A whole lot of hootenanny’s going on at St. Michael’s in Amagansett since Crossroads Music moved its Sunday jam sessions there to accommodate the ever-growing number of musicians and accomplished amateurs who take part—and their audience. On a given afternoon, anywhere from 10 to 20 players will show up to ring out and sing out in the spirit of Pete Seeger and Lee Hays’ “If I Had a Hammer,” seeking through music “a love between my brothers and my sisters all over the land.” The sense of community is palpable. Rich Browning, a congregant at the church who lives in Sag Harbor and does “a little of this and a little of that” at the church is a bit diffident, since this is his first time drumming, but he looks over at the small group of guitarists gathering around the church’s new piano, and smiles: “Music brings everyone together.” Within seconds everybody’s jamming.
The repertoire is basically soft rock and blue grass, along with occasional gospel, pop or R & B. Amazingly, everyone seems to know the words, including St. Michael’s dynamic, welcoming pastor, the Rev. Dr. Katrina Foster, who’s been known to take to the mic with confidence and joy, though she really looks to do drums, her favorite. Someone walks by with sheet music, a few hands go out, but by and large improv rules. Pastor Foster notes that St. Michael’s congregation has been wonderfully “flexible” about doing new things and highly encouraging of Crossroads moving the action to their vaulted, light-filled space.
The guys—and they’re mostly that—though a woman showed up at least one Sunday with a mandolin—appreciate that the high-ceilinged wooden church enhances their sound. By instinct, the players cluster near a mic, “noodling” and trade off taking the lead, though Paul Hamilton, who organizes the jam, presides. “How much do we want to do acoustic (the main and preferred mode), how much electric?” An amp gets plugged in. “Let’s back off,” he suggests, when someone’s soloing. His son, a senior at the Ross School, who plays one mean guitar, joins the group from time to time.
Who knows who will stroll in and with what instrument? Walter Noller shows up, guitar and accordion in tow, the latter welcomed by the 14 guitars and one bass already assembled. A bass ukulele with fat strings makes a surprising appearance, and Jed Feldman, who owns the Pizza Place in Bridgehampton where jazz reigns on Monday nights, comes with his flute and sax. Other places are more “open mic” Noller suggests, whereas the Crossroads folks constitute a true “jam.” If someone starts on a piece, everyone else joins in. Noller, whose Crossroads experience dates to when the shop first opened on North Main Street in East Hampton, says that the informal Crossroads players constitute “a nucleus” for live music in this area. He nods at Glenn Feit walking by, cowboy hat smartly perched over grey hair. Feit introduces himself as “bringing the average age up.” At 83, and a semi-retired corporate lawyer, with a house in Bridgehampton, he’s been playing guitar for only four years, but credits the guys around him as “very, very special,” supportive and encouraging. “They really want to help.” In the early days, he’d hear a call for a D chord, an A minor, “What’s that?” Now he knows, and though standards and ballads are his favorites, he’s up for anything. He’s delighted that he’s asked to play—and now also sing—around town, at farmers markets, benefits, other venues, but Crossroads is his steady love. He gives credit to Michael Clark, the owner of Crossroads Music. To which Pastor Foster may well say, Amen.
Crossroads Jam Sessions run on Sundays 2–5 p.m. Though donations are suggested, the jam is free. St. Michael’s Lutheran Church is located at
486 W. Montauk Hwy, Amagansett. 631- 267-6351