Mike Longo, Jazz Pianist, Composer and Educator, Dies at 83


“Mike’s book was roughly split between his arrangements of other tunes and his original tunes,” Mr. Snyder said of Mr. Longo’s repertoire, “and it was obvious it was all the same thing for him; even his arrangements were recompositions.”


Michael Joseph Longo was born on March 19, 1937, in Cincinnati, to Michael Anthony Longo and Elvira Margaret (Vitello) Longo. He began to study piano with his mother, a homemaker who sang and played the piano and the organ, at age 3, starting formal lessons a year later. The family moved to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where Mr. Longo’s father established a successful business supplying produce to stores and to restaurants while also leading bands in which he played bass.

Mr. Longo’s father hired Mr. Adderley, who was black, to play in his band at a time when racial mixing was uncommon and potentially perilous. Mr. Adderley in turn took young Mr. Longo under his wing, engaging him for church performances and, on one occasion, an engagement at Porky’s Hideaway, a Fort Lauderdale jazz club.

Mr. Longo studied classical piano at Western Kentucky University, graduating in 1959 with a B.A. in music. Offered a scholarship by the jazz magazine DownBeat, he opted instead to pursue his education on the road with a small combo, the Salt City Six, and then in New York. His studies with Mr. Peterson in Toronto, Mr. Longo recalled in a 2006 interview with the website All About Jazz, taught him “how to play piano and how to be a jazz pianist — textures, voicings, touch, time, conception, tone on the instrument.”

Mr. Longo studied composition privately with Hall Overton from 1970 to 1972 and worked prolifically as a bandleader, arranger and composer after leaving Mr. Gillespie’s employ. But his association with Mr. Gillespie would dominate much of his professional career, even offering him the opportunity to compose an orchestral work, “A World of Gillespie” (1980), which Mr. Gillespie performed with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Longo is survived by a sister, Ellen.

Like Mr. Gillespie, Mr. Longo embraced the Baha’i faith, a religion that espouses the unity of all people and finds truth in multiple faith traditions. In 2004, he began leading weekly concerts at the New York City Baha’i Center in Greenwich Village. The last concert was on March 10.

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