Jazz Brunch: a spirited affair with a jazzy flair

by S. Rotan Hale

Good food and great music all wrapped up in an afternoon of fun and sociability and what you have is the Harrison Museum’s Jazz Brunch.

The annual affair is one of the organization’s main fund-raisers leading up to its biggest event– the Henry Street Heritage Festival–now celebrating 30 years!

For seven years the brunch has been held at the stylish upscale Hotel Roanoke and this year was no exception.

It was a sizable crowd that gathered Sunday, Sept. 8 to engage in all the event has to offer. The group Custom Vibe performed renditions of some of the more popular jazz, R&B and blues standards–all to the crowds delight. At one point, during the second half, the groove accelerated sending some attendees to the dance floor and this classy affair turned into an all-out party.

The musical group, a trio, comprised of Glen Holmes, piano, Brian Mesko, guitar and Kelly Gravely, drums backed vocalists Terry Brown and Denice Smith.

Brown really showed his artistry as a bona fide singer of soul on Bobby Hebb’s ‘76 hit “Sunny.” His ability to capture the blues in its full essence was particularly effective performing his rendition of Gravity, a deeply soulful blues tune by John Mayer.

Smith’s impressive treatment of several R&B standards came across as smooth and professional throughout the two sets. With her Gladys Night meets Etta James sort of style, she appropriately wrapped the show up with Bill Withers “Lovely Day.”

“The entertainers were truly having fun and that spirit resonated to everyone else in the audience,” said Lorena Wilson, volunteer coordinator for the Henry Street Festival. “This is the kind of music that you can feel, it makes you want to tap your feet and get up and dance.”

Wilson said she was totally shocked when her husband Marvin, who doesn’t particularly like to dance, pulled her up on the dance floor! “It was amazing and I couldn’t stop laughing… because he never does that!”

Also as part of an added incentive, a silent auction offered jewelry from She’s International, an upscale boutique in downtown; a one-night stay at Hotel Roanoke with breakfast at the Regency Room and a gift basket from Wine Gourmet, a retail vendor offering wines from some of the leading producers around the world.

Additionally one lucky bidder walked away with artwork donated by the museum and another, a vintage (Victrola-like) nostalgic turntable/CD player entertainment center complete with wireless headphones.

This year’s affair was truly one for the books as evidenced by many who attended. It is a great opportunity to wine, dine, let the music move your soul and possibly interact with someone new. A coalition of those who routinely attend each year, left singing praises for this year’s event. Together they understand the Jazz Brunch as a spirited affair with a jazzy flair.