2020 has certainly been a life-altering, challenging year, but Freddy Allen is getting by with a little help from his friends.

The 50-year-old Davenport jazz pianist and singer has been a professional musician for 37 years, performing all over the globe. Spending

Allen performing at the Grape Life, 3402 Elmore Ave., Davenport.

most of his career in Chicago, Allen moved to Davenport three years ago to be close to family and become a part of the vibrant music scene in the Quad-Cities. He hopes to travel and tour with his music again as soon as the pandemic is over.

On Saturday at 7 p.m., Allen is launching a series of online concerts, “Freddy and Friends,” where he and some of his favorite musical colleagues will perform from an empty venue, streamed live from Facebook, and all tips will be shared equally among the performers.

“Knowing the cold weather that’s coming with fall and winter, we’ll be very limited in indoor performances. Over the summer, I could play outdoors,” Allen (who makes his living as a full-time musician) said this week.

“Also with the Covid numbers being so high in Iowa, we’re scared. I am,” he said. “I am very, very cautious. I wanted to create something, we could do this online, to help all of us, to perform and bring good live music to our listeners, and they could stay inside in the comfort of their homes. We could still make some extra money through virtual tips.”

Allen will start the series from the historic Hauberg Estate in Rock Island, with drummer Josh Duffee and tenor saxophonist Neal Smith. There will be no in-person audience, and the two venues in the series are paid a nominal fee to open their doors during off-business hours. Allen last played a livestream jazz brunch at Hauberg in August.

Manny Lopez is a longtime jazz trumpeter, who plays diverse styles in the area.

The schedule for the rest of the series is:

  • Nov. 1 at 2 p.m. — The Grape Life, Davenport, with Freddy Allen (piano & vocals), Chris Castle (vocals) and Josh Duffee (drums).
  • Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. — The Hauberg Estate, with Freddy Allen (piano & vocals), Manny Lopez (trumpet) and Josh Duffee (drums).
  • Dec. 6 at 2 p.m. — The Grape Life, with Freddy Allen (piano & vocals), Chris Castle (vocals) and Josh Duffee (drums).
  • Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. — The Hauberg Estate, with Freddy Allen (piano & vocals), Neal Smith (tenor sax) and Josh Duffee (drums). Hoping to have some surprise guests to help make this a special holiday show.

The music of the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s has been a major part of Duffee’s life for the past 20 years as he’s lived out his dream of being a professional musician. A local favorite, he thrills audiences with a special flair and knowledge of traditional jazz, especially that of Bix Beiderbecke.

Smith is perhaps best known as a founding member, composer, arranger, and performer with the klez-punk quartet The Kabalas. He’s now better known for playing live jazz while recording for film and television in his home studio.

Daughter of Q-C polka band leader Dick Castle, Chris Castle has been singing around the Q-C since the early ‘80s. In 1993, she became the featured female vocalist in the Top Five band, affording her the opportunity to perform with some of the Quad-Cities’ finest musicians. Of late, Chris has been performing with Troy Rangel and Friends. She is a member of Quad City Singers, a vocal jazz ensemble, and you can also see her from time to time on stage.

Chris Castle is a veteran Quad-Cities singer.

Lopez has been playing trumpet in and around the Q-C area for over 50 years.

He plays all styles of music — classical to jazz – and performs in musical groups ranging from duos to big band.

For a number of months, Allen was working to earn money by doing Facebook livestreams from his home twice a week — Sunday brunch at 10:30 a.m. and Tuesday nights at 8, but he’s scaled that back to every other week.

“Everybody’s been very generous, I have truly been blessed,” he said. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic, so many people are out of work. There are people still working, they want to help, and have been generous.”

“The weather has been nice, people are getting out more, people have been going out for dinner,” Allen said of playing at some outdoor restaurants. “Sitting outside, it worked really well for me in the height of Covid. With the cool weather, I think we’re going to get back to that a little more, people stuck inside, as we get into fall weather.”

He and Duffee and Smith were formerly regular performers for the Hotel Blackhawk’s Sunday jazz brunch in the lobby, until things were shut down in March.

Josh Duffee is a jazz drummer, teacher and historian.

Allen and Duffee returned to play one in June, but they stopped after that because of the crowds in the lobby.

“I wasn’t 100 percent comfortable doing it anyway, in the lobby people were coming in and out, people weren’t wearing masks,” Allen said, noting Smith has “been very careful, very selective about indoor playing.”

He and Smith played at an outdoor wedding in July, but said he’s had six other weddings canceled this year.

“The Grape Life is the only place I play indoors in the Quad-Cities,” Allen said. “I walk in with a mask, take it off when I perform. Some people do wear one and some don’t. I do what I’m comfortable with. I have not been out to eat.”

“At the Grape Life, people are spaced out, and I’m far away enough from them,” he said. “They’re very good about keeping people from the stage without wearing masks, to approach with a mask.”

Allen and Smith will perform a regular date Oct. 24 at 8 p.m. at the Grape Life. Keeping the integrity of the music and genres, they will bring to new life to the works of Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and many more.

Neal Smith first made his name as Nervous Neal in the klezmer-punk band The Kabalas.

As musicians have really been struggling during the pandemic, so have venues like Hauberg and Grape Life.

“It’s truly been affected. With Hauberg, they host a lot of events, with weddings, receptions, and big events, and so many have been canceled,” Allen said. “They’re struggling to keep their doors open and the lights on. The Grape Life has been affected, they have cut back on their music. People are just not going out like they used to.”

He’s arranged sponsors for each of the Facebook Live series, where a donation of $125 will give each sponsor two special-request songs performed on their night of sponsorship, and numerous mentions during the performance.

This Saturday, the guys will do the music they love, from the ‘20s to the ‘50s, including lots of standards, traditional jazz, and music from the Great American Songbook. The video for each in the series will be left up on Facebook for 48 hours after the livestream, and any remaining tips will be split evenly, Allen said.

The first performance is being sponsored by Lito Gatdula and Chip McCauslin (Chicago friends of Allen), who are promoting their rental condo in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. “This fantastic two-bedroom condo has all the amenities and comfort for a luxurious vacation in the sun,” Allen said.

You can check it out at https://www.facebook.com/PuertoVallartaMexicoCondoRental/.

Freddy and Friends will present five online concerts through December.

Allen also is performing at a charity event Nov. 7 at the Redstone Room in Davenport, for the DeLaCerda House in Rock Island.

“This is their big gala,” he said. “They’re building us a plexiglass cage to perform in. It will be a very small crowd, ticketed audience.” He’ll perform with Duffee, Smith and Castle.

The mission of DeLaCerda House, Inc. is to provide housing, advocacy services and progressive case management for persons with HIV/AIDS.

It’s named for Jim DeLaCerda, a Muscatine native and nurse practitioner, who worked with AIDS patients at Cook County Hospital from 1984 to 1990 and was the first coordinator of the AIDS unit when it opened there in 1989. In 1990, he became nurse manager of the AIDS unit of Davies Medical Center in San Francisco.

Freddy Allen is a Chicago native, and jazz pianist who’s performed around the world.

DeLaCerda moved to Rock Island in early 1993, to be close to his family and friends as he was dying from AIDS. He died in May of 1993 at the age of 46. His colleagues remembered him “as real fighter, especially for other people’s rights. He wanted society to see AIDS and the people with it in a more logical and rational way.”

The last performance of the year for “Freddy and Friends” will feature multiple generous sponsors, who donated $600 for performers. Allen hopes to have all five performers at Hauberg, socially distant.

“We’ll do kind of a holiday spectacular,” he said. “Right before the holidays, it will be much needed by everybody. Everybody been so generous, so kind. We all  need music, we need art, we need laughter, just to get through this.”

Allen may continue the series in January, depending on how they go. For the series, you can tune in on the artists’ personal Facebook pages, and virtual tips and gifts can be given at:

Venmo — Freddy-Allen-1
PayPal — fj88allen@yahoo.com

For more information, visit https://www.freddyallenmusic.com.

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Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.