Bronx jazz musician selected for All-Stars concert at historic Queens venue

Pelham Bay resident Frank Bergamini was recently chosen to perform in a highly selective jazz concert in Queens.
Pelham Bay resident Frank Bergamini was recently chosen to perform in a highly selective jazz concert in Queens.
Photos courtesy of Flushing Town Hall

Whether it is playing guitar, jamming on the saxophone or singing, Pelham Bay resident Frank Bergamini loves music. He was recently chosen to perform in a highly selective jazz concert in Queens.

On July 10, Flushing Town Hall, a Smithsonian affiliate, was scheduled to host its fourth annual Jazz Jam All-Stars Concert and honor the musicians who regularly attend its monthly Louis Armstrong Legacy Jazz Jams. The event celebrates the year’s most outstanding jammers based on their musicianship and dedication to the monthly Louis Armstrong Legacy Jazz Jams.

Unlike the regular Louis Armstrong Legacy Monthly Jazz Jams where any musician is welcome to participate and play, the Jazz Jam All-Stars concert features only selected invited musicians.

“Frank Bergamini is not only a neighbor of mine in Pelham Bay, but also an incredible sax player and singer,” said Bronx resident Gabrielle Hamilton, who is Flushing Town Hall’s director of education and public programs. “He joins us each month at Flushing Town Hall’s Jazz Jams. I’m thrilled that Frank was chosen as an All-Star to perform on July 10.”

Frank Bergamini, a retired consulting engineer, sees the jam sessions at Flushing Town Hall as a “lifesaving hobby” and a great way to socialize.Photo courtesy of Flushing Town Hall

Bergamini, 76, is a retired consulting engineer who sees the jam sessions at the historic Queens venue as a “lifesaving hobby” and a great way to socialize.

Falling in love with music

Born in Manhattan and raised in in the Gun Hill section of the Bronx, Bergamini fell in love with music at a young age. While his mom, Hilda, would often sing at home and his dad, Frank, played the accordion and mandolin, Bergamini developed his passion for rhythms and beats on his own.

He liked classic R&B artists like Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke. While none of his friends were “jazzophiles,” that did not discourage him from going to famous jazz clubs in Manhattan, such as the Village Vanguard or the Blue Note.

“Nobody was pushing music on me,” he told the Bronx Times. “It’s something I came across on my own. “That type (R&B) of music interested me because it was very danceable and sociable.”

While Bergamini enjoyed jamming and making music, he never envisioned doing it as a career. He did short stints in bands in his 20s and 30s, but working as an engineer paid the bills.

Bergamini was first introduced to the saxophone by one of the partners at his engineering firm Lester Davis. Bergamini could play the guitar and sing, but felt most at peace when jamming on the sax.

“There’s this kind of freedom that once you know the piece of music you can play it the way you want to play it,” he said. “I love all the instruments. I really wish I could play all of them. The saxophone is the easiest of all the instruments to get into.”

‘A really great experience’

Bergamini heard about the Flushing Town Hall and about six or seven years ago decided to go check it out. He was originally just a part of the audience, but was enamored with the atmosphere and afterwards, decided to participate.

Since then, he has been there every month and this summer was his second time performing in the concert.

“It’s one of the safest environments for a musician to try out something,” he said.

Bergamini said the jam sessions each week can be “intimidating because everyone wants to be better than the other guy.” But ultimately there is not only great music, but a unique experience he never felt anywhere else, he said.

When COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the world, Bergamini left the engineering field and focused on music.

“This has always been a hobby for me and now that I’m retired it’s become a little bit more than a hobby,” he said.

Over the years, Flushing Town Hall has become a second home for Bergamini. He has made friends with the performers and looks forward to seeing them each week.

“I thought the people I played with last year, they were just terrific,” he said. “Playing with the Flushing Town Hall is really a great experience.”

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