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Kenny Garrett is one of my favorite artists of all time. Here’s the reason why.

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

The Kenny Garrett Quintet performs this weekend at The Velvet Note, September 22-23, at 7:30pm and 9:30pm showtimes.  Vernell Brown on piano, Corcoran Holt on bass, Mark Whitfield, Jr. on drums and Rudy Bird on percussion.

When Kenny Garrett performed at The Velvet Note for the first time a couple of years ago.  I must confess, I didn’t much like him.  I mean…I liked his music, but I didn’t like the fact that the second night of his shows didn’t sell out.  For a small club like ours, having empty seats for a superstar artist is rough for everyone involved.  To make matters worse, he and his quintet needed to park themselves in our city for a couple of days before moving on to the next stop on their tour, so we were making our club available to them for rehearsals.  Empty seats and extra rehearsals too?  Ugh. 

Kenny had called me on a Tuesday morning, hours before his scheduled 2:00pm band rehearsal time.  He had a special request:  he wanted to get into the club early.  Not the whole band, just him.  Now this was just getting ridiculous.  I rolled my eyes in silent persecution, took a deep breath, and then assured him that I would open up that morning just for him.

If you’ve ever met Kenny Garrett, you know that his personality is…well…somewhat dry.  And quiet.  So, upon approach, there was no hug, no special sentiments of appreciation, barely a smile.  Not what I would do in that situation, but oh, well.  I had brought some work to do while sitting in the back of the room, waiting for this to be over.  He had his saxophone with him, as well as a large notebook.  He would play a few bars and then scribble in the notebook.  A few more, and then some more writing.  This went on for about an hour, at which time he asked, “Could you make some copies for me please?”

That moment was when the screaming in my head began.  I was tired, I was hungry, I was supposed to have a day off and hadn’t.   We didn’t have a copier at the time, so making five sets of collated copies required that I drive over to FedEx/Kinkos.   “Dude”, I thought. “My parents didn’t send me to a top-ten school in order to make copies for you!  I am the owner of this club, not your Girl Friday!”  I alternated between pinching my lips together and clamping down on my tongue.  I felt my head about to begin its roll-around on my neck.  Thankfully, no sound came out from between my lips.  “Certainly, Mr. Garrett,” I said.  “I will be right back.”

Down the street at Kinkos, I opened the notebook.  Inside were hand-written pages of a composition he had just written, or at least started.  I made the collated sets and then returned to the club.  And then, the most unexpected happened.

Kenny Garrett placed a copy of his sheet music at the piano and then proceeded to play the piano part as beautifully as any pianist I’ve ever heard.  As he played, he scrawled some notes on the piano copy of composition.

Then he got up and placed a copy on a stand in front of the upright bass.  He embraced the instrument that towered above him and proceeded to play it as beautifully as any bassist I’ve heard.  As he played, he scrawled some notes on the bass copy of the composition.

And then he did the same with the drums.  And then he went back to his saxophone.

I sat in the back of the room, shaking, my eyes welling with tears.  I began scolding myself.   “You are an arrogant fool, Tamara.  Most people in this world—including you–can barely master one thing.  This man in front of you has mastered every instrument on his stage, a fact that most people are completely unaware of, since they think of him only as a saxophonist.  He is so modest that he allows them to think just that.  He has given you the greatest, most inspiring gift—allowing you to see a part of him that almost no one knows about.  You have just had the privilege of witnessing him compose a piece of music that has—in part– been written from the perspective of every instrument that will perform it.  He has allowed you to witness the fact that he is as good at playing the instruments in his band as his band members are.  He trusted you with his hand written notes of an original composition.  You should be thanking him for the intimacy of this experience, not barking about you will and will not do.”

I got up and walked to the front of the room where he sat with his saxophone.  “Mr. Garrett, I am going next door to get some lunch.  May I get you something?”

“No, I’m fine, thank you.”

As a sat in the sandwich shop and continued to beat myself up, members of his quintet arrived for rehearsal, one by one.  I thought about how true greatness and intrinsic power can enable us to be tender and quiet and vulnerable all at once.  By the time I returned to the club, the band sounded like a jazz symphony, coming together to play the song that Kenny had freshly composed.

This weekend, The Kenny Garrett Quintet has sold out every show.  If you’re one of the lucky few with tickets, we welcome you to our little club.  You are in for an extraordinary musical experience.  And I look forward to meeting you personally.  I will be the woman carrying Kenny’s water bottle, with a look of profound inspiration and joy on my face that reaches from ear to ear.

The Velvet Note – Now Available for Private Events

Monday, April 24th, 2017

I can’t believe our fifth anniversary is right around the corner. What started as a literal dream, today is a functioning reality that I love. Many thought The Velvet Note wouldn’t be sustainable, but we are here and prospering! For the last five years, I followed that dream to create an amazing venue that allows people to meet the artists, have great food and drinks, and enjoy a great atmosphere.

We are so grateful to everyone who make The Velvet Note a success. Thanks to the artists. To the employees. And to the guests who keep coming back – we can’t wait to see what the next five years brings!

To celebrate, we proudly announce that The Velvet Note is open and available for private events. What better way to impress your clients and business partners than our private room with gourmet food with live jazz in the background, and the kind of upscale, creative atmosphere that can only be found in Atlanta’s most intimate live music venue? Call us today for more details and to book your event! 

I sat down with the team at Shofur.com to talk about this exciting new chapter for their podcast. I also learned what Shofur does; they help event planners aggregate buses so guests can easily get around during events like Coachella, The Super Bowl or your private event at The Velvet Note! Check out our discussion here.

The next time you’re looking for a cool venue to host an event, think of The Velvet Note. 

xoxo, Tamara

Take a Peek Inside

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be at an event inside The Velvet Note? Take a look at a clip from a recent show!

The Velvet Note Celebrates One Year!

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

It’s hard to imagine that it’s been an entire year since we opened our doors here at The Velvet Note.  Over the past twelve months, we have been pleased and honored to bring fresh, high-quality entertainment to our guests, and we look forward to doing so for many years to come.  Recently, the stars aligned to celebrate The Velvet Note’s anniversary and reflect on their experience in performing with us:

Joe Gransden, Trumpeter, Vocalist and Big Band Leader:
“I love performing at The Velvet Note. The sound and the ambiance areperfect!  It’s an amazing atmosphere in which to create music.  The Velvet Note is, by far, one of my favorite jazz clubs in the country.”

(more…)

Velvet Note Featured in Atlanta Journal-Constitution Article

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Alvin Stone and band Red Shift - Photo credit CURTIS COMPTON / AJC

The Velvet note was featured in an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently. The article discusses the origin, design and experience here along with interviews and photos.

Stuck in the middle of a strip center on Old Milton Parkway, in a narrow storefront that was once home to a yogurt shop, The Velvet Note is a straight-ahead jazz club in a place you might least expect to find one.

But its location and design are anything but random. Owner and general manager Tamara Fuller said she chose suburban Alpharetta based on demographics, including median income and education.

Read the rest here »

 

Ryan Whitehead’s Disorderly Conduct

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

By TK

Ryan Whitehead was born in Warner Robins, GA.  This sleepy small town dominated by an Air Force base happens to be my birthpace too, although I didn’t grow up there as he did.  Nevertheless, I will take this rare opportunity to call him my “homeboy.”  Anyway, the first things you notice about Ryan are his eyes, which barely conceal the mischief crafted by a child whose intellect has outpaced his options for putting such mischief to constructive use.  Ryan Whitehead’s face is always asking, “How much can I get away with before you notice?” 

By the age of 13, Ryan was an overweight, 220-pound adolescent with few friends and a severely overactive personality.  He decided to make some dramatic changes, including running, incorporating fresh vegetables into his diet, and music.  “My first week in middle school band, I was kicked out for disorderly conduct.  My dad suggested that I go back and apologize and make it work.  After that, I began practicing 6 hours a day, every day.  I fell in love with it.”  He credits his school band leaders for spending the time with him necessary to give him a great start as a young musician.

Whitehead had a brief stint at Kennesaw State University, studying under the great Sam Skelton, who he says taught him to “be on time and know your craft.”  Mismanagement of his new-found campus freedom cut his college career short, but helped propel him into the professional scene at a relatively young age and with an unusually focused ambition.  “This is all I do.  It’s the only thing I’m good at.  I make an effort to make sure people have a great time at my shows.”

This will be Ryan’s first performance since his recent two-month Mediterranean tour with Norwegian Cruise Lines during which he played saxophone, clarinet and flute each night.  He describes his upcoming show as “classy” and “different” and as he talks, there’s a mischievous twinkle in his eye—he’s still trying to push the limits and see how much he can get away with.  “I know I could make a living just playing “Brick House”, but I want to do the music that resonates with my soul.”   Accompanying him will be two of his best friends–Mark Sims on bass and Jacob Deaton on guitar.  Hopefully, they will be behave themselves.  Or hopefully, they won’t.  Showtimes are Friday, October 26th at 7:30pm and 9:30pm and tickets are available at www.thevelvetnote.com/schedule-ticketing.

NBC’s “The Voice” Comes to The Velvet Note

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

****Friday, September 28th and Saturday, September 29th****

  Soul singer, songwriter and blues pianist Orlando Napier is making his way from Los Angeles as we speak, playing his first gig outside of LA since he returned from the second season of “The Voice”. His destination? The Velvet Note, of course!

 Orlando appeared on the music-reality show ‘The Voice’ in 2011. He was among the top 48 finalists and found himself on ‘Team Adam Levine’ where he worked one-on-one with the Maroon Five frontman as well as Robin Thicke while on the show. I asked Orlando about his takeaway from the show, “I’m a lot more confident now as a performer. After you get up in front of millions of people, nothing can shake you. Now, I only get the good kind of nerves and I feel a little more validated.”

Orlando and his band are excited about being in Alpharetta. He says, “Ideally, I just want to show Atlanta what we’re capable of. I hear there’s a hub of music and I just want to knock people’s socks off!”
Orlando performs this Friday and Saturday, September 28-29 at The Velvet Note. Show times: 7:30pm and 9:30pm.
Opening Act: Flesh & Stone
Tickets are $25 and selling fast! Call 855.583.5838 for Reservations!!

Laura Coyle’s Circles of Life

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Laura Coyle was born in Buffalo, New York, the daughter of an IBM executive.  At 5 years old, her family relocated (“IBM stood for ‘I’ve Been Moved’”) from Buffalo to Atlanta, GA.  “I was fascinated and amused by the red clay earth I saw from the window of the airplane,” she says.   In time, the shy and demure transplant adapted to her new surroundings, complete with a southern accent and an earnest, yet short-lived attempt to learn southern manners.

Upon graduating from high school, Laura set off to Auburn University as an art major, where she took a jazz history course because friends told her she could listen to records in class.  This was her introduction to the music of Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn and other great jazz artists.  Back in high school chorus, she had been terrified to sing in public, but now there was no one to hear her but herself.  While practicing her art and becoming an illustrator, she would sing their music all day, all through her art sessions.  A kernel of an idea began to form, “I really think I can sing.”  Finally, she mustered up enough courage to sing for her jazz history professor, who invited her to join in on his regular campus jam session.

After college, Laura circled back to her home state of New York, where she lucked into a job as photographer Jimmie Katz’ assistant in New York City.   She sat in on the lengthy, yet inspiring recording sessions of many great New York City jazz artists, including Dianne Reeves and the dashing Joe Williams.  “I was blown away by the classical jazz cultural experience, ” she says. She listened and learned, but still didn’t attempt to sing herself.   But, it was through this inner circle of royalty that she learned the genre and made connections with the best musicians in NYC.

Eventually, Laura moved back to Atlanta to get married to her boyfriend, but engagement didn’t last.  She took piano lessons though, and after an art-related repetitive strain injury, her teacher switched her to voice lessons and forced her take the stage and confront—once and for all—her shyness and reticence to sing for an audience.

Today, Laura is both a celebrated art illustrator and highly acclaimed jazz vocalist, once again, deeply connected to a community of talented musicians who play together and support each other.  Drummer Justin Varnes says, “Laura has a unique voice and delivery that we don’t hear in singers anymore.  It’s a throwback to the 40s and 50s when jazz vocals were king and queen.”  Pianist Tyrone Jackson says, “I like Laura.  She is very professional, very easy to work with.  She hires great musicians and interprets songs very well.” And pianist/frequent side-man Louis Heriveaux says, “I think that Laura is a singer that really connects with musicians.  She believes that to be good, you actually need to study music.  She studies melodies, harmonies and the things that musicians study in order to play, which most vocalists do not.  She speaks our language on musical terms, and it makes musicians happy to play with her.” 

You can hear Laura Coyle and her trio perform LIVE at The Velvet Note on Saturday, September 15th.  Showtimes are at 7:30 and 9:30pm.  Reservations are suggested—just call 855.583.5838 or visit our box office at www.thevelvetnote.com/schedule-ticketing.

What in the World is Ashley Bryan Smiling About?!?

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

I adore Ashley Bryan. I literally cannot help but grin from ear-to-ear when she picks up the phone.  We can be discussing the most mundane of details, and she attacks the subject like an exuberant optimist, complete with her long red hair, freckles, bright eyes and easy smile.

Even more importantly, I adore Ashley Bryan’s music.  Her voice is surprisingly soulful.  It seeps into your bones and gives you goose bumps.  Her lilted tone dips down into a world-wise, sultry swagger, revealing an unapologetic ache at the end of a line, and then it rises up into her upper register with a whisper and a thrill.  This music is her very own songwriting and her lyrical poetry reflects the emotions and events and decisions and crossroads of life, but in a way that sneaks up on you.  These are the songs you’ve never heard before, but wish you had.

Ashley’s always had an enormous and intense love for music.  Her father owned a music studio in Atlanta before she was born, and was a singer-songwriter, musician and engineer.  “At an early age, I realized that music made me feel something that had never felt before.  Unfortunately, my father left when I was 7 years old, and never came back, and we never saw him or talked to him again.  I turned that black hole in my life into my songwriting.  A piece of my memories of my father will always be fuel for my music, and for that, I will be forever grateful.”

From the age of 18 on, Ashley has been earning her performance chops on the Atlanta-area live music circuit, even playing in bands with members twice her age.  Venues have included Tavern on the Bridge, Yellow Fin, Sweetwater Brewery, Sweetwater Bar and Grill, Garrisons On The Roof, Yellow Fin Blue Room and numerous local festivals and charity benefit shows.

Today, she’s a newlywed, having recently married her long-time sweetheart, engineer and music producer Matthew Broody.  She describes her recent songwriting as “pouring out of her.”   “The only comparison I can make is like being under a spell or meditating where you reach a level of intimacy within and transferring that onto a piece of paper and hence–the birth of a song” Ashley says.  “Sometimes I don’t even know what a song means until it’s over, and sometimes I don’t know how I got there.  Sometimes I feel like I just ran a mile in the snow and never got cold.” And miraculously, she’s still smiling when she arrives.

Ashley Bryan will perform and RECORD LIVE at The Velvet Note on Friday, July 20th.  Tickets are available at 855.5.VELVET or online at www.thevelvetnote.com.

New Blog

Monday, June 20th, 2011

I’m planning on using this little slice of cyberspace to highlight some local, regional, and national jazz artists that I’m digging on. Kind of a “what’s in my CD player right now” if you will. Yes, I still listen to music on CD as often as I can.

In particular I will be focusing on artists you might not be as familiar with. There are some very talented artists in Atlanta alone, let alone the Southeast as a whole. When I decided to move from NYC, what drew me to ATL was the pile of talented musicians who live and play here. Oh, and I missed Southern cooking! (more…)


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