Jazz, Love and Letting Loose: Brooklyn's Surprising Senior Jazz Scene

Dec 10, 2018
Originally published on December 10, 2018 7:49 am

As a producer on Jazz Night in America, part of my job is to highlight the intersections of jazz and everyday life. It's easy to get caught up in the large, romantic art projects and album releases, but what about the stories that are happening in our own backyards? When I started asking that question, I was introduced to Jazz 966.

Odds are, when you think about going out, whether it's clubbing or to hear live music, you don't envision an elderly crowd. Most traditional clubs aren't set up to cater to the aging population and as a result, senior music lovers can be left out in the cold. There's where Jazz 966 comes in. Founded in 1990 by the Fort Greene Council in Brooklyn, N.Y., Jazz 966 is a senior center by day, but, on Friday nights, it transforms into a swinging jazz club. 966 is an affordable, inclusive, and lively refuge for seniors to hear live music — and, arguably, more importantly, to dance. The club's lineup runs the gamut, ranging from neighborhood locals to renowned jazz giants like trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.

At Jazz Night, we accompanied two of the club's regulars, Ted Harvin, 81, and Delrosa Marshall, 74, through a typical evening. The duo has been frequenting the club for almost a decade now, and it's become a pivotal place for them to socialize, especially as Ted's mobility has decreased. Despite the additional challenges they face, including reckoning with aging, the joy that music and dance bring them prevails. "I think my outlook on life hasn't changed since I was 20," Ted says, "I know that she says, 'Well, why are we here?' We're here to enjoy life, and that's the only thing we can do: Just enjoy it."

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