Part IX – The Isotope Stompers & “Fast Company”

The Isotope Stompers are a traditional Chicago-style Dixieland band which originated from musicians associated with Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton. Through changes in personnel, the band has been in existence and been the premier band of its kind on Long Island for well over 30 years.

While I’m actually not exactly sure of the date I first played with the Isotope Stompers, I do remember where it occurred…at Ramann’s Restaurant in East Setauket. I was very familiar with their sound as we played alternate sets at special events when I was part of the Banjo Aires. Their regular banjoist, Paul LaVoie, was part of Allan Doxsee’s Gaslight Square gang along with pianist Hank Rothenberg. Paul was a fine plectrum banjo player and vocalist with a substantial repertoire of tunes and when he moved out of the area the Stompers kindly called me for one of their Ramann’s performances (not opposite the Banjo Aires) as a trial run. They played a number of standards, but also had some specific arranged tunes which I quickly acquainted myself with.

The leaders of the Isotope Stompers are Ron Hammond (drums) and Ken Butterfield (trumpet). Ron is retired from the pharmaceutical industry but has a history of connection to jazz dating back to his youth in Hawaii where his father was a banjo player. Ken is an attorney and former Town Supervisor of Huntington who also has a rich musical heritage from his father Charlie, a studio jazz trombonist who worked with Phil Specht, Joe Venuti and Frank Sinatra. His uncle, Billy Butterfield, was a well-known trumpeter and bandleader.

The supporting players of the Isotope Stompers (past and present) are each outstanding performers. The present regular lineup includes Jerry Cohen on trombone, Artie Miller on clarinet and  Frank Hansen on bass. The band is perfectly suited for concert performances at libraries, bandshells and similar community events. Their level of musicianship is consistently fine and they are all supportive and friendly people to a man…a fun group to listen to, be around and be part of.

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Over the years, I’ve also had the privilege and pleasure to play occasional gigs with some “fast company” across the country. Some of the groups I’ve recorded or performed with as a guest include:

  • The Wolverine Jazz Band
  • The Galvanized Jazz Band
  • Bob Greene’s New Orleans Society Orchestra
  • Hot Jam!
  • The Paramount Jazz Band of Boston
  • Loose Marbles
  • Jeff Barnhart’s Northeast All-Stars
  • Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks
  • The Jim Cullum Jazz Band
  • Meschiya Lake & The Little Big Horns
  • Dave Ostwald’s Armstrong Centennial Band

I am proud and fortunate to have associated with them all. They continue to influence me as I attempt to grow and develop myself as a player and performer.

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~ Bob Barta

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