Before my time, Long Island was a hotbed of jazz — Miff Mole was born in Freeport, and there were thriving colonies of jazz musicians in Queens: Louis, of course, in Corona; James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, Milt Hinton, Roy Eldridge and many others. Red Allen had a steady gig at the Blue Spruce Inn in Roslyn.
When I first became aware of jazz, like love, it was just around the corner. Louis and the All-Stars came to the Island Garden in Hempstead in 1967; I saw Jimmy McPartland, Vic Dickenson, Joe Wilder, Milt Hinton, Dick Hyman, Buddy Tate, Jo Jones, Dill Jones, Budd Johnson, Connie Kay, and Teddy Wilson in concerts, usually free ones in the parks. Teddy, Roy Eldridge, Wilbur Little, and Joe Farrell played hour-long gigs in the shopping center Roosevelt Field in 1972. The International Art of Jazz had wonderful concerts — I remember a quartet of Ruby Braff, Derek Smith, George Duvivier, and Bobby Rosengarden. Ray Nance did a week in a club in Hicksville!
Some years later, a traditional jazz society whose name now escapes me held concerts in Babylon, with Peter Ecklund, Dan Barrett, Joe Muranyi, Marty Grosz, and others. Nancy Mullen told me of evenings when Ecklund would show up in a little Port Jefferson spot and play beautifully. Sonny’s Place, in Seaford, had name jazz players for years.
Now, I know that most of the musicians I’ve listed above are dead. Try as I might, I can’t make Red Allen come back to Roslyn. But I wonder: Is there any Mainstream jazz on Long Island? Could it be that it has retreated utterly to safer urban refuges? I would be grateful for any information on some place(s) where the band strikes up a familiar melody to improvise on. It could even be “Satin Doll,” although I would hope for better.
Or has the region I live in given itself over completely to cellphone stores, nail salons, and highways? Say it ain’t so, Jo (Jones, that is).