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The Jazz Loft

Tom Manuel

Making Memories with Music, a special program for people with dementia and their care partners, returns to the Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington on Aug. 27 at 11 a.m. Facilitated by Marcy Rhodes, the morning will feature a performance by The Jazz Loft Trio — Tom Manuel on cornet and vocals, Steve Salerno on guitar and Keenan Zach on double bass. Admission is $5 per person. Popcorn and beverages will be served. Registration is required by calling 631-423-7610, ext. 0.

Burt Block, David Amram, Tom Manuel and jazz vibraphonist Harry Sheppard at last year’s festival. Photo from Tom Manuel

By Sabrina Petroski

Calling all jazz lovers! The Harbor Jazz Festival returns for its fifth year of smooth sounds from Aug. 15 to 19. Held at The Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Ave., Stony Brook, the festival is a fun way for music fans to celebrate jazz while surrounded by treasures of the past. 

“What’s unique about our festival is that it has a vintage, or retro, feel,” said Tom Manuel, the curator and owner of The Jazz Loft in an interview last Monday. “What’s really exciting is we have over 12 performers and they are some of the top internationally and nationally recognized talents,” he said.

Dan Pugach and his band will perform at this year’s Harbor Jazz Festival. Photo from Dan Pugach

Each night offers new acts to enjoy, with food and drinks available at the bar. The opening night ceremonies on Wednesday include The Art of Jazz: The Jazz Loft Trio with the Atelier Artists, as well as a special VIP Reception and Art Gallery opening at 7 p.m., showcasing the art of Frank Davis ($75). 

On Thursday, Israeli drummer and composer, Dan Pugach and his nine-piece ensemble will take to the stage at 7 p.m. with their original jazz music, as well as some covers of famous songs like “Jolene” by Dolly Parton. 

“This is our first time playing at the Harbor Jazz Festival, and our second time playing at the loft. I love interacting with the audience, and meeting new people,” said Pugach in a recent phone interview. “It always fascinates me that people will go out and sit through a concert when they don’t know the artist and don’t know what to expect, but they’re just right there with you. It’s all about the music.”

The Matt Wilson Quartet will kick off Friday evening at the loft at 7 p.m. With the group’s improvisational style, known to challenge and entertain audiences, it will be a night of upbeat jazz tunes to remember. 

On Saturday there will be an all-day event, starting at 11 a.m. in front of the Stony Brook Post office. The Interplay Jazz Orchestra will start off the morning with its original compositions and arrangements written by members of the band. Following this will be the Warren Chiasson Quartet at 1:30 p.m. led by Chiasson himself, who has been regarded as “one of the six top vibraphonists of the last half century” by the New York Times. Next up will be the Nicki Parrott Quartet, featuring Houston Person at 4 p.m., Frank Vignola and his Hot Guitar Trio at 6:30 p.m. and the Bill Charlap and Warren Vache Duo at 9 p.m. There will also be a free children’s Instrument Petting Zoo at 1:30 p.m.

Steve Salerno performs at a previous festival. Photo from Tom Manuel

“The whole festival is a throwback to the old states of jazz festivals,” said Manuel. “When you come to the loft and walk through it, it doesn’t feel like every other museum. It has that charm that’s unique to the village, so when we were going outdoors we were trying to still maintain the same feel that people have at the loft.”

On Sunday, Mark Devine and Tom Manuel will perform at noon, followed by the Stony Brook Roots Ensemble at 3 p.m. To close the festival, The Jazz Loft Big Band will have a free concert in front of the Stony Brook Post Office facing the Village Green at 7 p.m. 

The business community will also be involved in the festivities, with special jazz-themed dinner menus and dishes being served at local restaurants including Fratelli’s, Sweet Mama’s and the Three Village Inn. There will be merchandise and vintage items available for sale at the Village Green on Saturday, as well as food and drinks. 

“[The Jazz Loft] is a very special place, especially because of where it’s located; it’s not on a busy street in the middle of the village. It is becoming a desired place for musicians to go and play, because everybody knows that the vibe is great,” said Pugach. “This is a spot where music lovers go to listen to great music.”

Individual concert tickets are $30 adults, $25 seniors and $20 students. Day passes are available for Saturday ($135 adults, $110 seniors and $85 students) and Sunday ($50 adults, $40 seniors and $30 students). The full festival pass (Wednesday through Sunday) is $250 for adults, $205 for seniors and $180 for students. Opening night reception tickets can be added on to other ticket purchases for a discounted price of $50. For more information or to find out about sponsorship and underwriting opportunities, call 631-751-1895 or email stmanuel@thejazzloft.org.

From left, Michael O’Dwyer and Annie and Stephen Healy enjoy last year’s event. Photo courtesy of TVHS

By Kyle Barr

If there’s anything that we know about the 1920s, it’s that the parties were wild. Despite, or likely because, of Prohibition, the music was loud and idiosyncratic as jazz came onto the scene, and the alcohol flowed as if by fountains into the expecting mouths of flappers and bootleggers alike.

Setauket’s Three Village Historical Society, in collaboration with The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook is hoping to bring that period of time back to life with the second running of their annual Prohibition Night fundraiser at The Jazz Loft next Thursday, June 14 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. The event, sponsored by the Montauk Brewing Company, will include snacks, wine, beer and raffles.

This time the TVHS is adding an extra layer of early 20th-century history with a new emphasis on the women’s suffrage movement and how that tied into a time of cultural revolution.

The fundraiser will feature memorabilia from the Women’s Suffrage Movement including this stamp from the collection of the Melville Family papers.

“You had this revolution with the women’s movement and the right to vote, and you had this revolution with the clothing, with flappers and the Charleston and the bobbed haircuts,” said Tom Manuel, owner of The Jazz Loft. “These were real renegade statements of society and culture, and its cool when you put them together.”

The Jazz Loft will have several items on display relating to women’s suffrage, including several articles, papers and artifacts housed in display cases as well as a mannequin fully dressed up in the class women’s suffrage garb with a large purple sash reading “Votes for Women,” courtesy of Nan Guzzetta of Antique Costumes & Prop Rental by Nan in Port Jefferson.

“[The movement] was really ahead of its time,” said Stephen Healy, president of the Three Village Historical Society. “It’s interesting to see if history is going to repeat itself or we will move on from here. The movement has been a longtime coming.”

That historical revolution collided with the cultural revolution of the 1920s, as many of the same women who campaigned for the women’s vote also stumped for the temperance movement. Suddenly, with the ban of the sale and consumption of alcohol in 1919, a whole new era of organized crime and mass criminality was born as the sale of alcohol eclipsed any decade before or after it.

“Everybody became creative with getting alcohol,” Healy said. “From everything with potato farmers out on the east end of Long Island and vodka creation, and I can’t imagine [the activity] between the water and the farms and the amount of backdoor distributing that was taking place on Long Island.”

The fundraiser will feature memorabilia from the Women’s Suffrage Movement including this “Vote Yes” stamp from the collection of the Melville Family papers.

But it wouldn’t be the 1920s without jazz, and Manuel said he has that covered. Manuel’s band, The Hot Peppers, will be performing live music straight from the jazz giants of the period such as Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Thomas “Fats” Waller and more.

“I think for us it really supports and makes a statement about who we are,” Manuel said. “Our mission is jazz preservation, jazz education and jazz performance. Any time we can take history and allow it to come to life, we served our mission.”

Last year’s Prohibition Night was supremely successful with sold out tickets and a packed room. Healy said he expects this year to do just as good or even better.

“It was a great success, it sold out, and it gave us some cross pollination between history and The Jazz Loft,” Healy said.

Manuel agreed that the event is the perfect blend of history and recreation. “Any time we collaborate with something in the community, it really solidifies the statement they say about jazz, which is that it’s all about collaboration,” he said. 

The Jazz Loft, located at 275 Christian Ave. in Stony Brook Village, will host the 2nd annual Prohibition Night: Celebrating 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage in New York State on Thursday, June 14 from  6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 adults, $20 seniors, $15 students. Period costumes are encouraged. To order, call 631-751-1895 or visit www.thejazzloft.org.

The Jazz Loft musicians and attendees jam at last year’s sensory-friendly performance at The Jazz Loft. Photo from Gillian Poole

For some, a musical performance can become a nuisance or even a nightmare with loud noises and bright lights.

Attendees at last year’s sensory-friendly performance at The Jazz Loft. Photo from Gillian Poole

It’s a problem the board of The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook village understand. Tom Manuel, president and founder of the venue, said since its opening two years ago, the board has wanted to do something to serve the community. Manuel said the board will achieve that goal May 19 when The Jazz Loft presents a sensory-friendly performance geared toward those with autism and special needs. He said the production will kick off future sensory-friendly workshops and more performances.

The venue will be able to achieve its goal due to a $5,000 donation from The Ann Schermerhorn Foundation, a nonprofit established after the death of its namesake. Manuel said community members can also help by going to The Jazz Loft’s website, www.thejazzloft.org, and clicking on the “Sensory Friendly Events” tab to sponsor an instrument to be used in the workshops.

Gillian Poole, whose 16-year-old son has autism, connected the Loft with the foundation, of which her father, Peter Allen, is executor. She had attended the venue’s Young at Heart performances with her mother who has dementia, and she appreciated the welcoming and inclusive environment.

“We thought it would be such a great way for my son and other children like him to listen to live music without being looked at or shushed,” Poole said. “Because he has his way, and other kids with autism all have their ways of enjoying and appreciating the things that they enjoy. It doesn’t always follow the norm of quiet and then clap at the end. They kind of express themselves when they’re excited and be loud and yell out and have trouble regulating their behaviors and noises.”

“We thought it would be such a great way for my son and other children like him to listen to live music without being looked at or shushed.”

— Gillian Poole

Manuel said there is a need for music and art programs for those with special needs in the community, especially for those who have aged out of public school. During the May 19 performance, the venue’s president and founder said musicians will play acoustic and softer than usual. The room will be darker than normal and a quiet room will be available downstairs if anyone feels overwhelmed and needs a break from the music. He said during the show audience members can walk around, stand by the musicians and dance at any point. He said not needing to conform like they would have to do at a usual performance could be a relief for parents and aides who sometimes feel that they have to restrain their child or patient.

The Jazz Loft had its first experience with a sensory-friendly show in November when the Nassau Suffolk chapter of the Autism Society of America hosted a sensory-friendly performance at the location featuring Loft musicians. Michele Iallonardi, assistant director with the society, said when NSASA organized the event she wasn’t sure at first how the children would react, but the kids enjoyed the music and parents were able to relax and talk to each other. She said she was happy to hear of The Jazz Loft’s plans, especially since all ages are included, as older children with special needs often have nowhere to go with many activities geared toward younger kids.

“It’s fulfilling a social need,” Iallonardi said. “It’s fulfilling just giving the kids a meaningful activity to do where most of our kids on a weekend are just home, they’re not doing anything. There just aren’t enough activities for them to do.”

“It’s fulfilling just giving the kids a meaningful activity to do where most of our kids on a weekend are just home, they’re not doing anything.”

— Michele Iallonardi

Laura Landor, director of education and community outreach at The Jazz Loft, said the upcoming performance will help the board figure out what the community needs as far as what types of workshops and at what frequency. She said the hope is to conduct group and one-on-one workshops.

“It’s not about what the Loft is going to do,” Landor said. “It’s about what we’re providing for our local community and family members that we think the services will be really beneficial for. It’s not going to be beneficial if the scheduling and services don’t meet their needs.”

Landor saw the success of sensor-friendly performances and workshops when she developed a program at Ward Melville High School more than 10 years ago. She said programs can include exploratory music, dancing and playing adaptive drums and hand chimes.

“My philosophy as a music educator is to open the doors to as many music lovers as possible,” Landor said.” “I don’t think music should be exclusive.”

Manuel said The Jazz Loft’s sensory-friendly services have been approved to be covered by major insurance plans. The May 19 performance is scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. Tickets are $5 per person. The Jazz Loft is located at 275 Christian Ave., Stony Brook. For more information, call 631-751-1895 or visit www.thejazzloft.org.

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Tom Manuel, left, owner of The Jazz Loft, and Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, third from right, along with local musicians look forward to the Swing into Spring! jazz festival to take place in Stony Brook village March 27 to 31. Photo from Kara Hahn's office

Mother nature may disagree, but the calendar shows spring has arrived, and Stony Brook village is planning to help Long Islanders celebrate.

Swing into Spring!, a jazz festival scheduled for March 27-31, is where Long Islanders can enjoy the music at village restaurants. Tom Manuel, owner of The Jazz Loft, where some of the concerts will be held, said the lineup of talent ranges from solo artists to two 17-piece big bands. He said a variety of styles and genres of jazz will be presented, including traditional, bebop, folk and emerging fusion. The festival was made possible by a county grant secured by Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket).

“It’s just exciting to think about spring and getting out,” Hahn said.

The legislator obtained the grant in the fall when there was extra money for cultural arts in the county’s hotel and motel tax fund. She said the cultural arts category of the fund is to enable ways to spur economic development through the arts. The project was included in the adopted 2018 Suffolk County operating budget.

“I had wanted to help The Jazz Loft and Stony Brook village,” Hahn said. “I’ve been trying to think of ways from an economic development perspective of using grant money that could help the businesses in the community.”

“The idea was to showcase musicians from varied points of the Island from both Suffolk and Nassau County.”

— Tom Manuel

Manuel said he was excited about the news of the grant, and after a few phone calls and a meeting with Hahn, presented the legislator with the idea of the five-day festival featuring jazz musicians from all over the Island.

“The idea was to showcase musicians from varied points of the Island from both Suffolk and Nassau County, and also to offer an educational component which will be our Wednesday workshop on jazz improvisation,” the venue owner said, adding the workshop would be followed by a jam session for all musicians of all ages and abilities.

Manuel said the festival will include performances by guitarist Steve Salerno, trombone player Ray Anderson, accordion player Rich Dimino, the Eddie Balsamo Quartet and more. In addition to appearing at The Jazz Loft and The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center, the musicians will play at Pentimento, Sweet Mama’s Family Restaurant, Lakeside Emotions Wine & Spirits and Three Village Inn.

Hahn hopes once jazz lovers visit Stony Brook for the festival, they’ll want to come back in the future to the shops and restaurants, and more Long Islanders will become familiar with The Jazz Loft and Manuel.

“I grew up in Stony Brook village so seeing what Tommy was able to do with The Jazz Loft — I know it’s been good for the village,” Hahn said.

Gloria Rocchio, president of WMHO, said she enjoys working with Manuel on projects and believes the festival will be good for the village.

“We do things with Tom all the time, and this is just another extension of how we collaborative so well together,” Rocchio said.

The WMHO president said on the night of March 28, barring no weather setbacks, there will be plenty of different things for visitors to do and see.

“People can actually stroll from one location to the other,” she said.

Manuel considers Stony Brook village a hidden gem, and said he believes collaborations like this festival bring out the best of what the area can offer.

“I hope that this event introduces people to our town that will not only enjoy it, but will come back again and again to experience all we have to offer,” Manuel said. “I am thrilled that Legislator Hahn has reached out to collaborate with The Jazz Loft, and that we can bring live jazz into so many of our restaurants and businesses.”

For more information on Swing into Spring!, visit www.thejazzloft.org or www.stonybrookvillage.com.

Tom Manuel of The Jazz Loft, right, shown with TVHS President Steve Healy, will be honored at the awards dinner on March 21. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

On Wednesday, March 21, the Three Village Historical Society will once again host its annual Awards Dinner honoring volunteers, local businesses, society members and area residents who have made significant contributions to help preserve the shared heritage within the Three Village area.

Among the honorees will be Nan Guzzetta of Antique Costume and Prop Rental by Nan Guzzetta of Port Jefferson, who has been chosen to receive the Kate Wheeler Strong Memorial Award in recognition of significant contribution toward the fostering of interest in local history and a fuller appreciation of the rich historical and cultural heritage of this community. Guzzetta has earned this award with her years of inspiration and guidance with costumes for society events, especially the Spirits Tour.

Eva Glaser a longtime member and volunteer will receive the Maggie Gillie Memorial Award for contributions by a member of the society in recognition of overall dedicated service and for significant contributions furthering the goals of the society. Glaser’s award is for her years of support to the society and as the co-chair and inspiration for the first Candlelight House Tour 40 years ago.

An interest in volunteering led Richard Melidosian to the Three Village Historical Society. Melidosian has been and continues to be a docent at the SPIES Exhibit and the Candlelight House Tour and a guide at the Spirits Tour and Founder’s Day. For that, he will receive the Gayle Becher Memorial Award in recognition of volunteer efforts to help the society by performing those necessary tasks that facilitate its efficient operation. This award honors volunteers whose work consists of loyal support repeated on a regular basis.

Rebecca Fear, a student at Ward Melville High School, is this year’s honoree for the R. Sherman Mills Young Historian Award, a prestigious award presented for contributions to the society by a young person. Rebecca and her family have volunteered at many events including Culper Spy Day, the Long Island Apple Festival, the Spirits Tour and the society’s annual Yard Sale.

Three community award certificates will be handed out this year. The first, for enhancing or restoring a building used as a commercial structure in a way that contributes to the historic beauty of the area, will be awarded to Thomas J. Manuel of The Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Ave., Stony Brook for the conversion of this historic building to a cultural center for music in the Three Village area. The second, for house restoration or renovation and ongoing maintenance and preservation in keeping with the original architectural integrity, will be awarded to Andrew and Kathy Theodorakis for their home at 242 Christian Ave. in Stony Brook. The third award, for ornamental plantings or landscaping that enhances the beauty of the Three Village area, will be granted to Charles Regulinski of 24 Dyke Road, Setauket.

The event, now in its 41st year, will be held at the Three Village Inn, 150 Main St., Stony Brook from 6 to 9 p.m.

A three-course dinner, which includes a Caesar salad with rosemary focaccia croutons, choice of entree (pan-seared salmon with baby spinach and beurre blanc sauce, seared breast of free-range chicken with haricot vert and saffron potatoes or sliced Chateau steak with red wine sauce with Yukon Gold potato puree and baby carrots) and an apple crumb tartlet with whipped cream for dessert, will be served. (Vegetarian meal available upon request.) The evening will feature a cash bar, raffles and live music by the Ward Melville High School Honors Jazztet.

Please join them in honoring these worthy awardees. Tickets are $65 per person, $60 members. To order, visit www.TVHS.org or call 631-751-3730.

From left, Steve Healy and Tom Manuel during a recent tour of The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook. Photo by Heidi Sutton
An evening of booze, jazz and dance

By Kevin Redding

For one glorious evening, The Jazz Loft on Christian Avenue in Stony Brook will transport local guys and dolls back to the rip-roaring time when big bands reigned supreme, a sea of flapper dresses whirled around the dance floor and booze was in high demand.

Presented by the Three Village Historical Society in collaboration with The Jazz Loft, the Prohibition Night fundraiser is a 1920s-set event on Thursday, Sept. 14 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. that encourages residents to dress in period clothes, mingle and dance to the sounds of the era and get a sense of what it was like to live in this area during one of the most exciting decades of the century.

From left, Steve Healy and Tom Manuel during a recent tour of The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook. Photo by Heidi Sutton

But unlike folks of the time who had to smuggle illegal alcohol into speakeasies, it’s no secret that beer and wine will be flowing at the event all night long as it’s sponsored by Montauk Brewery Company, representatives from which will provide raffles and tastings of its beers, including the Watermelon Session Ale. All proceeds will benefit the historical society.

The fundraiser will serve as a prequel of sorts to the historical society’s 23rd annual Spirits Tour on Oct. 21, dubbed The Spirits of Prohibition: Setauket of the Roaring ’20s, which will guide residents through life in Setauket and Stony Brook as it was during that decade. Continuing with Spirits Tours tradition, actors will be situated in various parts of the Caroline Church of Brookhaven and Setauket Presbyterian cemetery and portray local figures from the past who were involved in the suffrage movement as well as the smuggling and secret storage of alcohol.

“It’s such a fascinating time in history. The jazz clubs during that period, between the flapper dresses, the jazz music, and the romance of everything, could rival any hip hop club today,” TVHS President Stephen Healy said. “It’s fascinating how people got alcohol during this time. They would smuggle it in coffins and rum-running boats and out here we had a lot of farmers growing potatoes, a key ingredient in vodka. So we were actually a pretty good source.”

Healy added that because the event tackles an era that jazz music helped define, it was a no-brainer to collaborate with The Jazz Loft, a nonprofit the society president had wanted to work with for a while now, and its director Tom Manuel. With an added connection with the president of Montauk Brewery, he said it was a perfect fit.

“Those three themes matched up perfectly — the alcohol, the prohibition history and the jazz music,” Healy said. “It will be fantastic. We’ll have beer tastings, raffles and probably a walk around that night. While you listen to jazz music, you can either sit at the table and watch the show or mingle and learn about prohibition history, our society and the loft.”

Tom Manuel and Steve Healy with Manuel’s dog Cindy Lou in front of The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook. Photo by Heidi Sutton

Manuel, who founded The Jazz Loft in May 2016 as a hub for jazz preservation, education and performance, is not only providing the venue for the event at no cost but the entertainment as well.

With trumpet in hand, he and his Firehouse Five band will be performing a program of music that spans the decade, including Louis Armstrong’s “Indiana,” “I’ve Found a New Baby,” and “I’m Confessin’” and early Duke Ellington and Django Reinhardt among others. The band, consisting of trumpet, guitar, bass, drums, cornet, saxophone and trombone, will even be performing on period instruments acquired from the loft.

“Jazz has always been the soundtrack to what was happening in our country, so I love that we could do something like this and transport people back in time for a night and provide a very clear picture of what was happening back in the day,” Manuel said.

Recalling an interaction he once had with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns about the ’20s, Manuel said, “He was talking about this and said, ‘It’s interesting how anytime you tell people they can’t do something, everybody wants to do it and it immediately becomes popular.’ So in the ’20s, it was you can’t drink, you can’t wear that, you can’t listen to this music, and so of course what does everybody do? They go absolutely crazy over all this and all they want to do is hear jazz, dance, drink booze and have a great big party. I think the time’s extra special for that naughty factor.”

Manuel said the event was especially important to him because it gave his nonprofit the opportunity to collaborate with another, which is part of the loft’s overall mission. “It’s so essential that we nonprofits work together because we can’t do it on our own,” he said. “I don’t care how successful you are; we are all in the arts and the arts is all about collaboration. So we can’t just hide in our little corners. I’m so happy that the TVHS is growing. That, to me, is why we do this. Now, together, we’re stronger as a team.”

The Jazz Loft is located at 275 Christian Ave. in Stony Brook Village. Tickets to Prohibition Night are $20 adults, $15 seniors, $10 students. Period costumes are encouraged. To order, call 631-751-1895 or visit www.thejazzloft.org. Spirits Tour tickets will also be on sale during the event. For more information on the Spirits Tour, visit www.TVHS.org or call 631-751-3730.

The Art of Jazz, led by Kevin McEvoy, above, kicked off on March 8. Photo from Margaret McEvoy

Clothed Figure Sketch Nights at The Jazz Loft

The Atelier at Flowerfield artists of St. James has joined forces with the improv musicians of The Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Ave., Stony Brook for an inspirational evening of music and art every other Wednesday night from 7 to 9:30 p.m. While The Jazz Loft hosts its weekly jazz jam sessions, the Atelier at Flowerfield will host a sketch session featuring a clothed figure model posing with musical instrument. Included in this event will be drawing boards and tables for all artists in attendance.

“I am quite thrilled for The Jazz Loft’s collaboration with the Atelier. The jazz workshops and artist lofts of the past were a big part of the inspiration in creating The Jazz Loft. Once again artistic collaboration across the spectrum will be in full view and the cross pollination can begin! Add some dancers and poets and the jazz nest will be in full swing,” said Tom Manuel of The Jazz Loft. Atelier director Kevin McEvoy will be doing a live painting demonstration that will continue through the weeks so that people can watch the painting progress. Next event will be held on March 22. Admission is $20 per person. For more information or to sign up, call 631-250-9009.

Tom Manuel leads the Jazz Loft Big Band on a bandstand at the loft, constructed from pieces of the original dance floor of New York’s famed Roseland Ballroom. Photo from The Jazz Loft

By John Broven

On May 21, Stony Brook Village reverberated to the sounds of a New Orleans-style street parade to mark the opening of The Jazz Loft at 275 Christian Ave. That happy day brought to reality the dreams of president and founder Tom Manuel.

“In the brief seven months the Jazz Loft has been open we’ve been able to accomplish the goals of our mission well ahead of schedule,” Manuel said. “Our performance calendar has presented some of the finest local, national and international artists; our educational programming has established our pre-college Jazz Institute in collaboration with Stony Brook University; and Our Young at Heart program has introduced wonderful music therapy events to people with memory loss.

“In addition to all of this our lecture series, family concerts, sponsored concert series and acquisitions and installations of jazz memorabilia, art, photography and more are ongoing and ever growing.”

Tom Manuel with children during The Creole Love Song: Operation Haiti! mission. Photo from The Jazz Loft

For establishing The Jazz Loft so quickly and effectively as a community resource, Manuel, a 37-year-old educator, historian and trumpet player, from St. James, is recognized by TBR News Media as a Person of the Year.

“Tom Manuel is a well-deserving nominee for Person of the Year,” Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said. “The Jazz Loft is an incredible gift to the 1st Council District. Tom’s passion for jazz has been transformed into a vivid, vibrant, collection of jazz history and a home for local talent, musicians and performances. In a short time, The Jazz Loft has become an incredible community space for art, history, culture and music.”

Visitors are able to view the loft’s museum exhibits featuring greats such as saxophonist Louis Jordan, the biggest African-American star of the 1940s and a massive influence on the ensuing rock ’n’ roll era; heartthrob blues and jazz crooner Arthur Prysock; upright bassist Lloyd Trotman, a prolific session musician who provided the bass line on Ben E. King’s anthem, “Stand by Me”; society bandleader Lester Lanin; and the seafaring vibraphonist and composer Teddy Charles.

Jean Prysock, of Searingtown, donated the memorabilia of her late husband Arthur Prysock, who played the top theaters and clubs from the 1940s onward and recorded for labels such as Decca, Mercury, Old Town and MGM-Verve. Why did she feel Manuel was worthy of support?

“He was young, he was enthusiastic, he was dedicated, he was sincere,” she said. “I first met him at a jazz bar in Patchogue. He led an 11-piece band, which sounded as if it could have played at New York’s Paramount Theatre.”

Apart from conducting bands, Manuel is an expert trumpet player, who credits among his inspirations Chet Baker, Warren Vache, Bobby Hackett, Harry “Sweets” Edison and Roy Eldridge. As an indication of the Jazz Loft’s authentic atmosphere, Manuel said the impressive three-tier bandstand was constructed from the original dance floor of the famed Roseland Ballroom on New York’s 52nd Street, adding, “It was an extreme labor of love, but certainly worth the effort.”

Manuel has directed a full program at The Jazz Loft while holding an adjunct post at Suffolk County Community College and a faculty position with Stony Brook University directing the jazz program of the Pre-College Music Division. If that’s not all, he has recently completed his doctorate, a DMA in jazz performance, at SBU and carried out charity work in Haiti.

“Tom is fully deserving of this award, not only for creating The Jazz Loft and making jazz available in our area, but also because of his remarkable spirit in bettering every community with which he engages,” Perry Goldstein, professor and chair at SBU’s Department of Music, said.

Tom Manuel (white hat at center) on opening day at The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook, on May 21 of this year. Photo by John Broven

“He motivated seven volunteers to go to Haiti with him after the recent hurricane, where they distributed 200 pairs of sneakers, clothing and school supplies purchased through donations. Tom radiates positive energy in everything he does,” Goldstein said.

Manuel readily acknowledges the help of others in giving liftoff to The Jazz Loft, including board members Laura Vogelsberg and Laura Stiegelmaier, many musicians and sponsors Harlan and Olivia Fischer who “donated our sound system, which is quite outstanding.” Manuel’s philosophy is summarized by the title of his well-received talk at the Three Village Community Trust’s annual celebration, held at The Jazz Loft in November: “Collaboration: The Art of Possibility.”

The jazz facility is housed in a historic building, comprising the old Stone Jug tavern and the former firehouse station, which accommodated the first museum in Stony Brook, founded in 1935 by real estate broker and insurance agent O.C. Lempfert. With the backing of Ward and Dorothy Melville, the museum was formally incorporated as the Suffolk Museum in 1939 before evolving into today’s The Long Island Museum. The renovated building, which was accorded landmark status by the Town of Brookhaven in September, is leased long term to The Jazz Loft by The Ward Melville Heritage Organization.

“Tom Manuel is a unique individual who was born into a generation of musicians steeped in rock ’n’ roll, rap and new wave,” Gloria Rocchio, president of WMHO, said. “I got to know Tom because of a[n] … article about a ‘young man’ with a house full of artifacts and memorabilia relating to the jazz era. The Ward Melville Heritage Organization owned a vacant building … and Tom had a collection in need of a home. A year later The Jazz Loft opened in Stony Brook, where Tom shares his love of jazz with like-minded musicians and fans. Tom is truly a role model for the concept of accomplishing your dream through passion and dedication. We are proud to welcome The Jazz Loft and Dr. Tom Manuel into our community.”

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