Stony Brook’s jazz chops will take center stage when The Jazz Loft, a boutique museum and music studies center opens this week — with fanfare.
On Saturday, a New Orleans-style parade of classic cars escorted by hooting and tooting jazz musicians will parade from the Village Center to the freshly painted red doors of the Loft’s new home: a recently renovated landmark building. Then comes an afternoon of live music that stretches into an evening big band dinner show. It’s the kind of programming the space’s creator, Tom Manuel of St. James, could only dare to dream about a few years ago.
“We’re lining up a dizzying roundup of programs to come,” says Manuel, 37, a jazz musician and educator who for the past two years has been working closely with the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, which manages the property, to develop the center.
WHAT YOU’LL SEE
Besides live music performances, the museum shelters a world-class collection of jazz memorabilia that Manuel has compiled for more than 20 years. There’s original sheet music and diaries of sidemen to the great “big bands” of the jazz age (think Basie and Dorsey), records, autographed photographs and personal letters. There are original recordings, contracts and even pay stubs from legends like Duke Ellington. “Where else would fans see those?” Manuel says.
Events range from intimate concerts to music workshops, with programs for children and the physically disabled.
It’s all housed in ambience created by a $500,000 makeover of the circa 1909 firehouse that was once home to the Suffolk Museum (now called the Long Island Museum). On the second floor — served by an elevator with wheelchair access — Oriental rugs scattered over polished hardwood floors anchor era-specific retro seating where visitors can enjoy a gallery of jazz-themed, pop-art paintings. Caricatures of famed performers adorn the bandstand, itself a remnant rescued from the demolished legendary Roseland Ballroom.
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“They did a wonderful job of transforming this historic building,” says Michele Miller of Setauket, who was touring the new space during a sneak preview event. “It’s like now this place is what it was always meant to be.”
That’s a sentiment shared by Gloria Rocchio, president of Ward Melville Heritage Organization, who reached out to Manuel with the idea of revamping the vacant building in the spirit of Ward Melville’s original Dogwood Hollow amphitheater. That venue hosted concerts and other events — including performances by Tony Bennett and Lionel Hampton — off and on from the ’50s through the ’70s.
“When it ended, something wonderful was lost in the village, and we often speak wistfully about what it was like then,” Rocchio says. “Now with the Loft right across the street, it’s like the past has come back to life.”
The Jazz Loft
275 Christian Ave., Stony Brook
INFO 631-751-1895, thejazzloft.org
GRAND OPENING 2 p.m. parade Saturday, May 21 from Village Center followed by ribbon cutting and tours with live music and refreshments 3-5 p.m. ($25 adults, free younger than 12), then big band concerts with dinner buffet at 7 and 9:30 p.m. ($90)
HOURS Open noon-5 p.m. daily May 22-28, then Thursdays-Saturdays.
ADMISSION $10 (free ages 12 and younger)