Mike Longo began his professional career at the age of
fifteen in South Florida where he began working with his
fathers club date band around the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale
area. He actually began playing piano at the age of
three in Cincinnati, Ohio his birthplace. By the age of
four the family took him to the Cincinnati Conservatory
where he began formal lessons with a teacher.
The family later moved to Ft. Lauderdale when he was
at a very early age where he grew up and began playing
boogie woogie piano. His professional career took roots after winning a local talent contest at
the age of twelve.
Longo went to a Jazz at the Philharmonic concert while in the 9th grade and heard Oscar Peterson who immediately became his idol. Cannonball Adderley, who was a band director in a local high school at the time, heard Longo at a jam session and became interested in the young pianist.
The two became friends and the elder Longo hired Cannonball to work some gigs with his club date band. Later, Cannonball got Longo a gig with a R&B band that he was working with and the pianist began playing up and down the east coast of Florida on what was known at the time as "the chittlin' circuit". The older Adderley began coaching the younger musician and later hired him to play with his quartet at the famed Porky's that was depicted in the movies of the same name in the 70's.
After graduation from high school, Longo attended college at Western Kentucky State University where he earned a Bachelor of Music degree in classical piano. During his stay there he went on the road with the famed Hal McIntyre orchestra during one summer and played with legendary guitarist Hank Garland in Nashville's famous Printers Alley as well.
During his senior year of college, Longo won the Downbeat Magazine Hall of Fame Scholarship to Berklee School of Music when a fellow student submitted a tape recording of his playing to the magazine. Longo declined the scholarship
and upon graduation hit the road as a full time professional jazz musician. During his two year stint with a band called the Salt City Six, he was booked into New York's Metropole Cafe. When the band left, Longo stayed at the Metropole as a house pianist. It was there that he worked with such jazz notables as Henry Red Allen, Coleman Hawkins, George Wettling, Gene Krupa and many others.
While at the Metropole, trumpeter Jimmy McPartland of the Austin High Gang fame, hired him to go to Chicago to do a two week stint at a club called Bourbon Street. While there, Longo met his early idol Oscar Peterson who was playing Chicago's London House. Peterson invited Longo to his hotel suite where Longo played for him. As a result, Longo was invited to study with Peterson at the Advanced School of Contemporary Music in Toronto, a school for jazz musicians run by Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown. Longo spent
the next six months in what he would later refer to as "the most intense period of study in my life."
Upon completion of his studies with Peterson, Longo returned to New York where he took up residence. He went on the road with Nancy Wilson which began a period of work with many legendary singers such as Gloria Lynn, Jimmy Witherspoon, Joe Williams, Jimmy Rushing and others. This was followed by a period where he worked around the New York area with bassist Sam Jones in many duo settings as well as with his own trio in places like Basin St. East, The Hickory House, The New York Playboy Club where he stayed for a whole year, and the Embers where he became the house trio for an extended period of time.
It was while playing at the Embers that Dizzy Gillespie first heard him. Dizzy, who was the featured attraction, heard Longo during his breaks and was to remark in later years that he had decided he wanted Mike to be on his group during that engagement. The opportunity didn't arrive until two years later.
It was 1966 and Longo was booked into the Embers West on 49th St. in Manhattan. His trio at the time consisted of Paul Chambers on bass and Chuck Lampkin on drums. The trio
became a house rhythm section there and during this period Mike played with such jazz greats as Frank Foster, Frank Wess, Clark Terry, Zoot Sims and the legendary Roy
Eldridge. It was Roy who went around the corner to where Dizzy was playing and told Dizzy "you got to come by and hear this piano player who is playing with me." Dizzy came
by and heard Mike play a set with his trio and the next day hired him to be the new pianist with the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet, a post Mike would remain in for the next nine years.
During his first year with Dizzy, Mike began writing material for the group and Dizzy eventually appointed him as his musical director. A close bond of friendship as well as musical collaborator developed between the two which lasted until Gillespie's death in 1993.
Mike left the Gillespie group officially in 1975 to venture out on his own but still worked with Dizzy on a part time basis for the next sixteen years often writing for him as well as playing with him on several occasions. In 1986, Longo was commissioned by Gillespie to compose a piece for full symphony orchestra which was performed by Gillespie in 1993 with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Since that time Mike has recorded several albums and CD's on various labels with some 45 recordings with various artists like Gillespie, James Moody and many others. He, at
present, has 19 solo albums to his credit.
"Dawn of a New Day" was released in 1997 and is cross section view of the three trios he was currently working with around that period. One with Ben Brown on bass and Ray Mosca on drums. Another with Paul West on bass and Ray Mosca on drums. And still another with Gillespie band mates Ignacio Berroa on drums and John Lee on electric bass. It represtents a delightful mixture of standards and jazz standards from swing beats to funk grooves. It has proven to be a favorite among jazz piano fans and is known to support frequent re-plays for many years to come. It represents one of those "gems" that any jazz fan will want to add to their collection.