Preservation, education and performance make up the simple yet essential composition of The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook. The mom-and-pop shop opened in May to honor the music of America’s past in a way that reintroduces it to a new generation.
“Jazz is improvisational, spontaneous and creative and we are not just about things that happened in the past,” said president and curator of The Jazz Loft, Tom Manuel. “It’s about paving a new future.”
The 6,000 square-foot venue houses thousands of archives from some of the most influential jazz musicians including original sheet music, rare master recordings, instruments and autographed photos. Memorabilia from Louis Jordan—historically recognized as being the father of rhythm, blues and early rock and roll—are displayed throughout the loft. Original recording equipment from Milt Hinton, the most recorded jazz bassist in history, and items from famed baritone singer Arthur Prysock’s career are also exhibited.
The loft puts the pieces into perspective through private and group lessons and lectures on topics like the evolution of the jazz band.
“[Based on] what I expose my students to—I hope they go home and hop on iTunes to hear someone they never did before. It’s all about having people connect to the music.”
That’s not hard when The Jazz Loft has a beautiful performance space with a three-tier stage constructed from the original Roseland Ballroom dance floor. Live performances happen on a weekly basis: Thursday focuses on big bands like Freddy Cole, Friday has some smaller groups and the Wednesday jam sessions are run by students.
This fall The Jazz Loft plans to offer musical performances for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
“The very last part of brain that is attacked by the disease is the part that stores the memory of music. With 10-15 minutes of music therapy, individuals that are non-verbal will be more alert and can reflect on the melodies of the songs.”
And that room for growth is something Manuel wants everyone to walk away with.
“We look back and embrace all the talent that came before us, but now it’s up to us to seize our dreams.”