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Ryan Whitehead’s Disorderly Conduct

Thursday, October 25th, 2012


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

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

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

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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