By John Broven
Jazz past, present and future arrived with a blast at Stony Brook Village on Saturday, May 21, with the opening of a new home dedicated to the music: The Jazz Loft at 275 Christian Ave.
The celebrations commenced with an early afternoon street parade, New Orleans-style, prior to a ribbon cutting in which Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) presented Tom Manuel, the Jazz Loft’s founder and president, with a proclamation from the Town of Brookhaven.
Also in attendance were Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, which owns the Loft’s historic building.
Soon the first notes were struck by the LIU Post Big Band performing Duke Ellington’s “Far East Suite” under the direction of Manuel to a standing-room-only crowd.
Visitors were 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 subsequent rock ’n’ roll era; heartthrob crooner Arthur Prysock; upright bassist Lloyd Trotman, a prolific session musician; society bandleader Lester Lanin; and the seafaring vibraphonist and composer Teddy Charles.
In the evening, the Jazz Loft Big Band concluded the day’s festivities backing up vocalist Lauren Kinhan, a member of the New York Voices, for a supper-club audience on a stage constructed from the dance floor of the famous Roseland Ballroom on 52nd Street in Manhattan.
“Our opening day was so moving to me,” Manuel, of St. James, said in a recent interview. “To parade through Stony Brook with 100 people in tow, a dozen classic cars honking those great vintage horns, cutting the ribbon — there just aren’t words to express my joy. It was a real highlight to have so many people there that helped make the Jazz Loft become a reality. It also was a real treat to look around the building and see some up-and-coming students in the same space as some of the jazz world’s greatest musicians.”
Manuel, an educator, musician and jazz historian, said the Jazz Loft is unfolding plans that “relate to our tri-fold mission of jazz preservation, education and performance. Our performance calendar for spring and summer brings to the Loft and Stony Brook Village some outstanding talent, recognized not just locally, but nationally and internationally. Our education calendar is about to be unveiled and includes some wonderful listening lectures and Jazz 101 classes presented by outstanding educators and performers.”
He added that the Loft is looking forward to displaying new acquisitions including memorabilia from jazz legends such as Dave Brubeck, Buck Clayton, Ruby Braff, Lloyd Trotman and others.
From today, June 2, the Jazz Loft will be open Thursdays through Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 adults, $7 seniors, $5 students, children under 12 free. For more information, including upcoming concerts and programs, visit www.thejazzloft.org or call 631-751-1895.
John Broven is a member of the editorial staff at Times Beacon Record Newspapers and the author of three books: “Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans” (recently republished), “South to Louisiana” and “Record Makers and Breakers.”