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A Lady Walks Into a Jazz Club

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

DSC_0680smallOne afternoon, a few weeks ago, a lady walked into our jazz club. She was pretty and gracious, refined and well-spoken, and the president of a wine distributing company specializing in varietals from Italy. “So, you want to sell me some wine,” I said. “Yes,” she said. “I think we have an outstanding selection of imports made in small quantities from an Italian winemaker with high standards. I notice that you don’t have any represented on your menu right now. Would you be willing to taste a few?” Now of all the responsibilities of a jazz club owner, the most grueling is that of tasting potential selections for our wine list. It requires a fit palate and a great deal of stamina and endurance. So, I put on my track shoes, did a few warm-up stretches, and along with our wine steward Cory, sat down for a demanding afternoon of focused winetasting.
It didn’t take long for us to find something we liked. Her Vernaccia di San Gimignano was light and crisp, with a slight hint of citrus, sporting substance, but with no overpowering notes. This was the kind of wine you could sip all day out by the pool. “Sold!” I said. I knew this would be a winner in the coming hot, humid months during which guests often ask for Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.
The next wine we fell in love with shall remain nameless (so that we can get it onto The Velvet Note menu before anyone else does). I typically do not care for dessert wines, barring the occasional Chateau d’ Yquem on the heels of an outrageously-priced steak dinner. But this one had me at “ciao.” The nose transported me back to my mother’s kitchen when I was eight years old and she was baking mincemeat pie. Upon first taste, the precisely-balanced notes of currant and toast and black cherry filled my senses. It paired perfectly with the Italian cheese wrapped in paper-thin prosciutto that she had generously brought in a little picnic basket to accompany the tasting. I had never experienced any dessert wine selection this delicious—not ever. I closed my eyes, I threw my head back and moaned. I took another sip and let it swirl over the front and back of my tongue. I looked over at Cory and he looked at me as if we had both been huddling in a cave rubbing sticks together and one of us had just noticed a cigarette lighter in the corner. This was the taste that every civilized palate hopes to find some day. We absolutely had to have this wine.
“What is the front line on this one?” Cory coolly inquired. (The “front line” is the cost per bottle to the restaurant, prior to the markup for the menu.) She told us, and believe me, it wasn’t cheap—it essentially eclipsed all of our menu wine prices—yikes! Cory raised an eyebrow at me. He wanted it and so did I, but at that price, we would need to be careful with inventory. “Perhaps we will hold off on this one until the fall and holiday season, when we know it will move fast,” I said. “No problem,” she replied. “ I promise, I will have it for you when you’re ready. In the meantime, let me pour you some more before I go.” Oh, yummy. Yes, please, let it flow.
A few minutes later, the lady had packed her selections and made a copy of our liquor license and set up a delivery date. Before departure, she turned and said, “Oh, one more thing. I wondered if you have a PA system here. I would like to play something for you.” I mentally rolled my eyes. People are always trying to slip us the demo records of their cousin, their client, their sister, their husband….anything to get a chance at a show. And we listen to everything…everything, because music is our business and we want to discover the absolute best. And we will always tell you what we think. As you can imagine, very few rise to the top of the heap, so to speak. “Um, sure….Shawn will show you where to plug in.” I had another sip of wine. Cory grimaced, and shot me a look that clearly conveyed, “If this sucks, let her down easy so that it doesn’t mess up my wine list!”
In the next moments, the earth stood still. The decadently delicious soiree going on in my mouth was accompanied by the sound of a woman singing jazz standards beautifully, in elegantly simple arrangements that would remind you of Diana Krall, complimented by warm and rich notes, and yet, with a luminous clarity reminiscent of Karen Carpenter.

Listen HERE:

I had never heard this voice before. How could I have missed this star? Shame on me! “Whose CD is this?” I asked. She sat…still… looking down at her fingers, and then up at me. “It’s me, “she quietly answered. “Huh? “ I stared at her in disbelief. “Are you kidding me? With a talent like this, what are you doing selling wine?!?” I asked. “I enjoy selling wine,” she stated. “I enjoy presenting wine. I enjoy traveling to Italy, finding the best wines and the most inspiring winemakers, and introducing them to fellow wine enthusiasts. And I also love to sing.”
I looked over at Cory and he could see my booking agent/talent scout meter skipping off the grid. He silently mouthed to me, “Down, girl,” and kicked me under the table. I leaned back in my chair and took a deep breath. “Do you know how many auditions I would have to sit through before coming across a voice like yours? Let me ask the question another way. Why aren’t you performing on a regular basis? Why haven’t I heard of you? Why are you sitting on this extraordinary talent?” I leaned across the table, “If you love singing, what in the world are you waiting for, my Dear?” She thought about it for a moment. “I could give you a million reasons why, starting my business, raising my children, but it all comes down to the fact that I’ve been waiting to do it my way….waiting for my time. And this feels like my time.”
We talked for what seemed like hours. She shared her story and I shared mine. “We’re a lot alike,” she observed. This wasn’t a typical wine tasting or audition—it was a special connection. When she got up to leave, she shared one of her favorite quotes by Francis Mayes, “They say they built the train tracks over the Alps before there was a train that could make the trip. They built it anyway. They knew one day the train would come. Any arbitrary turning along the way, and I would be elsewhere. I would be different…..Unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game.”
And this, in a nutshell, is the story of how we came to know the extraordinary talent and person that is Debbie Tyson Rosen. Debbie will perform at The Velvet Note on Saturday, September 21st, with shows at 7:30pm and 9:30pm. She will be accompanied by highly-respected musicians (Randy Hoexter on piano, Jess Rosen on guitar, Rob Henson on bass and Kenyon Carter on Saxophone), forming a beautiful jazz quintet. She is soulful and sweet and smart and this is her time– run, do not walk, to our box office and make a reservation for one of the only 40 seats available in each show. You should bring the person you love, or the person you would like to love. Oh, and save room on your palate because we will be serving her wines, too. Tickets available at http://thevelvetnote.com/debbie-rosen

Churchill Grounds and the Atlanta Jazz Horizon

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

ChurchillWhisperChurchill Grounds’ Whisper Room closed yesterday.  (See article HERE) The Whisper Room was Churchill’s listening room that seated 150 or so patrons, and played host to their jazz performances for the past several years.  Several people have asked me what I think of this event, implying that it is some sort of competitive triumph or a bad omen of things to come.  Although I do not know the owner personally, and I do not know the details surrounding this event, here are my thoughts:

I think that any metropolitan area  and its patrons, musicians, venue owners, etc. benefits from a broad array of locations in which to enjoy great music. I think that Atlanta has a rich, diverse, passionate, talented and vibrant jazz community and I am proud to be both a contributor and a beneficiary.  (more…)

A Food Review of The Velvet Note

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

By VelvetVoyce, Publisher/Reviewer of SoundBites

So as I was cruising through my social media outlets one day I received a message (PMs I think they’re called) from this swank and really cool jazz venue in Alpharetta, GA named ‘The Velvet Note’. I had been there once before when they first opened up to see trumpeter Mark Rapp and instantly liked the place.  And once I saw they were bringing singer Sachal Vasandani back to Atlanta, I knew I had no choice but to head back  sooner than later!

To my surprise the message asked if I could come to the show as the Chef wanted me to taste their menu. He apparently noticed I have an appreciation for good food and wanted my opinion on their selections. I have to be honest with you, the message made my day.  I call myself a ‘wannabe foodie’ because I don’t think I’ve earned all my ‘true foodie’ stars and stripes so to have a real Chef  want my opinion on THEIR food was an honor.  So I marked my calendar for Saturday night and looked forward to a meeting with my two loves: food and music.
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Review: Monica Spears at The Velvet Note

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

* * * * 1/2      (4.5 Stars out of 5)

By Michael Lane, Staff Reviewer

If there ever was a hard-pressed follow-up performance in the music industry, it certainly comes on the heels of Valentine’s Day.  Even with vocalist Monica Spears in the company of her band, this is no small feat.  But just as the love of Valentine’s Day carries over, so does the euphoria, and for this show, it was a delicious, metaphorical icing on the cake.

Bassist John Roberts stole the first song with his vivid midsection solo that culminated into a wonderfully-syncopated musical painting of a dozen different bright colors.  Monica’s voice rose above the song’s arrangement and lovingly caressed all forty audience members like a hand to a cheek.  Her stage presence was low-key, as the most complex acts tend to be.  Not one note, vocally or instrumentally, was out of place tonight, a sign of meticulous preparation and focus.
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Review: Joe Gransden and Kenny Banks at The Velvet Note

Friday, February 15th, 2013

* * * * * (5 out of 5 stars)

By Michael Lane, Staff Reviewer

Perhaps you’ve noticed that on Valentine’s Day, everything is better in pairs.  Two people combining their love.  Two drinks sipped in unison, and two sets of eyes gazing ever-so-lovingly into one another’s.  Couple this with the musical pairing of Joe Gransden (trumpet, vox) and Kenny Banks (piano) and you have a most desirable night of delight. 

Both established performers in their own right, they waste not one moment as they cruise through a spirited show.  Kenny Banks is easily one of the world’s most talented jazz pianists, softly caressing every ivory key with both precision and flair.  Most performers have one and not the other, but Kenny achieves both so easily, it is as if he is simply breathing or blinking.  Joe and Kenny–not only joyously, but with style–breeze through their opening number as the crowd radiates happiness and comfort, pretty standard fare at The Velvet Note. 
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High Praise From St. Ives Country Club Newsletter

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

The Velvet Note provides an exceptional evening of entertainment and fine food which takes you on an incredible journey you would not expect in Alpharetta!

The Velvet Note is an acoustic “…Living Room” where you can enjoy nationally-recognized and acclaimed artists as well as the best musicians in Atlanta. The sound is amazing because the “living room” was designed by musicians to provide the purest vocal and instrumental reception available to a live audience.

Fridays feature acoustic artists showcasing rock, folk, country and independent music. Saturdays you will enjoy sensational styles of Jazz and Blues, both vocal and instrumental.
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The Answer to the Question: “When Will You Expand the Velvet Note?”

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

A Personal Strategic Manifesto, by TK

I still remember the day that McDonalds first offered their fries in a Super Size.  I no longer worried about running out—I had miles and miles of those hot, salty, crispy, savory, potatoes, as many as I could eat.  I downed them greedily—three or four at a time, with the oil and salt dotting my fingers, until they were all gone.  And then an hour or so later, I didn’t feel very good at all.

On my subsequent visits, I would order a ‘super-size’, because they were such a good deal and just to make sure that I had all the fries I wanted, but I would never, ever eat them all.  I got accustomed to throwing away the food I had ordered.

Similarly, in buying my first home, I was so proud to be able to afford 3500 square feet.  I was young, single, a career warrior, and I had just purchased all of the home I could afford.  It was a four-level garage townhome in Columbia, Maryland, in the same neighborhood where Oprah Winfrey had once lived.  The levels went up and up endlessly, floor after floor of space that I had little remaining funds to decorate or furnish.
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Ask Cory: Answers to Your Most Pressing Questions about Wine

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Cory Wills is the Wine Steward and Team Leader at The Velvet Note Acoustic Living Room.  His golden palate has been insured by Lloyds of London for an estimated value of 5.4 million dollars (just kidding, but he really knows his wine!)

Dear Cory:  This is the holiday season and I will be cooking a lot of turkey and ham.  What kind of wine should I buy that will “wow” my houseguests?

There are basically two ways to pair wines with food in order to make the flavors of your meal pop.  The first way is to select a wine that is very different than the flavor of the food and thus brings out flavor through contrast. This is appropriate for lighter dishes such as salads, fish and some chicken.  The second way is to choose a varietal whose characteristics are similar to the food you’re eating.  This is especially the case for richer, sweeter or heavier foods.

Turkey and pork are sweeter meats, and during the holidays, they tend to be eaten with even sweeter dishes such as cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes.  Therefore, for your turkey, I would suggest a Pinot Noir, specifically a French Beaujolais.  For your ham, you’re going to want to stick with a Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel, because ham is a sweeter meat, and you want to choose a bigger, sweeter, juicier, fruity wine to accompany it.

If you have a question regarding wine, send it to askcory@thevelvetnote.com.  Meanwhile, enjoy The Velvet Note’s selection of top rated wines, craft beers and ultra-premium liquors Wednesday-Saturday, 6:00 – Midnight.

A Touch of Praise from a Jazz Historian

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Nestled in a quiet corner of Alpharetta just 15 minutes north of the perimeter off 400 resides this cozy little nightspot that brings welcoming audiences an unplugged jazz experience. Intimate in its approach, one is swathed in the tapestry of music emanating from the stage, regardless of where one comfortably rests in this forty-seat room.

Within this construct, owner Tamara Fuller has carefully crafted a wonderful ambiance with light, sound, libation and culinary delights that will excite your senses while assuaging any fear that your encounter will be anything less than your desire.

As one who enjoys seeking life beyond the curve, I was enthralled along with the audience to a powerful and moving set of originals and covers sans ballad last night performed by the Melvin Jones Quintet. This wonderful music was in good company with sumptuos lump crab cakes, a glass of red and a delightful and attentive staff.

I highly recommend making a reservation for this acoustic respite and refresh your mind, body and spirit.

Carl Anthony
Notorious Jazz

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.


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