We first learned about Toots Thielmans from Pat DeRosa, the 99-year-old Montauk jazz saxophonist who was recently inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. DeRosa recalled with delight the summer that Thielmans played jazz at Gosman’s Dock. Thielmans had been catapulted to fame in 1969 after the release of Midnight Cowboy. The movie’s melancholic theme music was distinguished by the haunting notes of Thielmans’ harmonica.
John Gosman earned a degree in business administration from St. Bonaventure University near Buffalo, but the time he spent in Greenwich Village before returning to Montauk and the family restaurant reinforced his love of jazz and concerts. His mother, Mary Gosman, had this to say in a 1991 oral history interview conducted by Amagansett’s History Project: “He always had in mind that he was gonna do something. Because John is a frustrated architect. He’s got to have a project. He’s got to be building up or tearing down.” What John did was to build a Dockside Stage and launch his “Jazz at Gosman’s Dock” series.
In 1973, the highlight of the first jazz concert of the season was Toots Thielmans. The reviewer, Ted Strongin, in his column “Previews and Postscripts” (EH Star, July 12, 1973), was critical of the sound system, which was filled with distortion. “However,” Strongin continued, “all was not lost. The salt air setting on the deck, with the pleasing arrangement of boutiques and the nearby beer and soft drinks, the new bandstand, the boats gliding by, is so perfect for outdoor music that it was possible to get a kick out of the mere occasion.”
This week’s Throwback Thursday photograph was shot during that concert from July 3, 1973. “The idea of late Sunday afternoon outdoor jazz concerts on the dock, the brainchild of John Gosman, is a natural, as attested to by the large and enthusiastic audience…,” Strongin concluded.
John Gosman died a few days ago at the age of 88. Toots Thielmans died at 94, making his departure in 2016. “Bluesette,” an instantly recognizable, wistful harmonica classic performed by Thielmans, somehow seems a good musical accompaniment for bidding these two giants farewell.