Richard “Buzz” Bergen of Bellmore was returning to KJ Farrrell’s popular Sunday Open Jam Night after a prolonged absence. As a former saxophonist for the Rolling Stones tribute band Streetfighter, he was looking to maintain his musical timing by playing within a group setting.
Bergen’s former Bellmore neighbor Carine Ulano-Firestone was also at open jam night, as she has for the last nine years, even when it was only on Monday nights. The singer spoke of the thrill of camaraderie shared among the many musicians who come to play at open mic night.
Another “almost” regular was guitarist Ronnie Rivituso, formerly of the Beatles tribute band Abbey Road. He liked to come to open jam night because “we never know what we are going to play once placed together as an ensemble.”
After signing in, the three were serendipitously grouped together for the first time by Merokian Curt Arnel, host of Sunday night’s Open Jam Night and drummer for the band Off The Record. He grouped them together on stage with a drummer and organist – and Off The Record’s bassist and guitarist, to serve as anchors to the first-time-playing-together band.
The new band was permitted to play a quick set of three songs, so they all huddled to discuss options, along with the bassist and guitarist. “We’re not scared that we haven’t played together before,” Ulano-Firestone assured the crowd before taking control of the stage and ripping in to “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Proud Mary” and “Angel of the Morning.”
This is precisely how Sunday’s Open Jam Night works, Arnel told Your NewsMag. Musicians come in on Sunday night, sign in and Arnel matches them according to their talents to play on stage to see what transpires.
While the Open Jam Might at KJ Farrell’s, 20 Pettit Avenue in Bellmore, was traditionally a Monday night affair, only over the last year has it expanded to include Sunday night as well. Craig Kelly, co-owner of KJ Farrell’s along with Bellmore resident Kevin Sheehan, said “We do live music seven nights a week, but could only do it six nights a week” recently until Off The Record took over Sunday nights.
Kelly heard that Off The Record had been successful at Callahan’s in East Meadow in hosting open mic nights, and offered the band a slot as the host house band for Sunday night, which could once again complete the music venue’s seven-nights-a-week schedule of offering live music.
Jim Sabella, who first recorded Bellmore’s Gabrielle Ross, said there is no live venue like KJ Farrell’s anywhere else in Nassau County – and perhaps Long Island.
Arnel told Your NewsMag that Off The Record – which plays roughly five Saturday night club dates a month as a band, mixing largely classic rock with pop rock, blues and funk – found success as a host band for open jam nights at the old Jugs & Strokers location on Sunrise Highway in Merrick. The band’s next opportunity arose at Callahan’s in East Meadow, where the band hosted a Thursday night Open Jam Night, which lasted four years before the location was sold.
In addition to the musicians from tribute bands, other musicians of repute have also graced the stage, Arnel says. “A musician from the band Sha-Na-Na has played, as well as a member of the band Riot.” He also noted that a musician from Merokian pop star Debbie Gibson’s band has played, as have musicians who have recorded their own CDs.
Open jam night is a musicians’ community, and the quality level is fairly high, Arnel said. “These musicians can adapt fairly well because they listen to each other, and know many of the songs they are going to play.”
University of Oneonta music student Harrison Bromberg recently played at the open jam night, saying jamming with the house band was an experience unlike any other. “I learned how to be in sync with other musicians.” He said that “just because you rock in the basement, doesn’t mean you rock on stage.”
Arnel echoed those words, concluding that exposure to “jamming live on three songs with others you don’t know is the equivalent of two weeks’ worth of playing songs in practice.”
Open Jam Night for all musicians takes place from 8-11 p.m. on Sundays. For details call the venue at 804-9925, or visit www.kjfarrells.com.