As It turns out, the key to happiness is strawberry shortcake and the sound of Tori L. Peoples' voice. Need proof?
The captivating pair came together this past weekend when John Lumpkin and The Covenant played at B-Sharps Jazz Cafe in Frenchtown. As a Jazz newbie and over thinker, I may or may not have rummaged through around six “Top x Jazz Classics” articles before trusting Spotify’s Jazz Classics playlist to educate me on what “good jazz” was suppose to sound like.
Looking back, I’m not sure how effective it was considering when I arrived, Clarence Seay, co-owner of B-Sharps, said,
“This is y'alls first time, isn’t it? I see it on your faces.”
As I walked into the main room, I was greeted by the smiling faces of strangers. The audience ranged in ages from veteran jazz listeners to university students who were air playing instruments throughout the entire performance. Regardless of age, when the musicians took the stage their eyes lit up as if it they were hearing the sounds for the first time.
We picked seats against the wall towards the front of the stage and awaited the first act. While sitting there I looked around the dimly lit room, following the gloss in the wooden flooring that highlighted the bathrooms towards the back and the concessions menu items where Gerri, co-owner of B-Sharps, was taking orders. I couldn’t believe I was in a structure that was originally built as an elderly care facility in 1921. The ambiance felt cool and new and before I knew it, The Covenant began to play. Feet started tapping and although it was a listening room, those four walls were talking. The level of intimacy in the listening room, accompanied by the caliber of talent, and familiar service made for a beautiful evening among community.
Gerri took to the stage in between acts to show her appreciation for all those in attendance and to remind folks that the quality of talent that we had access to through B-Sharps is parallel to performances throughout New York City. She explained this was the reason behind the strict $10 Cover minimum and that it was non-negotiable.
When we were crafting the Rise of Jazz Tour, Gerri told us that Jazz was accessible, regardless of how lost you may feel while listening to it, and she was right. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know exactly what was going on, especially during this drum solo, but I was perfectly fine getting caught up in the moment. I also realized that she meant B-Sharps shows were financially accessible, after all, we were paying $10 to watch full time professional musicians who traveled from Jacksonville play for over two hours. I’m not sure how many people in the room knew, but in reality, we were paying $10 for Clarence and Gerri to do a lot more.
B-Sharps Jazz Cafe isn’t just a traditional “listening room” jazz venue, it’s also a non-profit that is organizing the Frenchtown Youth Orchestra, hosting adult jazz camps, planning front porch concerts, and bringing community from the surrounding neighborhoods to the table. Ultimately, the money I spent at B-Sharps was an investment in Gerri and Clarence and the value they’re creating in our neighborhoods.
We can’t wait to highlight B-Sharps again and this time, we know the menu item we’re suggesting.
Pro tip: There isn’t a bad seat in the house.