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The Hoodat Loungers open up Shelter Island Jazzfest Saturday. (Courtesy Photo)
The HooDoo Loungers open up Shelter Island Jazzfest Saturday. (Courtesy Photo)

Joe Lauro is a man inspired by music. He’s also driven to share it with others.

Before selling his Shelter Island home and moving to Sag Harbor a few years back, Mr. Lauro frequently hosted live music events in the barn on the property where he lived for 15 years.  

“I lived up the road from the Dory on Route 114 in a New Orleans style plantation house,” explained Mr. Lauro in a recent phone interview. “Behind that was the ‘Pleasure Lounge’ — a 19th century barn we converted into a juke joint.

“I’d do parties there and a lot of fundraisers for local charities — probably three or four a year. I always brought music there.”

Mr. Lauro is still making music, these days as the front man for the HooDoo Loungers, a nine-piece New Orleans style jazz band founded in 2008.

The band plays frequently at events and venues around the East End and next weekend Mr. Lauro will bring the music back to the Island when the HooDoo Loungers perform as part of the third annual Shelter Island JazzFest, sponsored by Jack Kiffer and the Dory.

For the first time since the festival’s inception, the music is moving outdoors to a public space. On Saturday, July 23, Mr. Lauro and his Loungers kick off JazzFest with a 6 p.m. concert in the gazebo at Volunteer Park. As he once did at the ‘Pleasure Lounge,’ Mr. Lauro and his crew will use their music for a good cause. Admission to the concert is by donation and the beneficiary is the Shelter Island Ambulance Foundation.

Mr. Lauro likes the idea of bringing people together, which is what the New Orleans lifestyle is all about. From his former house on the Island to his current band, Mr. Lauro is obviously also a big fan of the Big Easy and with the HooDoo Loungers he has tapped into a musical form that is unique on the East End and by its very nature encourages community, which may explain the band’s popularity.

“I love New Orleans music. It’s so happy and infectious and something that isn’t done up here,” Mr. Lauro said when asked about the idea behind the band’s formation. “I wanted to try something different.”

He notes that the HooDoo Loungers have evolved quite a bit since their early days when they performed less like a traditional band and more like a themed troupe complete with comedy routines.

“We would do corporate gigs and it would be a New Orleans show with a Mardi Gras parade and beads,” said Mr. Lauro.

Freddy Cole, brother of Nat, returns to Shelter Island next week. (Courtesy photo)
Freddy Cole, brother of Nat, returns to Shelter Island next week. (Courtesy photo)

But after a few years, the band began to evolve naturally and members started writing their own music.

“Now we’re a lot looser in what we play,” Mr. Lauro explained. “We play traditional New Orleans music and rearrange it to suit us, but we’ve also added originals. We now have two CDs of our own and that puts us into a different realm.

“We could play a whole concert of our own music,” he said.

That’s largely what they will be doing in Volunteer Park on July 23 and Mr. Lauro finds the notion of an al fresco venue a nice fit with the big sound of the HooDoo Loungers.

“I like playing outdoors. A lot of times it sounds better — music in the air sounds great, it balances well, it’s not bouncing off the walls or the floors of a club,” Mr. Lauro said. “It’s an organic thing and the park is a really lovely spot.”

“Jack [Kiffer] is sponsoring this event hand in hand with the Town. I think it’s great Shelter Island uses the park,” Mr. Lauro said. “It would be nice

if they could have more events like this there. Shelter Island is a special place and little things like this enhance people’s experiences there.”

The HooDoo Loungers play from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 23 with admission by donation. Following their performance, bluesman Jake Lear will take over on the deck of the Dory at 9:30 p.m.

In addition to Mr. Lauro, members of the HooDoo Loungers include keyboard player and musical director David Deitch, lead vocalist Dawnette Darden, sax player Brian Sears, trombonist Ed Leone, trumpet player Gary Henderson, guitarist Michael Shiano, drummer Dave Giacone and vocalist Marvin Joshua. Filling in for Mr. Henderson at the July 23 concert will be trumpet player Baron Lewis.

The third annual Shelter Island JazzFest continues Tuesday and Wednesday, July 26 and 27 with singer and pianist Freddy Cole, brother of the late Nat King Cole, performing two shows nightly on the Dory’s deck with son Lionel Cole opening. The first performance at 6 p.m. both nights is a dinner show with an $85 three-course surf and turf meal. The second show begins at 8 p.m. with a $40 cover charge, though the full meal option will also be available.

For more information about the festival or to make reservations for the dinner, which are required, call Jack Kiffer at the Dory at (631) 749-4300.