It really brought back many memories.
    I grew up on 108th Avenue. I do remember riding my bicycle with a friend, through St Albans, pointing out all of those houses where famous people lived. Also on 1008th Avenue, James P. Johnson, a famous Jazz pianist,lived in the next block from me, across from Clarence Williams and His wife Irene (stage name,Eva Taylor).
    Thanks again for good memories.

    • Thanks for mentioning James P. He was arguably the first jazz pianist, and Fats Waller’s teacher. Composed the music for The Charleston. Hank Duncan, another stride pianist, also lived nearby.

  15. Deborah says:

    I lived in St. Albans since I was 7 and moved to SC. I would love to have a print of the St. Albans Mural under the RR . Is there anywhere I can purchase a print?

  16. Lisa Prichard says:

    When I was young we lived on 197th and Murdock and then 111th and Farmers. Count Basie used to pay us quarters to swim in the pool with his daughter who had Down’s syndrome. My uncle Clarence (Benny) Moten who played the bass fiddle for all those greats used to visit and talk of them. He lived in Bayside. I remember watching them rehearse at the Metropole Cafe in Manhattan. My friends and I were young activists in 1969 and painted THE ROCK on Farmers. I understand it’s still maintained.

  17. Denise Faustina says:

    I recall Ernestine and Wesley Parrott ( early participants in the civil rights activism and struggle ) . They were the neighbors and lived across the street from the musician Frank West. Mr.West worked and collaborated with other musicians ; including Roberta Flack and The David frost show.

  18. Coral says:

    Was there a night club on Merrick accross from Saint Benedicts RC Church? I guess near where Gloria Jackson’s dance studio was? My mother says she heard Coltrane play there in the winter of 1961

  19. I also worked in a jazz club called “The Village Door” which was a junction point and it attracted lots of great musicians. I was there in 1970’s and 1980 with my Jazz Trio. People like Arthur Prysock would drop in and sit in with my trio. Tom Brown,trumpet, Jimmy Buxton, trombone, Walter Perkins,drums, Doug Gould, drums, Jimmy Nottingham, trumpet, Roy Elderidge, trumpet, and David W. Jackson, bass, Winkie Alvin Flythe on sax. Bross Townsend, piano, and many others. They had Chinese Food and Jazz! 163-07 Baisley Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens 11434.,
    Folks would stop by and sit in and then walk to Carmichael’s dowbstairs in basement for more jazz.

  20. Barbara DeYounge-Ezell- of JamFam says:

    Thank you for this awesome history about all these Great Jazz Legends.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.