Ron Stein is a man on a mission. In his role as president of the Coltrane Home, he has to wear many hats and even the occasional full-face respirator. He’s overseeing the restoration and transformation of jazz legends John and Alice Coltrane’s somewhat weathered 1960s Dix Hills home into a state of the art museum and music education center. Stein also serves as organizer, promoter and erudite ring master for Coltrane Day, an annual all-day Huntington Jazz music event taking place for the third time this year on July 22. The work requires a deep and varied skill set.
As one of the pioneers of green investing and the “smart growth” movement, the certified financial planner and owner of the Good Harvest Financial Group has picked up the fiscal, organizational and leadership know-how to take on the myriad of issues related to the Coltrane projects. Informed by degrees in both business and music, he appears hard-wired to combine both the practical and the possible. His Good Harvest firm has helped countless people achieve economic security through environmentally friendly investing. Stein also testified before Congress in 2013 to help protect the consumer from the excesses of the financial industry. To boot, the Huntington resident plays a mean jazz piano, is a devout John and Alice Coltrane fan and has been a key part of the Coltrane Home campaign since 2004.
The efforts to save the Coltrane’s home began in late 2003. Local historian Steve Fulgoni’s voice was the first cry in the wilderness seeking to prevent the house from being demolished by developers. Through a long period of enlisting influential stakeholders by Fulgoni and some of the other earliest Coltrane Home board members, the house was finally purchased by the Town of Huntington in 2006 and donated to the newly formed non-profit group Friends of the Coltrane Home in Dix Hills. The home was saved. Stein, in conjunction with the other board members, have a to-do list that includes locating the original contents of the home, monitoring mold abatement and developing creative fundraising events.
The Coltrane Home mission remains the personification of a group effort by the executive board members but nearly all the cajoling, planning and hand wringing that goes into planning a jazz event for 3,000 people falls on Stein’s plate. In addition to the top tier performers gracing the main stage in Huntington’s Heckscher Park, music workshops, communal jam circles, live painting, kid-friendly activities, art exhibits, vendors and a smorgasbord of food are the activities and attractions awaiting festival goers.
This year’s music lineup is varied and deep. In the afternoon, saxophonist Charles Neville of the Neville Brothers will bring New Orleans’ heat while appearing with the Long Island’s jam-band masters Circus Mind. Rounding out the day time slots is bass virtuoso and Herbie Hancock alum Matt Garrison. The cool of the evening brings Coltrane torch-bearers Kenny Garrett (Grammy winning saxophonist) and Brandee Younger (harpist-extraordinaire) in separate performances. After the last note, Stein starts planning for next year.
Sitting on the stoop of the Coltrane Home a few yards from where John Coltrane wrote A Love Supreme and where Alice Coltrane practically invented astral jazz, Stein shares a bit of his story.
Is it fair to say that aside from the Coltrane’s music, their progressive values also inspire you?
Very much so. One of the inspirational elements of both the Coltrane’s was their tremendous humanistic perspective, their gentleness, their humility and their embracing of diversity.
Where are we with the Coltrane Home project of which Coltrane Day helps to promote?
The initial founding group worked very hard to save the home. We now have a tremendous partner in the National Trust for Historic Preservation. We are probably three years from opening.
Aside from Alice Coltrane’s immense gifts as a harpist, pianist and composer, can you talk a little bit about Alice Coltrane as a role model?
Aside from producing unique shapes and patterns of sounds, she took the risk to try to cut it in the very misogynistic, culture of jazz. She was brave.
Similarly, could you discuss Coltrane Day’s girls-only groups?
It is an opportunity for collaboration, collective experience and creativity. We find it strengthens and empowers girls.
Regarding the lineup for Coltrane day, Kenny Garrett has played with Miles Davis and Duke Ellington, to name a couple. What makes him unique?
Kenny Garrett is one of the true disciples of John’s musical legacy. He has embraced so many of the qualities of John’s playing…and he’s a tremendously creative musician in his own right. He’s a magnificent performer.
And Brandee Younger, who is from Hempstead originally, is in the Alice Coltrane mold?
Like Alice, Brandee is a wonderful harpist and a true disciple. Brandee beautifully demonstrates those connections to Alice.
You were also involved in the recent John Coltrane documentary Chasing Trane?
Our organization was involved to a significant degree. It is an honor to be involved with anything related to the Coltrane’s legacy.