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Prime Times

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By Elissa Gargone

Elissa Gargone

Experts on aging agree. What’s most important for a long and healthy retirement is having a continuing sense of purpose and social engagement. 

Retirement gives people freedom from the constraints of the workplace, but it also changes what for many is a significant part of their social lives—being around others in a shared mission. No matter how young or old we are, it’s important to maintain and pursue friendships and activities. It’s this engagement that gives us a sense of purpose and growth.

As a retiree, you may want to move away from or closer to a city, seek warmer or colder weather, or relocate to be near your children or grandchildren. Many retirees downsize to an apartment or condo, freeing themselves from upkeep for a home and yard.  

Finding the right retirement lifestyle that will stimulate and reward you with a sense of purpose is about asking the right questions. That process starts with a thoughtful assessment of your individual needs and desires. While this exercise can present its challenges, it can be mighty stimulating to imagine a new phase of life that isn’t dictated by a workday. 

Planning is critical

The ideal time to begin this process is while you’re still working. It can take some time to figure out just where you’ll want to be, and what you’ll do there. Too many people approaching retirement fall into some version of a failure to plan, whether it’s having no plan, waiting too long to plan, or thinking that they don’t need a plan.

There are plenty of lifestyle choices out there. The more you learn about those options, the easier that decision will be.  You don’t want to be pressed to make a choice when you unexpectedly have a need.  

Understandably, while this hesitation may stem from denial or uncertainty about the future, one thing that is certain is that our needs will change over time, so it’s important to set to the task and make a plan. It’s not unlike starting a business—you’re setting yourself up for success.  

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Questions to consider  

1. What do I want my future to look like?

2. What do I want to keep doing?

3. What don’t I want to do?

4. What can and can’t I do physically now?

5. What will I not be physically able to do down the road? 

6. What kinds of activities interest me?

7. Where do I want to be — near family, in my familiar community? City, country, suburbs?

8. What kind of people do I want to be with? 

9. What amenities would I like?

10. How much space do I really need?  

11.Will my finances comfortably cover my healthcare costs, should my health change?   

It’s critical to be realistic with your answers. For example, if you have physical issues now, it’s likely you’ll  be more challenged physically in ten years. You have to be honest about the existing barriers to things you want to do now, and strategize as to how you will manage these challenges later in life.  Then look around the house and ask; what is really important for me to keep, and what can I do without?  

Look for more than real estate

If you’re considering buying a retirement home, make sure to consider the services that come with it or are close by. These services will gain importance as time passes.  A 55-plus community that suits your lifestyle at age 60 or 65 may not be able to comfortably support you after age 75 or 80. You’ll want access to a range of people and activities, various transportation options, shopping, quality health services, and other support systems in place.

Options include: Life plan retirement communities like Jefferson’s Ferry, which enable residents to age in place with independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing services available on one site; assisted living facilities that help you manage the tasks of daily living in a community setting with apartments and shared or private rooms; independent living 55+ communities; condominiums, and shared space with family members.

Most of us need people around us to thrive. That’s not limited to those who’ll provide care, but others who will engage our interests as our friends and companions. Having more time to do the things you like, trying new things and enjoying the company of friends and family is the key to a long and happy life.   

Elissa Gargone is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Jefferson’s Ferry Lifecare Retirement Community in South Setauket.

This article originally appeared in Prime Times, TBR News Media’s senior supplement, on July 20.

The Over 50 Fair will feature free 'Funny Money' Blackjack with Ace Deuce Casinos

Save the date! Organizers of the Over 50 Fair have announced its return to the Huntington Hilton, 598 Broadhollow Road, Melville on Sunday, Sept. 10 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

The Over 50 Fair will feature a free photo booth, compliments of The Booking Ace.

This year’s event, its 14th annual, will offer Baby Boomers, seniors, and more the chance to meet with exhibitors and attend classes geared toward them. The Over 50 Fair annually entertains and educates hundreds of Long Islanders.

Each year, many dozens of businesses and non-profits promote local products and services, including health and wellness, education, travel, and financial services, plus some less expected, such as a hypnotist and a divorce attorney.

Some of this year’s “draws” will be a singles lounge compliments of MTN Matchmaking, “funny money” blackjack with Ace Deuce Casinos, and a free photo booth, compliments of Smiles Per Hour. There will also be a live acoustic music showcase,  courtesy of The Booking Ace.

Some of this year’s 20+ classes include “How to Improve Your Dating and Sex Life After 50” with Maureen Tara Nelson, “Three Techniques to Reduce Stress Right Now!” with David Lawrence, and “How My Positive Attitude Helped Me Beat Breast Cancer” with Helen Cernigliaro. Additional classes will include a comedy show and talks on Medicaid and Medicare.

Free health screenings this year will include hearing screenings from HearingLife.  There will also be free energy scans and reiki healings available.

The Over 50 Fair will feature over 80 exhibitors this year.

The Over 50 Fair is the brainchild of East Hills resident Barbara Kaplan who said that the Over 50 Fair is “overflowing with opportunities for age 50+. Our attendees enjoy the opportunity to meet with many experts in their fields all in one place.”

Many local beauty queens from the Ms. New York Senior America pageant attend every year, including CJ Marie, Ms. New York Senior America 2015, and Elisabeth Zamarelli, Ph.D., Elite New York American Beauty 2015. The lovely “queens” will also be hosting a dance demonstration as part of the Seasoned Steppers.

Giving is Living, a local non-profit that helps Long Island’s needy, will be in attendance collecting non-perishable food and funds. Those who donate will receive raffle tickets to win terrific donated prizes.

The event will feature:

    • Over 20 Amazing Classes something to interest and entertain all
    • Over 80 Fabulous Exhibitors so many to speak with
    • Our Singles Lounge – Meet someone special! presented by MTN Matchmaking
    • Free “Funny Money” Blackjack with Ace Deuce Casinos
    • Free Photo Booth compliments of Smiles Per Hour
    • Live Acoustic Music compliments of The Booking Ace
    • Free Energy Scans from Acupuncture Wellness Services
    • Free Hearing Screenings from HearingLife
    • Free Discount Pharmacy Card from All Save Rx
    • Free Reiki Healings with Gentle Soul Discoveries
    • Free Confidential Consultations with Hypnotist David Lawrence
    • Free Mini Makeover Color Consults from Beautycounter
    • LOVELY BEAUTY QUEENS, INCLUDING:  CJ Marie – Ms. New York Senior America 2015 and Elisabeth Zamarelli, Ph.D. – Elite New York American Beauty 2015

Tickets in advance are $5, which includes all classes, exhibits, photo booth, “funny money” blackjack, singles lounge, health screenings, and more. Those who purchase tickets online at www.Over50Fair.com will receive a raffle ticket at the event for a special door prize raffle. Tickets are also available at the door for $7, free for veterans with ID. For more information, call 516-621-1446.

This article previously appeared in Prime Times, TBR News Media’s senior supplement, on July 20.

Vegetable soup and flaxseed bread

By Heidi Sutton

Homemade soup and home-baked bread are the most basic cold-weather comfort foods. Life doesn’t get any better and lunch/dinner doesn’t get any easier with the following delicious tried and true healthy vegan and gluten-free recipes to start the New Year on the right foot.

Vegetable Soup

YIELD: Makes 6 servings


2  stalks celery,

2 carrots, sliced.

1medium onion, diced

1 teaspoon salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups vegetable broth

1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

1/2 cup farro

1 cup frozen mixed vegetables

1 15-ounce can chili beans , undrained

1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed


Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil in a 5-quart pot. Add celery, carrots, onions and salt. Saute for 10 minutes. Add garlic. Combine vegetable broth, tomatoes and enough water to make 6 to 7 cups. Add liquid to pot. Stir in farro and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Add mixed vegetables and beans, and cook, uncovered for 15 minutes. Serve with flaxseed bread.

Note: This soup freezes well.

Flaxseed Bread

YIELD: Makes 1 loaf


1 package rapid rise yeast

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup ground flaxseeds

1/3 cup old fashioned oats

1/3 cup toasted sunflower seed kernels ( to toast, put on cookie sheet and bake for 7 minutes at 350 degrees)

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup lukewarm water, about 110 degrees

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons honey


Let yeast bloom in warm water in a small bowl. Combine dry ingredients in stand mixer bowl. Add all liquids. Mix with dough hook to make soft, slightly sticky dough. Do NOT add more flour.

Put dough in a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled.

Punch dough down. Roll into a 9” by 14” rectangle. Roll up tightly from 9” end. Put roll into a greased 9” by 5” loaf pan, smooth side up. Cover with towel or plastic wrap. Let rise until dough is 3/4” above the pan.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Bake bread for 33 minutes. Turn out unto a rack immediately. If desired, rub a pat of vegan butter over the hot bread to make crust shiny.

Note: Flax seed is high in Omega-3 and-6, and is know to reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.

These recipes were originally published in TBR News Media’s Prime Times supplement on Jan. 26.

Kristin Hannah's 'The Four Winds' was the most requested eBook and audiobook among Suffolk County library patrons in 2021.

Libraries continue to provide a vital service to their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Readers around the world discovered or rediscovered a love of reading thanks to library digital lending of eBooks and audiobooks, which allowed them to safely seek and enjoy books from home. 

Live-brary, consisting of 56 libraries in Suffolk County, recently announced it surpassed two million digital checkouts in 2021. The Public Libraries of Suffolk County have been providing readers 24/7 access to eBooks and audiobooks for several years through OverDrive and its award-winning Libby reading app. Reader interest has grown every year.

The top five eBook titles borrowed through Live-brary’s digital collection in 2021 were:

1. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah 

2. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig 

3. The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave 

4. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett 

5. Anxious People by Fredrik Backman 

The top five audiobook titles borrowed through Live-brary’s digital collection in 2021 were:

1. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah 

2. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

3. A Promised Land by Barack Obama 

4. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett 

5. The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

The top five Young Adult eBooks Suffolk County borrowed in 2021 were:

1. Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards 

2. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo 

3. Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyers 

4. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah 

    J. Maas 

5. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

The top children’s eBooks that Suffolk County patrons borrowed in 2021 were:

1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Deep End 

    by  Jeff Kinney

2. Dog Man Mothering Heights by Dav


3. Guts by Raina Telgemeier 

4. Cat Kid Comic Club by Dav Pilkey

5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

   by J.K. Rowling

Residents in Suffolk County just need a valid library card to access digital books from Live-brary’s OverDrive-powered digital collection. 

Readers can use any major device, including Apple®, Android™, Chromebook™ and Kindle® (U.S. only). Visit livebrary.overdrive.com or download the Libby app to get started and borrow eBooks and audiobooks anytime, anywhere.◆

This article first appeared in Prime Times – a special supplement by TBR News Media.

The Perfect Summertime Pie

(Culinary.net) Summer is the time to relax, refresh and indulge in sweet and heavenly treats. While you’re lounging poolside and watching the kids play, enjoy a cool, creamy and absolutely divine dessert that’s perfect on a hot day.

This luscious Coconut Key Lime Cream Pie has a smooth texture with toasted shredded coconut on top. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, and will leave your taste buds wanting more as soon as you take your first bite.

Fresh out of the refrigerator, it’s ideal for everyone to share on those days when it’s just too warm outside to not have a chilled snack.

Also topped with lime zest and maraschino cherries, visually this pie is a winner with fun pops of color that will leave your mouth watering.

It’s the perfect pie to enjoy whether you’re outside enjoying some sunshine or inside, taking a break from the summer fun. After being chilled, all of the flavors combine to leave you with a delicious, one of a kind treat.

Find more summer recipes at Culinary.net.

If you made this recipe at home, use #MyCulinaryConnection on your favorite social network to share your work.

Coconut Key Lime Cream Pie

YIELD: Servings: 6-8


1 package (11 ounces) vanilla wafers

1/3 cup butter, melted

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup Key lime juice, divided

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon coconut extract

1 cup shredded coconut

1/4 cup toasted shredded coconut

lime zest

maraschino cherries


In blender, pulse vanilla wafers into crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until combined. Press crumbs into bottom and up sides of greased 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie plate. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

In large bowl, beat whipping cream until it thickens. Add confectioners’ sugar and 1 tablespoon lime juice; beat until stiff peaks form. Remove 1 cup; set aside.

In separate large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sweetened condensed milk and coconut extract; beat until blended. Add remaining lime juice and shredded coconut; stir until combined. Add reserved whipped cream. Stir until combined. Pour into crust.

Refrigerate 4 hours.

Before serving, garnish with toasted coconut, lime zest and maraschino cherries.

See video here:

*This recipe originally appeared in TBR News Media’s Prime Times supplement on July 15, 2021.

Fluffy Peanut Butter Pie

Peanut Butter Perfection

(Culinary.net) If you’ve ever taken a bite of something and the only word that came to mind was “yum,” you know what it’s like to experience this dessert. It’s fluffy, sweet, perfectly crumbly and tastes delicious. It’s rich but light. It’s a dessert that will likely never go out of style.

You can stop guessing what it may be: this treat is a scrumptious bite of Fluffy Peanut Butter Pie drizzled with chocolate syrup. You will understand the craze once you sink your fork into the chilled triangle resting on your plate. With a chocolate cookie crust and a thick, delicious peanut butter filling, this pie is everything many people want in a dessert.

Although it tastes like you have been in the kitchen all day, it’s a simple-to-make, delightful treat with luscious peanut butter flavor that melts in your mouth.

This dessert is perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth. House guests, birthday parties or even just a simple treat after a meal; it’s an any-occasion kind of pie.

Find more dessert recipes at Culinary.net.

Fluffy Peanut Butter Pie

YIELD: Servings: 6-8


20 chocolate cream-filled cookies

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1 cup smooth peanut butter

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup whipping cream

chocolate syrup


Remove cream filling from chocolate cookies; set aside. With rolling pin, finely crush chocolate cookies.

In medium bowl, combine finely crushed cookies with melted butter.

Press crumb mixture firmly into bottom and sides of 9-inch pie plate; chill while preparing filling.

In large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add reserved cookie cream filling, peanut butter and sweetened condensed milk; beat until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla extract.

In medium bowl, beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into peanut butter mixture. Mix until combined.

Pour into crust. Chill 4 hours, or until set. Drizzle chocolate syrup over pie before serving.

Cover leftovers and store in refrigerator.

See video here:

*This recipe originally appeared in TBR News Media’s Prime Times supplement on July 15, 2021.

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By Elissa Gargone

Elissa Gargone

If there’s one thing we’ve gained during this prolonged period of sheltering in place and social distancing otherwise known as the pandemic, it’s a deep appreciation for human interactions. Whether brief and in person as you say hello to your letter carrier, or digitally through a Zoom call with family or friends, these contacts make us feel good. They perk us up, stimulate our hearts and our brains and can brighten almost any day.  

Human beings are social creatures.  From the beginning of time, our connection to others has enabled us to survive and flourish. Spending too much time alone can leave us vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness, not to mention related health problems such as cognitive decline, depression, and heart disease. Fortunately, even at this time, there are ways to counteract these negative effects.

During the warmer weather, few of us hesitated to get outside for socially distanced get-togethers or walks, but winter’s chill presents another challenge.  While we can still bundle up for a walk or chat outside, most of us are more confined overall. Even so, getting out occasionally to be in the semi-distanced company of strangers can be invigorating.

Fortunately, our experience during COVID-19 has taught us some valuable lessons by further opening our minds to the great world at our fingertips through our keyboard, key pad and remote control device. At Jefferson’s Ferry Life Plan Community, we’ve strengthened our friendships and our resolve to stay in touch with the people in our lives, even if we have to step outside of our comfort zones.

While some people had an initial resistance to the digital world, most have come to eagerly embrace it and become adept and enthusiastic users. We’ve also adapted to using a number of the limitless apps available, from Zoom meetings to ordering take out, and from downloading podcasts to accessing art performances and information. We even have our own Jefferson’s Ferry app for the added convenience of fitness classes, entertainment, food and more from our devices.

Wherever you reside, social and digital media can introduce us to a whole new world of teachers, friends and entertainers. For many, Zoom, YouTube, FaceTime and TikTok have been a lifeline, keeping us connected with family, friends and even next door neighbors by providing laughs, new ideas, visits to nearby and faraway places and endless how-to videos. 

For the uninitiated, Zoom and FaceTime allow people to connect in real time video to socialize, hold meetings, go on a video excursion, and take classes. If you haven’t seen a loved one in a long time, FaceTime and Zoom are akin to a miracle. YouTube offers a vast compendium of content from performances to cooking and fitness classes of every description, and so much more. 

Your local library is a remarkable resource to entertain, educate and elevate emotional well-being. You can connect with fellow readers, travelers and lifelong learners through Zoom meetings and access an endless array of programming.   A phone call to the library or a visit to its YouTube channel can help you get online and get going to enjoy hours of fabulous programs and opportunities. 

Visit www.livebrary.com to access eBooks and Audiobooks (all you need is a Suffolk County library card) and go to your library’s website to explore its many offerings from the comfort of your home or bundle up and get out to experience nature, history and your overall environment in person on a beautiful winter afternoon. 

Either way you’ll experience a no or low-contact adventure in your own backyard. While we may be living through a time of more “at home time,” a whole world awaits at our fingertips. Make sure you take advantage of it. 

“Adventure isn’t hanging off a rope on the side of a mountain. Adventure is an attitude we must apply to the day to day obstacles of life.” — John Amat

Elissa Gargone is vice president of sales and marketing  at Jefferson’s Ferry Life Plan Community in South Setauket.

This article first appeared in TBR News Media’s Prime Times supplement on Jan. 28, 2021.

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People want to grow old gracefully and maintain their independence as long as possible. There are many decisions to make as well as information to wade through to ensure needs are met and proper care is received through one’s golden years. Individuals, caregivers and families may find that a few helping hands along the way can be invaluable.

Numerous elder care resources are available for those who don’t know where to look. Start by researching the National Council on Aging (www.ncoa.org). This is a national leader and trusted association that helps people age 60 and older. The council works with nonprofit organizations, governments and businesses to organize programs and services at the community level. This is a good place to find senior programs that can help with healthy aging — emotionally, physically and financially. 800-201-9989

At the local level in the United States, the federal government has mandated Area Agency on Aging (www.n4a.org) facilities in every county/city. These agencies can provide information on service programs available to the seniors in the area, as well as financial resources. These facilities give seniors access to volunteers who can take seniors around by car, and some provide meals-on-wheels services. 631-853-8200

AARP (www.aarp.org) is yet another organization dedicated to helping seniors. The comprehensive AARP website offers a host of information on everything from senior discounts to products to health and other information specific to seniors. The AARP also has an affiliated charity that works to help low-income seniors procure life’s necessities. 888-687-2277

The Administration for Community Living (www.acl.org) was established to help older adults and people of all ages with disabilities live where they choose. A network of community-based organizations helps millions of people age in place. 212-264-2976

This article first appeared in TBR News Media’s Prime Times supplement on Jan. 28, 2021.

Cherry Coffee Cake

The month of February has a few important events to celebrate. One such event is Presidents’ Day, which this year will be observed on February 15. Presidents’ Day honors both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, two influential presidents who were born in February. 

Some may recall a legend about George Washington and a cherry tree, as it’s one of the most popular tales tied to the nation’s first president. The original story has a young George receiving a hatchet as a gift when he is six years old. Young George ends up using it to cut into his father’s cherry tree. After discovering the damage, George’s father confronts him. Rather than lie, George admits to his wrongdoing. George’s father commends him for his honesty, indicating that honesty has more value than a cherry tree.

While no one is suggesting to cut down a cherry tree in February in honor of George Washington, the value of this tale and lesson can be celebrated symbolically with these two tasty recipes, a Cherry Coffee Cake and Martha Washington’s Cherry and Butter Bread Pudding.

Cherry Coffee Cake

Add some sweetness to your breakfast routine with this delicious and easy-to-make morning snack.

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings


Nonstick cooking spray

1 can (12.4 ounces) refrigerated cinnamon rolls with icing

1 1/2 cups (21-ounce can) cherry pie filling

1/2 cup slivered almonds or pecans (optional)


Heat oven to 375 F. Spray 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. 

Separate cinnamon roll dough into eight rolls; cut each roll into quarters. Place dough rounded-side down in pan. Spoon pie filling over rolls. Sprinkle almond slivers or pecans over cherry filling, if desired. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Invert onto plate or cutting board. Invert again onto serving plate. Remove lid from icing. Microwave 3 to 10 seconds. Stir icing and drizzle over warm coffee cake before serving.

Martha Washington’s Cherry and Butter Bread Pudding

This recipe is rumored to be our first First Lady’s favorite dessert to make. A firm bread like Pepperidge Farm or Arnold is recommended, and while cherry preserves are used for this recipe, any type of fruit preserve may be substituted. 

YIELD: Makes 6 servings


12 slices white bread

Butter or margarine


10-oz. cherry preserves

4 eggs

2 and 2/3 cups milk

2 tablespoons of sugar


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 8 inch baking dish. Cut crusts from 12 slices white bread. Spread butter on one side of each slice. Arrange 4 slices bread in bottom of dish and sprinkle each lightly with cinnamon. Spread a spoonful of cherry preserves on each slice. Repeat, making two more layers. Beat eggs in a medium mixing bowl. Add milk and sugar and stir until well mixed. Pour over bread and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until top is golden brown and the custard is set. Serve warm from the oven. 

This article first appeared in TBR News Media’s Prime Times supplement on Jan. 28, 2021 under Recipe Corner.

Jack Wilson at the piano

By Thomas J. Manuel, D.M.A.

There’s that old saying that, “A picture speaks a thousand words.”

As I walk through the Jazz Loft lately I’m more mindful of the photos that are throughout our 6,000 square foot museum that is sadly idle and quiet these many months. I have some favorites, although they all speak to me in different ways. For me the photos speak stories of my friends and they remind me of our time together, albeit brief. They are also powerful reminders of this great lineage in Jazz that we who participate as musicians are all a part of.

When I pass the photos we have of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington I look at the youthful faces of my friends, who looked quite different when I knew them, and I repeatedly think to myself, “Wow, how amazing it must have been for them to share the stage and create music together with those giants!”

Louis Jordan as a baby

Born roughly two years apart, Ellington in 1899 and Armstrong in 1901 respectively, both had already lived through the first World War and they would go on to witness the Spanish Flu epidemic, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and the turbulent 1960s and the Vietnam conflict.

One can read Louis Armstrong’s descriptions of his experience of the 1918 influenza pandemic firsthand as he remembers it in his 1954 memoir Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans. There he says: “Just when the government was about to let crowds of people congregate again so that we could play our horns once more the lid was clamped down tighter than ever. That forced me to take any odd jobs I could get. With everybody suffering from the flu, I had to work and play the doctor to everyone in my family as well as all my friends in the neighborhood. If I do say so, I did a good job curing them.”

Today Jazz musicians and artists in general are experiencing a complete and utter shutdown that literally hasn’t been seen since over a hundred years ago as Armstrong described. The question of course we’re all asking ourselves regardless of what walk of life we come from is, “How do I deal with this? What do I DO?”

One of the greatest American composers, Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington might be of inspiration and assistance to us as it was Duke Ellington who once said that, “A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” Put that little caveat together with some sage words of wisdom from old satchel mouth himself and you’ve got quite the collaboration of ideas— in the spirit of Jazz of course. Louis Armstrong’s own theory on how to solve those problems was that, “If lots more of us loved each other, we’d solve lots more problems.”

The music of these larger than life giants in Jazz continues to inspire us decades after their departure from the stage of life, but if one digs deeper (and ya gotta dig to dig, ya dig!?) you’ll find a type of inspiration that speaks to that deeper place in each of us. It speaks not just to the heart, but to the soul. It speaks not just about happiness, but of joy.

These are truly different things and Duke and Pops were not only in tune with them, they were absolutely vibrating with these truths. In fact, their generation was indeed one that was skilled in navigating problems. When I walk through the Jazz Loft and purvey these photos of youthful legends I can’t help but think about how skillfully, how successfully they fought their battles and wrestled their giants.

Teddy Charles dancing with his sister

Vibraphonist Teddy Charles (actually Theodore Cohen, Teddy Charles was his stage name) had a father who discouraged music and was forced to change his name to gain entrance into the music business because his given name was too Jewish. Luckily his mother who had been a somewhat accomplished pianist and singer who dabbled briefly in early entertainment playing for silent movies and vaudeville encouraged her son’s musical journey. Charles would continue to compose, perform, arrange, record and produce, one of the first quintuple threats in the music industry alongside his pals Mingus, Trane, Monk, Bird, and a slew of others.

Pianist Jack Wilson was so poor that his parents literally couldn’t feed him so he was sent from Chicago at the end of the Great Depression to live with an aunt up north who had enough means to do so. Luckily for Jack there was a piano in the house which became his emotional outlet. He’d later join the army and would be appointed the director of the Third Army Area Band; the first black person to ever hold the position. Wilson would pursue college studies at the University of Indiana and go on to collaborate with Dinah Washington, Sammy Davis Jr., Sarah Vaughan and his trio would become the hard bop jewel in the crown of Blue Note Records.

LLoyd Trotman, in black shirt, with Duke Ellington, third from left

If you pay the Jazz Loft a visit when we’re open again you can gaze upon the photos of others like Louis Jordan, Lester Lanin, Keely Smith, Arthur Prysock and Lloyd Trotman. Without even trying these individuals modeled their values and taught us what really was important. Forged by the struggles of their time they’d go on to become the grandfather of rock n’ roll, pioneering Grammy artists, civil rights workers, and to produce the soundtrack to the American experience during the 20th century. If you don’t recognize the names you’re sure to recognize the tunes: “Stand By Me”, “Let The Good Times Roll”, “From Here to Eternity” “That Old Black Magic” and if you’re old enough, remember “Let it Be Lowenbrau”?

There has never been another person like those mentioned prior. They were men and women of deep faith, undying love, tenacious conviction, profound insight and constant hope. They taught us that it can be easy to quit during difficult times without a strong and proper foundation, and in doing so showed us that hard work and living ones truth can build that foundation to withstand the hard times.

Their’s was a deeper message not to let anyone think less of you because you are young— to be an example to all in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, and so much more. Their example was one of seeing our problems as wondrous opportunities to do better, and most of all, to show love. They were, in a word, JAZZ. And if Jazz were a person, we’d all be a better person our selves for having them in our lives.

Tom Manuel

Author Tom Manuel is a Jazz historian, music educator, trumpet player and Founder and President of The Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Ave., Stony Brook. For more information, visit www.thejazzloft.org.

This article first appeared in Prime Times, a supplement of TBR News Media, on Jan. 28, 2021.