“I’ve been doing this for about eight years and it wasn’t really an organized thing, now it’s organized.”
What Jack Kiffer, owner of Shelter Island’s The Dory bar and restaurant is refering to is the Second Annual Shelter Island Jazz Fest beginning next week. The landmark waterfront restaurant is bringing a week’s worth of live jazz music to the island.
“It was all Freddy Cole,” Kiffer explained of the event’s origins. “We got together one evening in the city and he said, “why don’t I come out and play for you?”
Freddy Cole is the great Lionel Frederick “Freddy” Cole, American jazz singer, pianist and brother to the late Nat King Cole. Kiffer and Cole are longtime friends and the Dory owner builds the jazzfest around him as the main headliner.
“He’s pretty well booked, but he does some recordings when he’s playing the BlueNote or Birdland, so he will schedule a few days, then come in early or go back a couple days late, and around that we build the jazzfest,” said Kiffer. “Joe Lauro will put a lot of it together, without him I don’t think I could put this together, he gets the acts.”
Joe Lauro performs string, electric Bass and vocals with The Hoodoo Loungers, another one of the groups scheduled to perform at the jazzfest.
“Judy Carmichael couldn’t make it this year,” Kiffer said, referring to the Grammy-nominated pianist and vocalist who has played the event in year’s past. “But we have Vanessa Trouble, Dick Behrke as well and the Grand St. Stompers, they’re a wild group.”
If Kiffer sounds like he knows jazz, the 54-year Shelter Island native acknowledges he’s a life-long fan.
“Oh yeah, I love jazz,” he exclaimed. “On Saturday I’m putting the Bruno All-Stars in here, they’re a great jazz group and they’re eclectic, they can play anything.”
On the Dory’s outdoor deck sits Kiffer’s Lester grand piano, which has already been set up and tuned in advance. “I only bring it out for Freddy and jazz week, after that it goes back into storage,” he explained.
“The first year he performed here, I had an electric upright piano,” Kiffer said. “It’s a good piano, very expensive, but Freddy is a spokesman for Steinway and only plays baby grand pianos. But he played that piano for me, he said, ‘it’s against my better judgement, but I’ll do it’ and he did.”
Kiffer sits at the bar as he anticipates next week.
“It’s a really good line-up, it’s going to be a great week. I don’t know if I’m up to it yet,” he laughed. “They burned me out last summer pretty good, but it’s not work when you’re enjoying it and I’m still enjoying it.”
The Shelter Island Jazzfest officially kicks off Monday, August 10 and runs through Saturday, August 15. There are two shows every night, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Call the Dory at (631) 749-4300 for information and reservations for tickets. Tickets can also be purchased in advance at the Dory and at the door day of show. The Dory is located at 185 Bridge Street on Shelter Island. For a complete lineup of performers please visit www.shelterislandjazzfest.com