Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Head "South" for a mix of a great atmosphere, food and music

One of the newest restaurants on the Philly scene opened this past fall, and my husband and I had the pleasure of dining here recently for some upscale soul food, all while taking a virtual trip to Brazil, courtesy of the female/male duo Minas.  Bassist Gerald Veasley features his Unscripted Series at South on Thursday nights, and this show did not disappoint.

The Bynum brothers (Robert and Benjamin) have done it once again with their latest creation, "South" on Broad Street in Philadelphia.  Location can make or break a business especially a restaurant, but this location is great, because although it is not in the heart of the hustle and bustle of center city, it is only a few minutes away by car or on foot, from shops and theaters.  

I am a lover of soul food but in recent years I have scaled back on the richness that this cuisine is famous for. However,  this restaurant offers very similar meals but with a more upscale flavor without making you feel like you just dined on a meal for two. The Berkshire pork with mushroom gravy was very good, but the collard greens were unlike anything I've ever tasted, delicious!.   My husband who is a huge fan of seafood, enjoyed his plate of Carolina shrimp layered on a bed of lobster grits.  Yes you read that right, lobster grits! and they were yummy.

The atmosphere of the jazz parlor set the tone for a great evening of food, a glass of white wine, Brazilian music performed by Minas, along with jazz bassist Gerald Veasely and saxman Andrew Neu.   I appreciate the parlor being separate from the main dining area but you are also able to have dinner while enjoying the live show.  The decor is simple but classy.  Philly is a mecca for great restaurants and "South" is a great addition to our diverse dining scene. We are looking forward to our next visit.



Saturday, October 31, 2015

Reflecting on the summer of 2015 - endless music, Philly style!

Although summer has come to a close, things are just really starting to heat up, with the approach of the Rehoboth Beach Jazz festival in October, and while we wait for that, I can reflect on all this summer had to offer us - Penns landing free summer jazz series, The Barnes Museum First Fridays that started in June, Tribute to John Coltrane festival, and the Philadelphia United Jazz festival! This summer like others in the past, packed a powerful punch of entertainment, the arts and culture for the adventurer or social butterfly.

Penns Landing always does a fantastic job with their summer jazz series, and with the A+ musicians that grace the waterfont stage, anyone would expect to pay for such an event, but not in Philly. It has been a free event for more than 15 years, and the lineup just gets better and better.

This year we had the pleasure of seeing Brian Culbertson, Euge Groove, Peter White, Richard Elliott, and Mindi Abair. The first group we saw “Generation Next” were awesome and we hope to see more of them at other venues. All the musicians came to perform, and perform they did. Anytime there is a outdoor event, the weather is always suspect, but 4 Friday evenings in a row, the weather was superb.

Free jazz in the park on Friday nights is always a good to relax and unwind after a long work week, and University City in Philadelphia showcased local talents during the month of July.

The John Coltrane Festival Tribute was a pleasant surprise for us this year.  Thanks to social media I found out about this event on my facebook newsfeed.  This is years headliner was sultry jazz singer Maysa! along with other talented jazz musicians.

The Barnes Museum on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, is a destination in itself. From the ever growing collection of fine art, to the special events hosted throughout the year, First Fridays at this museum was not only entertaining but a great way to see a some great art.

Overall this had been an amazing summer of music!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Art and the sounds of Creole Soul in Philadelphia

I have never been a fan of birthday parties for myself, whether it was given by someone else, or me. Many people love parties and that's great because it makes the event more magical for the guest of honor and his or her friends and family.

Every day should be lived as if it were your birthday, and cliche as it sounds, its true, although not everyone celebrates it, and that is fine too; I get tons of email on a weekly basis because I like staying in the know of all arts and cultural things happening in my city and beyond. I keep birthdays, anniversaries and other celebratory holidays, intimate and personal with either alone if I choose to do so, or with my hubby, friends, and/or family.

Two events were happening that peaked our interest and both just happened to be during my birthday weekend. No party planning needed, it was all done for, well sort of.

The Barnes Museum which opened here in Philly in 2012, started their First Fridays event series in June and it runs until August. The first Friday in June featured Trinidadian jazz trumpeter, Etienne Charles along with his band members who are from the states.

What a great show, and having it at the Barnes Museum made for the perfect intimate backdrop. This museum is stunning, and the art work from what we were able to see that particular night, is very nice. I have heard creole soul on the radio, but never heard it played live. Etienne Charles and his band set the mood for the perfect evening.The crowd was a great mix, mature, and all were there for a good time. A bar was also set up for cocktails along with appetizers. There were even a few children there with their parents, and even they were feeling the rhythm of this awesome sound.

If you have never listened to creole and/or caribbean music, do yourself a favorite indulge it a little and while your at it, check out trumpeter Etienne Charles, he's great! It was a fabulous start to my birthday weekend.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Jazzing it up with the Grown and Sexy Crowd in Reading PA

The 25th annual Berks Jazz Fest was in full swing the weekend of April 10th and there was no shortage of all-stars, repeat guests and of course the music.

James and bass player Brian Bromberg
This year we met up with a couple from Maryland who we had the pleasure of meeting at the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival in 2013.  It's ironic that we have the same last name, are lovers of music and love having a good time.

Not only is the jazz fest a great event, but the Crowne Plaza Hotel is a destination in itself this time of year. Many shows are performed here including the midnight jam sessions. At any given time during your stay you will see the artists and band members in the lobby mingling and chatting with guests.

After some of the main stage shows, the artists will come out to meet and greet you, the fans, as well as sign autographs, CD's and take pictures.

If I am going to be honest, the atmosphere at this years event seemed a bit off.  The music was great, but something was clearly different about the vibe in the main lobby of the hotel, where in the past guests, staff and artists would congregate and socialize.

It occurred to me after a few hours what was different; the manager Craig Poole was not present.  In the past 2 years Mr. Poole was available to the guests and artists during the entire event.  Friendly, outgoing and he made you feel welcome. We found out later that he was no longer manager of this hotel, and moved on to a new adventure.  We are looking forward to seeing him 2016.

During our free time, we hung around the hotel lobby, people watching, or shopping at the local mall and shops nearby.

One thing we never plan on getting much of when we attend these events, is sleep.  It just doesn't happen. But that's not a bad thing.  With only 2 nights and 3 days, there is not much time for sleeping between shows, but the best part is so much fun is packed into our short weekend, it is all worth it.  Until next year.

Najee & Pieces of a Dream, Midnight Jam Session

The Williams Crew

Hanging out in the Lobby

Gerald Veasley

The long line waiting to get into the popular midnight jam session

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Life Well Read

I have always found it fascinating how much you can learn from reading a book or a great article.

I have been an avid reader since my teens; I slacked off a bit here and there through the years, but a book was always within my reach. Now with all the new technology (the Kindle, Nook and other E-readers), so many more books are at my disposal in a very convenient way.  I have vowed to not let life get in the way of my reading.

I remember reading years ago how the late Malcolm X educated himself by reading. Who knew that a man who spoke with such intelligence, never went to college and only finished Jr high school. However, through his love of books, he was self taught. He learned by reading, it opened his mind to a world he never knew existed, and by that he was able to shape himself into the man he became.

On this 50th anniversary of his assassination I reflected on Malcolm, his life and his ability to rise above adversity, racism and bigotry all through reading.  I have read so many books over the years, some I still have, others I passed on to friends and family.

One of the great things about books, they are so many genres of them. Fiction, non-fiction, historical, literature, travel, auto-biographies, and the list just goes on.  If there was ever a love of something that I am grateful to have, it is the love of books and music.

As I reflect on the often misunderstood but extraordinary life of the late Malcolm X, If there was one person I would love to have a conversation with about his life and to ask what were some of his most memorable books, it would be Malcolm.

Have you read a book that literally changed your life or way of thinking about life?

"I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity — because you can hardly mention anything I’m not curious about."  
Malcolm X