Gil Parris Curtis Winchester

The Lazy Lounge Wednesday Jam
Hosted by Gil Parris and Curtis Winchester
152 Mamaroneck Avenue
White Plains, N.Y.

Jam review by Roger-Z (10/21/07)
Appeared in More Sugar, November 2007, P. 15A

Well run jam sessions serve so many different purposes. Middle-aged "weekend warriors" escape their homes (and life) for one night a week. Young musicians learn their trade under the guidance of more experienced colleagues. The house band plays the same club every week to large crowds. Non-players get treated to a potpourri of talent. And let's not forget the club owners. They make money! All in all, a win-win situation.

The Westchester region currently features a number of well run jams and open mikes including, but not limited to, the following:

This month we explore the success of the Lazy Lounge jam in White Plains run by Gil Parris and Curtis Winchester. Although Parris and Winchester appear each week, the other house band members rotate. They include Rudy Feinauer, Thierry Arpino, Josh Dion, and Joe Piteo on drums, Kip Sophos and Anthony Candullo on bass, Mark Reuter on harp (first week of the month), and Jim Hickey (Parris sub) on guitar. Due to the overwhelming popularity of the jam, on many nights, most house band members end up playing only the opening and mid-evening set.

The actual emceeing falls largely to the gracious Curtis Winchester. He describes his philosophy as follows. "Anyone who's ever run a jam knows that jammin' ain't easy. By that I mean it takes a good musical knowledge base to properly execute a song, especially with the surprise element of limited familiarity amongst 'jammers.' I believe we try to set an environment that makes jammers and listeners comfortable. We treat everyone with respect, we encourage those lacking courage, we introduce listeners to musicians, musicians to musicians, listeners to listeners. And this part, I believe is important to what makes this jam 'popular.' We smile and laugh with everyone, musicians, listeners and Lazy Lounge Staff, on and off stage. There is no 'tool' that a performer can pack in his or her arsenal as powerful as a smile and I believe in that philosophy deeply as a performer. It helps create a truly 'positive' environment and I think this is why people feel at ease at the 'Lounge,' whether they come into play or come into listen and many of them come in for both."

The band starts the show with a half-hour set at 9:00 PM sharp, earlier than many other places. Then comes the hard part -- deciding who to put up. Winchester usually adheres to the signup list but will make certain tweaks to ensure that both the audience and the players enjoy a quality experience. Due to the clubs location next to a number of other night spots, The Lazy Lounge enjoys a significant walk-in crowd. Because the music is not limited to the blues, the club attracts a diverse group of musicians.

Gil Parris explains, "In doing this, I've met a lot of new friends that come out and support my own solo artist gigs. Also, it gives me a great deal of pride to hear the players improving from week to week. Plus, Curtis and I both feel it's a good opportunity for us to throw a MID-WEEK PARTY!"

Blues guitarist Bob Washington described to me his love for the jam. "A little over a year ago I started coming to the Lounge to Jam on the Blues night. I really just happened to be looking for a place that specifically had such a night. I saw their (advert) in 'More Sugar!' and thought I'd go and check it out. I was so pleasantly surprised. I was welcomed with open arms by both the fantastic, versatile singer, Mr. Curtis Winchester, and the incredible Master Guitarist, Mr. Gil Parris... As a student of the Blues, I learn something new musically every time I go to listen or play there. You get to meet other musicians, discuss different approaches to creating music, and once in a while you might even get an offer to play a gig. It's also a great atmosphere, I feel for anyone who's looking to fine tune their craft. Now that the Jams are every Wednesday night, I for one can't wait to go. They have become for me, kinda like Christmas morning. I jump up and down with all the anticipation of a child longing to see what Santa left them under the tree (smile).

Jeanne Cashman, a legal assistant by day and artist and singer by night, shared an amazing story with me. "Roger, your set was fun last night. You really enjoy using your gifts. I finally got up around midnight and we did 'Spooky,' 'Thrill is Gone,' and 'Woman Be Wise.' It was going great. Then in the middle of "Woman be Wise" at the solo, who should walk in but my oldest son. What a jolt of joy! I was so distracted and happy that I started to sing in the harp player's solo. All in all it was a great night! My son said he was just walking down the street, and he heard his Mom's voice (I always sing at home). He said it was great and he walked in and waited in the back until after the 'Thrill is Gone,' then he walked up and just stood there. It was a moment!"

And finally, some words from bassist and jam regular Tom Sprock. "Personally I find the players to be both humble and talented with a scattered rare exception in both cases (LOL!) The crowd itself seems to really enjoy live music. As a working musician, it's a place you can go to keep your chops up, meet different players, and sometimes get hired to do some gigs (LOL!) The location is good and it's usually hoppin'. Music has always been my most passionate form of expression. What better way to escape reality per say than through music.

So musicians, dust off that old axe and trot on down. And the same goes for those who play only the Ipod!

2007 Roger-Z