The “Swing Into Spring” festival is a “dream” come true for jazz fans
The Jazz Loft is celebrating the change of seasons with its “Swing Into Spring Festival”, which will be held throughout Stony Brook Village and surrounding areas Tuesday through Sunday.
“Jazz is the soundtrack of our country,” says Thomas Manuel, founding president of Jazz Loft. “It’s fun to be able to walk around the village and have music everywhere. It’s as close as you can get to when there was music in every club on 52nd Street.”
Over the course of six days, jazz concerts will be performed at various locations including the Jazz Loft, local restaurants and even a candy store.
“The idea is to introduce people to art because it’s something they’ve been deprived of for a while,” Manuel explains. “They need healing on so many different levels.”
RECREATE THE “DREAM”
The centerpiece of the festival will be two special performances of the late jazz singer-songwriter Oliver Nelson’s 1967 album “The Kennedy Dream” by a 35-piece jazz orchestra, conducted by Manuel. The premiere will be at the Jazz Loft at 7 p.m. Saturday followed by an encore Sunday night at the Staller Center for the Arts.
“Jazz aficionados are very aware of this record. But for most people it would be considered very obscure,” Manuel explains. “I felt we had to present something historic. So many themes from the album are still very relevant today.”
Manuel has even contacted Oliver Nelson Jr., who will join the orchestra on flute. “My father was inspired by the ideals of John F. Kennedy. Along with his brother Robert, he was a shining light creating hope for the African-American community,” says Nelson Jr., 66. “I believe that if President Kennedy hadn’t died, the world would be different today.”
The album is an emotional roller coaster from moments of inspiration to moments of darkness. Three live narrators will present the President’s words throughout the program between the tunes.
“It’s very much like film music with a 30-something ensemble including a full string section and all the instrumentation that would be part of a movie soundtrack,” Manuel explains. “Some movements are very optimistic with a lot of energy, while others allude to the turmoil our country faced in the 1960s, such as the civil rights movement and the assassinations that were happening.”
NEW JAZZ SETUP
The second part of the program will feature new compositions by Manuel as well as internationally acclaimed jazz trombonist Ray Anderson, who is the director of jazz studies at Stony Brook University, Nelson Jr. and Grammy-nominated Israeli drummer Dan Pugach, who will debut his composition “Schlep”, inspired by Oliver Nelson.
“I love how Nelson writes simple melodies and clear statements, which are rare ingredients in jazz,” says Pugach, 38. “Jazz can sound arbitrary to an untrained ear, so I try to make it cohesive.”
MORE LIVE JAZZ
Live jazz will be available at local venues like Bliss, Sweet Mama’s, Madiran the Wine Bar, Three Village Inn and Country House Tuesday through Thursday. In addition to an evening jam session on Wednesday, there will be a showcase of local talent during Community Jazz Night at Jazz Loft on Friday. The next day, children can listen to live jazz at Stony Brook Chocolate, where hot chocolate will be sold. As an extra treat, kids will get chocolate lollipops shaped like jazz instruments to melt into their cocoa.
“There will be small duos and trios, the biggest one is a quartet, all over town,” Manuel explains. “Business is still hurting, so live music will be an incentive to energize our local restaurants. We want to get people out on a weeknight and have a good time.”
The goal of the event is for Long Islanders to experience live jazz in the moment, he adds.
“There are layers to a live set that you don’t get just from listening to a record, such as facial expressions, eye contact, and even intros or stories between tracks that can make songs more meaningful,” explains Manual. “You can’t replicate that experience. It’s something you have to witness live in the room.”
“GO TO SPRING” FESTIVAL
WHEN OR Tuesday to Sunday, throughout the Village of Stony Brook and the Hamlet of East Setauket
NEWS 631-751-1895, thejazzloft.org
ADMISSION Tickets range from $5 to $30 depending on the event