Fourth Coast Entertainment -

By John Berbrich
FCE Staff 

Valentine's Day at Jernabi Coffeehouse


Last updated 3/26/2016 at 6:18am | View PDF

As I’ve said before, there’s nothing better than live music. I’ve also said that there’s nothing better than local music. Now, when you combine these two elements—live music & local music—you’ve got a combination that cannot be beat.

And that was the story on this past Valentine’s Day, as dozens of couples—plus some groups & solos—braved the frigid weather for an afternoon of fun, hot coffee, & hot live local music at the Jernabi Coffeehouse in Potsdam. And it was frigid. My car thermometer read minus seven as we arrived just before 1:00 & read minus four as we left, just after 5:00. In between everything indoors was warm & happy.

Kicking off the festivities was the Crescent Street Jam, which normally is a quintet but today performed as a tight 4-piece instrumental ensemble: piano, bass, drums, & sax. They played five mellow popular Jazz standards, “Days of Wine and Roses” a representative tune.

Next up was Matt McKenna (guitar) and his wife Maggie McKenna (violin), the folks who organized this event. They started off with “Stand By Me,” the old Ben E. King classic, then played Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” and finished up with an old Civil War song, which featured beautiful and unexpected Southern-style harmonies.

Professor Donald McNutt from SUNY Potsdam treated the crowd to some quasi-Valentine’s Day poetry with his own work and poems from Shakespeare and Keats, plus a dramatic reading of T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” McNutt returned between various performers, reading poems by Ezra Pound and Walt Whitman, the lyrics to Peter Townshend’s “Now and Then,” and even some lyrics from an old Genesis song.

Polished funk-pop emerged when KTX hit the imaginary stage, featuring Kyle Tupper on keyboards and acrobatic lead vocals, Jon Dufore on guitar, Marcus Alvarez on drums, and Matt Gayle on bass and nice backup vocals. The Band played two Stevie Wonder tunes, “Isn’t She Lovely” and “Superstition,” George Benson’s classic, “Turn Your Love Around,” and “Girlfriend,” by Smokey Robinson.

Following KTX, a solo guitarist and vocalist came forward, Alan Darrah, who is the regular drummer for the local band Ten Cent Green. A fellow with a sense of humor, Allen played a lot of country songs with which I am unfamiliar, but I did like his drinking song, originally performed by George Jones. Made me thirsty, always the criterion by which a drinking song is judged.

Next up, performing as the Caramelo Trio, was Oscar Sarmiento on guitar and Stephen Farina on a kind of soft brush percussion. Oscar sang in Spanish a beautiful Cuban lullaby, then played an instrumental samba and a voiceless version of The Beatles’ “All My Loving.” They were then joined by Oscar’s son Sal Sarmiento (thus completing the Trio) and played one more song, which I didn’t recognize, and which Sal sang in a marvelous deep bluesy growl, deeper and bluesier and growlier than Tom Waits.

Following Caramelo was an acoustic duo, Mark Lyon on guitar and Camilla Ammirati on banjo. They have excellent singing voices individually and sound wonderful together. Among the several songs played were “Your Cheating Heart,” by Hank Williams Sr. and “Payday” by Mississippi John Hurt, plus my favorite the fun original song “The Devil’s Laundromat,” written by Ammirati, and I’m sure we all have our examples of demonic laundromats.

Two young women, Laurel Kuxhaus and Sandy Steinberg, followed with some classical pieces performed on oboe and flute, at least one of which was written by Mozart.

And the festivities closed with a rousing set by David Wells and the Gathering, featuring Wells on lead vocals and guitar, Amber Nezezon on vocals and violin/fiddle, Greg Jadlos on 5-string bass, and enthusiastic young powerhouse on drums, Michael Jadlos. In addition to several originals, including a wild Celtic fiddle tune called “Swallowtail” and one wonderful drinking song (making me thirsty again), they played Van Morrison’s “Moondance,” a haunting rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman,” and Train’s “Meet Virginia.”

This entire event was a fundraiser for the Ives Park Concert Series, held in Potsdam from mid-August to early October. Much thanks to the McKennas, all the musicians and patrons, and of course to the staff and management at Jernabi’s for helping to make this a fun and successful venture.


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