Judy Carmichael & Steve Ross Perform Patchogue’s Secret Loading Dock

Judy Carmichael and Steve Ross, Photo: Courtesy Judy Carmichael
Judy Carmichael and Steve Ross, Photo: Courtesy Judy Carmichael

You enter the venue by the back door, via the loading dock. It might seem kind of illicit, but no password or wristband is required, because tonight, this is where the audience is supposed to be—behind the scenes, getting up close and personal with some world-class performers.

This is the Loading Dock, entertainment in a speakeasy style, right in Patchogue—in fact, right inside Patchogue Theatre, accessed through its “secret” back entrance. Like in a real speakeasy of yore, beyond that nondescript door there are cocktails available, along with some appropriately hot music—jazz for a throwback to the Jazz Age.

“We’re making this a spot for jazz and cabaret,” says Sag Harbor’s Judy Carmichael, the stride piano legend who’s curating the programs at the Loading Dock. For those who might be intimidated by the style, Carmichael offers reassurance. “We’re focusing on the Great American Songbook—accessible, melodic jazz.” Carmichael hosts the shows and sits in with the guest performers.

In the last few years, Patchogue has become one of the hottest spots on Long Island. Main Street is filled with things to do, places to eat and drink, and plenty of live music. Lots of great bar bands have made Patchogue their principal stomping grounds, but where do you go to hear great jazz?

That would be the Loading Dock, where the performers and audience are all seated on Patchogue Theatre’s substantial stage, turning the stage itself into a nightclub. The rest of the theater, a lovingly restored 1923 Jazz Age masterpiece, becomes a luminous backdrop for an intimate evening of world-class music making.

The Loading Dock’s first program this season, on Thursday, January 24, will feature the incomparable Steve Ross, the reigning King of Cabaret. With a career that spans over five decades, Ross, who just turned 80, has spent a lifetime performing the songs of Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Jerome Kern and others, keeping this classic repertoire fresh and alive. “Steve opened the Oak Room at the Algonquin in 1981,” says Carmichael, referring to New York’s premier cabaret venue of that era. “He played there for years.” Ross’s encyclopedic knowledge of the songbook allowed him to accompany any singing star who happened to attend one of his shows—if Ginger Rogers popped up, Ross could play her songs, in her key, at the drop of a hat.

At Patchogue, at least one singing star will be in attendance—that would be Carmichael. “I’m going to sing a few with Steve, and we’ll do some piano duets.”

Next up is a New Orleans jazz night on March 21. “It’ll be a little late for Mardi Gras, but that’s okay,” says Carmichael. “Who’s keeping track?” The show will feature Jon-Erik Kellso on cornet and Ehud Asherie on piano. Kellso is a versatile player an experienced session musician, who’s also known for his work with Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks, the New York-based big band heard on numerous movie soundtracks and on the series Boardwalk Empire.

Finally, on May 2, the Loading Dock will feature up-and-coming pianist Ben Paterson. “He’s a young pianist who’s definitely going places,” says Carmichael. With a highly refined, precise playing style—“He plays like Oscar Peterson,” Carmichael gushes—Paterson recently won in the Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition. “He’s equally at home on the Hammond organ,” notes Carmichael—but that will have to wait for a return visit, perhaps. Paterson does sing, however, so once again the audience can expect a duet or two with Carmichael to round out the evening.

Yes, you could drive into the city to catch some great jazz any day of the week. But for some fantastic music closer to home, check out the Loading Dock!

Find all the details about Loading Dock performances on loadingdockpatchogue.com.

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