ST. PETERSBURG — The Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association celebrates the life and legacy of the great Al Downing, beloved treasure of St. Petersburg, with a tribute concert on Sunday, Aug. 6, from 2-4 p.m. at the Palladium Theater, 253 Fifth Ave. N.
Meet special guests, members of Al Downing’s family and friends, who will be sharing personal reflections on the life of Mr. Downing.
The concert features the Al Downing AllStars, a band founded by Al Downing. Tickets are $25 for general admission, $30 the day of and $40 reserved.
Downing (1916-2000) was legendary to those who remember the golden age of jazz in St. Petersburg. Piano talent and a desire to perpetuate jazz among young people everywhere were two qualities he possessed from the time he was a young man in his hometown of Jacksonville.
He formed his first band in high school, pursued music throughout college, and organized music programs at Gibbs High School when he moved to St. Petersburg in 1939. Downing served with the Tuskegee Airmen before leading the 613th Army Air Force Band in Tuskegee.
When he retired in 1961 as a major, he went back to school for a master’s degree in music before returning to St. Petersburg. He taught at Gibbs High School and then for 20 years at St. Petersburg Junior College.
Downing was recognized as an Ambassador of Jazz by the Clearwater Jazz Holiday Foundation; he was named Tampa Bay’s Favorite Artist by “Players Magazine” and was given the key to St. Petersburg for outstanding community service in 1983. Downing was awarded the Friends of the Arts award from the Pinellas County Arts Council; in 1984, he received the Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major for Justice Award from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and in 1996, he was inducted into the St. Petersburg Downtown Hall of Fame.
He formed the Al Downing Florida Jazz Association. In 1989, it merged with the Tampa Bay Jazz Society and has existed as the Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association, Inc. ever since.
Downing died in 2000, but his outstanding reputation as a performer, educator, and humanitarian continues. To honor him, Perkins Elementary School for the Arts and International Studies dedicated its theater to his memory in 2001.
In 2004, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast placed his likeness in the role models mural in their newly renovated historical Royal Theater Performing Arts Center.
The Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association is a 501c3f non-profit organization. Contact mypalladium.org to purchase tickets.