Former Oscar Peterson drummer Alvin Queen, 67, has been denied entry to the United States by Homeland Security, based on a “run-in with the law” 50 years ago, forcing him to miss a performance at Jazz Meets France in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 15 at the behest of the French-American Cultural Foundation. The charges -- one a DWI, the other a minor drug offense -- both resulted in dropped charges.
The concert, for which Wynton Marsalis is Honorary Chairman and Smithsonian Institution secretary Dr. David Skorton is Master of Ceremonies, commemorates the centenary of the U.S. entry into World War I and specifically honors the Harlem Hellfighters (the 369th Infantry Regiment), composed mainly of African-American soldiers who served in WWI. (Perhaps ironically, the infantry and the 369th Infantry Jazz Band, also known as the Hellfighters, helped introduce American jazz to Europeans.)
“Since I posted the communique [on Facebook], I've received several offers of lawyerly help, notably from Oscar Peterson's lawyer in Los Angeles,” Queen's manager Jean-Pierre Leduc told Billboard in an email. “However, we know these matters move at a snail's pace unless one is a huge music superstar, therefore I doubt if this could be resolved before he was slated to go to the U.S.A. at the end of this month. Getting these things sorted quickly is usually only possible when the artist is a household name. It's really about money, not justice. I have a call in to Senator Charles Schumer's office, as he's in New York, which is also Alvin's birthplace.”