Jazzing it up at the port: Coffeehouse building a performance tradition

Larkin Stentz played winds and Jeanie Bellinger sang last weekend at Jeanne's Java Jam at the Port of Ilwaco.

ILWACO - Don't be surprised if you hear the sounds of jazz wafting through the air on a cloud of espresso steam on Sunday afternoons at the port.

Festivals Coffee Net on the Port of Ilwaco has been hosting a Sunday afternoon event called Jeanne's Java Jam, named after the coffee house's owner/operator Jeanne Lord, for the last couple years. The jam session is an opportunity for local and visiting musicians to create music together on a whim.

"We keep it going just because they like to play. They're not paid, it's just something they like to do," said Lord.

It all started in the summer of 2000, when Lord said she had the idea of opening a coffee house, rather then just another espresso stand. She said she got the name because of her love of our Peninsula's festivals. She originally planned to locate in Long Beach, but when she had the opportunity to move into a place on the harbor, she jumped at it.

"I couldn't resist," said Lord. "Great people, beautiful boat marina."

She started out in a smaller space on the harbor, but soon had to move into the larger building she occupies now.

"I needed more room," said Lord. "We started having performers come in who wanted to get together, and it was taking over the other end of the building. Now we have lots of room here."

The Sunday jam session idea came from Chris Jacobsen, a local boat skipper and businessman. Jacobsen also is a musician who has mastered several instruments.

Currently, there is a core group of players who get together every week, but anyone who wants to join in is encouraged to do so. Lord said lately there haven't been as many people coming to sit in with the band, which has left a hole at several instruments that have been manned in the past including bass guitar, saxophone and banjo. They have a drum set and bass guitar just waiting for someone to come along and play them, but most people tend to bring their own instruments.

A recent Sunday session saw a group of four musicians, including Larkin Stentz on wind instruments, Norm Poulshock on piano, Susanne Leonard on violin and vocalist Jeanie Bellinger.

The quartet kicked through several jazz standards including "Someone to Watch Over Me," and "September in the Rain," before a small audience spread out at small tables donned with books, magazines and chess boards.

Just moments into their third number, the band was reminded of their surroundings, being interrupted briefly by the noise of grinding espresso beans in the background, which brought slight smiles to their faces.

About halfway into their two-hour set, the band stopped for a few moments as pianist Poulshock told the story of a friend who used to play with them, Larry Burse.

"About a year ago their was an outstanding guitarist that used to sit in with us. At the age of 82, he played a great jazz guitar," said Poulshock. "He passed on few months ago."

They have set up a donation box in his honor at the coffee house, the proceeds going towards a scholarship for a graduating senior of Ilwaco High School who plans on continuing an education in music.

"We miss Larry a lot," said Poulshock. "He was a driving force behind this."

Festivals is beginning a new chapter in its musical history as well, a new Saturday night weekly feature.

The coffee house will be open on Saturday nights, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and will host live musical acts, including the last Saturday of each month which will be tagged "Saturday Night Live at the Port," featuring an "open mic" kind of atmosphere. The other Saturdays will feature radio script readings and professional performers.

"We want to get something started so by springtime people will know there's something happening on the port on Saturday nights," said Lord.

The Sunday jam sessions are welcome to anyone interested in listening or playing and take place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. each week.

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