Intimate evenings at NACL

By SONIA OWCHARIW

HIGHLAND LAKE, NY — The lady might have been singing the blues, but it was toasty inside last Thursday night in the North American Cultural Laboratory (NACL) lounge, located on Highland Lake Road. NACL, a not-for-profit theatre in Sullivan County, has been home for many local and New York City performers to showcase their artistic talents since 1999. This year it has inaugurated “Salon Sessions,” a lounge-cabaret setting that provides a stage for all forms of art, including music, poetry readings, storytelling and monologues, to be held one Thursday night every month.

The quaint NACL lounge, with its pressed tin ceilings, arched doorways and candlelight gleaming off the crimson-red tablecloths, provides an ideal intimate setting to meet friends, enjoy light refreshments and appreciate local talent. In addition to the entertainment, there’s a donation bar that features soup—homemade and vegetarian—fresh hot popcorn and other refreshments. The doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the $5 donation benefits the local performers.

Located only 90 miles from New York City, the NACL theatre building has recently been renovated so that it can be operated year round. NACL co-founder and artistic director, Tannis Kowalchuk, said, “This is our first winter here since winterizing the building. I think it’s fantastic. I’m very excited and happy to have a place that gives local performers an intimate setting and a chance to perform.”

“Salon Sessions” kicked off its second event with a live performance from jazz ensemble The Sweetblood Quartet and special guest jazz singer Kazzrie Jaxxsen. Sweetblood is comprised of musicians Lorenzo Sanguedolce, tenor sax; John McCutcheon, drums; Rob Adkins, bass; and Nick Lyons, alto sax. For more information about Sweetblood Quartet, visit www.lozosax.com.

“Jazz is like a conversation with friends. It can go anywhere,” said Sanguedolce, who’s been playing tenor sax for 17 years.

Thursday night was a compilation of unique renditions and jazz standards such as “All The Things You Are.” Starting off the second song was local singer Kazzrie Jaxxsen, who joined The Sweetblood Quartet with “Out of Nowhere.”

The song, made popular by Ella Fitzgerald and Bing Crosby, found another worthy interpreter in Jaxxsen, who electrified the audience with her delivery of the lines: “You came to me from out of nowhere, you took my heart and found it free. Wonderful dreams, wonderful schemes from nowhere, made every hour sweet as a flower.”

Highland Lake resident Pat Friedrich remembers fondly attending mass at the NACL building, originally a Catholic Church over 30 years ago. But tonight, she was here for another reason. “I always listened to my neighbor Lorenzo practicing. I’m thrilled about finally hearing him perform,” Friedrich said.

The third song, a Quatrain poem by mystic poet Rumi, was played in a style known as free jazz. “Free is spontaneous… no chords, no structure. It can be played differently every time,” Jaxxsen said.

“Tonight’s jazz performance was out of this world; it was just like sitting in the village and making beautiful music for the community,” local Glen Spey musician, Coyote Anderson, said.

Coming up on December 14 will be Sephardic singers Katie Down and Adelante. Sephardic singing is described by NACL co-founder and artistic director Brad Krumholz as “a cross-pollination of Spanish and Hebrew; gorgeous melodies.” On January 11 the salon will feature soundpainting with the Strike Anywhere Ensemble, and on February 8, a reading of “Under Milk Wood” by the Upper Delaware Writers Collective.

Visit nacl.org for more information.

Contributed photo
Kazzrie Jaxxsen, center, joins Lorenzo Sangedolce, right, and his Sweetblood Quartet at the NACL’s second “Salon Session” on November 2. (Click for larger version)
Contributed photo
NACL’s salons will welcome all types of performance. The series opened with Skip Mendler, seen above, who specializes in mime and storytelling. (Click for larger version)