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Mike & Dorothy Longo's Co-Written 'The Rhythm Of Unity,' A Story Of A Search For Musical, Spiritual, & Racial Enlightenment, Due May 9 From Redwood Publishing

Mike & Dorothy Longo's Co-Written 'The Rhythm Of Unity,' A Story Of A Search For Musical, Spiritual, & Racial Enlightenment, Due May 9 From Redwood Publishing

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After decades of being told that he 'sounded Black,' or that he shouldn't or couldn't fraternize with people he loved, the pianist comes to the firm realization that 'unity in diversity' is the way forward for a harmonious society.
Mike Longo
When Mike Longo—the New York jazz pianist who was a longtime protégé, collaborator, and friend of Dizzy Gillespie—passed away in 2020 from COVID-19, he left behind a manuscript of his journey to musical and spiritual fruition. His widow, Dorothy Longo, completed the memoir as The Rhythm of Unity: A Jazz Musician’s Lifelong Journey Beyond Black and White, to be published May 9 by Redwood Publishing. To Mike’s chronicle of his personal quest, Dorothy added the story of their 39-year romance and life together.

Longo’s search for fulfillment as a jazz artist began when he was a very small child, growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, picking out tunes on his grandparents’ piano. His spiritual search began at roughly the same time, when he discovered the cruel absurdity of racism. Jazz was the vehicle that brought the two missions together, giving Longo a means of both developing his artistry and finding a world in which Black and White people could coexist in equality and mutual respect.

His relationship with Gillespie is also a major aspect of that journey. The Rhythm of Unity charts Longo’s path from being the bebop legend’s adoring fan, to employee, to comrade-in-arms battling the forces of racial prejudice, to, at last, close friend and confidant. In addition to discovering new musical frontiers, the pianist and trumpeter were also together in their exploration and acceptance of the Baháʼí faith—another journey that Longo documents as part of his story.

Ultimately, music, friendship, righteousness, and faith come together to shape Longo’s experience of the world as an artist and as a human. After decades of being told that he “sounded Black,” or that he shouldn’t or couldn’t fraternize with people he loved, the pianist comes to the firm realization that “unity in diversity” is the way forward for a harmonious society. While maintaining respect for the validity of diverse cultures and backgrounds, he sees that he “wasn’t Black or White and that any innate distinction between Blacks, Whites, Asians, Native Americans, and other races was based on false premises.”

A musician herself, Dorothy Longo serves as both an observer of and active participant in her late husband’s story. In addition to filling out his account with their shared one (titled “Reflections of a Jazz Wife”), Dorothy peppers Mike’s account with context and commentary about her husband’s experiences and philosophies as well as his character. Her contribution to The Rhythm of Unity elevates Mike Longo from just his own written-word perspective to a three-dimensional human being with compassion and empathy who puts his thoughts about humanity and brotherhood into practice.

About Mike Longo

Mike Longo was born March 19, 1937 in Cincinnati, Ohio, moving to Fort Lauderdale when he was eight. His parents were both musicians, and when his gifts made themselves known at an early age, they enrolled him in formal music lessons. Soon his interest shifted toward jazz, and by the time he was in high school, Mike was joining his father, bassist Michael Sr., on gigs around Fort Lauderdale.

Inspired by hearing Dizzy Gillespie on the radio as a teenager, Longo dove deep into bebop. After graduating from Western Kentucky University, he played his way to New York City, where he got a job as house pianist at Manhattan’s famed Metropole Café. There, he met Gillespie when the trumpeter and bebop titan came to play opposite Longo. The pianist spent some time studying with Oscar Peterson in Toronto before returning to New York and becoming Gillespie’s pianist and musical director for seven years (1966–1973). Their friendship and collaboration continued until Gillespie’s death in 1993.

Establishing his solo career in earnest after leaving Gillespie’s band, Longo recorded nearly two dozen albums under his own name—most of them for his self-established Consolidated Artists Productions label. He led small combos and his big band (New York State of the Arts Jazz Ensemble) in New York City and at many national and international venues. Longo also taught countless master classes, produced a 4-DVD series entitled The Rhythmic Nature of Jazz based on the rhythmic principles he learned from Dizzy, and wrote 10 books on jazz education. Longo was a devoted Baháʼí who created and hosted a weekly jazz series for 16 years at the New York City Baháʼí Center, where he and other jazz artists performed. He passed away on March 22, 2020 from COVID-19 at the age of 83.

About Dorothy Longo

A native of the Ohio Valley, Dorothy Longo fulfilled her dream of moving to New York City in 1970 and stayed there for 50 years. Dorothy received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music and music education, then became a regular singer/pianist in small clubs and cocktail lounge settings. She met Mike Longo in 1981 when she began taking lessons with him. They married in 1988 and remained together for the next 32 years. Dorothy was Mike’s partner in music, business, faith, and life. She served at the Baháʼí International Community’s United Nations office for over 31 years (27 as Operations Officer for the New York and Geneva offices). Dorothy Longo proudly wears the title of “Jazz Wife.”

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