Manuel trumpet 1
Tom Manuel acting at The Jazz Loft in February 2020. Photograph by John Griffin

Tom Manuel acquired his first jazz infusion at a household occasion when he was rising up.

“I clearly keep in mind mendacity on the grass and listening to a deejay play Glenn Miller’s ‘Within the Temper,’” recalled the Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y. native. “I used to be a bizarre child from that second on.”

After changing into proficient on the trumpet, Manuel might at all times discover someplace to jam with different musicians each night time of the week, whether or not it was swing dance music on Monday night time on the Sage Café in Blue Level or The Dunton Inn in East Patchogue the place massive bands performed — honing his craft for audiences starting from South Shore fishermen to hardened bikers.

Now in his early 40s, Manuel is director of the Younger Artist Jazz Program within the Department of Music at Stony Brook University. He’s additionally the jazz artist in residence and teaches the historical past of jazz.

A jazz ambassador, Manuel despatched a Liberian music instructor college provides and later introduced 40 devices, and taught youngsters trombone, trumpet, saxophone, drums and clarinet. Whereas performing on the Lengthy Island Veterans House, he met a younger man who went to Havana College they usually began an academic tourism program in Cuba. Comparable journeys to Haiti are within the works.

Manuel can also be excited in regards to the Kennedy Dream Undertaking. In 1967, jazz saxophonist Oliver Nelson wrote the Kennedy Dream Album, by which every motion begins with a snippet of a John F. Kennedy speech.

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Tom Manuel (proper) performing with fellow college member Ray Anderson. Photograph by John Griffin

“The matters that have been addressed spoke to me, and sadly, they nonetheless converse to me,” stated Manuel.  “You’d assume we’d have made extra progress than we’ve up to now 50 years, however we’re coping with the identical issues.”

For the venture, Manuel is composing new materials together with Oliver Nelson, Jr., son of the unique composer, and fellow Stony Brook professor Ray Anderson. The group will taking part in March 27, 2022 within the Staller Heart. Manuel hopes to finally lengthen these performances to underserved communities by grant funding and sponsors.

Manuel additionally runs The Jazz Loft, a non-profit group in Stony Brook Village that he based 5 years in the past. The 6,000-square-foot constructing is leased to him by the Ward Melville Heritage Group for a greenback’s hire for 49 years. The charitable and visionary spirit of Ward Melville, who gifted the land that Stony Brook College sits on at present, lives on on this hallowed constructing.

With its mixed mission of preservation, training and efficiency, The Jazz Loft — considered one of solely 4 jazz museums in the US — is a wealthy supply of memorabilia that features archives, devices, diaries, autographed footage, and unique sheet music of the best jazz musicians of their day.

Manuel pointed to the primary Grammy ever awarded — received by jazz singer Keely Smith and her then-husband Louis Prima in 1958 for his or her recording of “That Outdated Black Magic” — and famous the way it was practically thrown out on a sizzling day whereas boxing up objects. There’s additionally a bass belonging to a buddy that was used on Ben E. King’s pop traditional, “Stand By Me.”

When the Jazz Loft isn’t full of nostalgia buffs, it’s buzzing with music, to the tune of 160 performances a yr attended by 300 to 1,000 concertgoers a month. One among only some jazz venues within the New York metro space, the Loft hosts big-band concert events within the “Wow Room,” named for probably the most frequent customer response it invokes. Acoustic duos and trios made up of doctoral college students and music college carry out in a extra intimate room.

Since music means various things to everybody, human connections are frequent. “There are a number of them they usually’re not at all times within the type of a standing ovation,” stated Manuel. “Numerous occasions they occur once we transfer somebody emotionally.”

The COVID-19 pandemic closed the Loft for 15 months from March 2020 by July 2021, however Manuel discovered methods to make sure the present went on. “Though we have been closed, we had a rigorous out of doors live performance schedule,” he stated. “We have been very artistic in what we did.”

One out-of-the-box initiative was performing out of doors “pop-up” concert events, drawing 80-100 individuals.

“Folks have been actually in tears,” stated Manuel. “That they had been reduce off from every little thing they usually have been so blissful simply to have the music. And since they have been having fun with it we stored it going by the autumn.”

Within the winter, Manuel had a fireplace occurring the garden throughout performances. “It was bizarre,” he stated. “Normally for a gig you’re telling individuals to ensure they’ve their music stands and sheet music and right here I used to be telling them to ensure that they had snow boots and to convey wooden to burn.”

The Loft re-opened for indoor performances in mid-July, although Manuel admits that “normalcy” has not been achieved, or that he even is aware of what “normalcy” means in a post-COVID world. “We’ve opened to small teams and capped the attendance at 65 to offer everybody some area and respiratory room.”

Manuel added that the Loft’s ‘Summer season SWAP’ Program [Stages With A Purpose] was a hit, with levels for artwork, training, historical past, and jazz. “Folks liked it and it was good to see them having fun with it.”

Jazz dispatch
The Jazz Dispatch is a renovated classic truck which can convey music to distant venues.

The pandemic additionally introduced a possibility for Manuel to take the music in a brand new course. Actually.

“One among our followers had some classic vehicles sitting round,” stated Manuel. “A donor stepped up and acquired a 1941 Chevy flatbed that we’re having restored. Different donors contributed to the restoration prices, and one other donated the wooden to construct the stage on the flatbed, though wooden was arduous to get and really costly through the shutdown.”

Dubbed the “Jazz Dispatch,” the soon-to-be-completed truck will function a cellular stage on wheels, making it attainable “to play at colleges, parks, libraries, wherever,” stated Manuel. “I by no means would have considered doing one thing like this.”

The Jazz Loft’s calendar for the remainder of the yr is generally back-to-normal. The seventh annual Harbor Jazz Pageant takes place September 22-25 and the Loft will run all its common vacation programming.

“This previous yr was a step of religion but it surely’s additionally a testomony to our mission,” stated Manuel. “Our patrons and donors have been so beneficiant.  It was a troublesome ask to return and ask for help once we actually couldn’t give something again; we have been shut down like everyone else. However individuals gave much more.”

Manuel stated donations have been up over 50%, and a fundraising marketing campaign despatched reduction checks to unemployed Jazz musicians totaling practically $15,000.

—  Glenn Jochum & Robert Emproto


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