The Velvet Note

Acoustic Living Room

Photo by Suzanne Pacey/staff
Photo by Suzanne Pacey/staff
Tamara Fuller, Owner and General Manager.
Photo by Suzanne Pacey/staff
Photo by Suzanne Pacey/staff
Tamara Fuller, Owner and General Manager.
By Lori Wynne
The best jazz you will ever find between a Brazilian wax place and a sandwich shop.”

Tamara Fuller was an executive consultant for decades traveling four days a week. While running through a Chicago airport, she spotted a USA Today magazine cover about America’s cultural centers leaving the urban areas. This planted a seed in her mind, but didn’t germinate immediately.
In 2006 she retired and decided to embark on an epic entrepreneurial venture and failed. It was a total loss. For consolation, Fuller listened to old live jazz records. One night she asked herself, “Could I make a living listening to jazz?”

The Dream:
“During this time of my life, I had a recurring dream. I found myself walking through a forest with huge trees hanging over a dirt path. The path led to a stream of light shining down on a grassy knoll. In my dreams, many of my favorite jazz artists would play for me in this grassy area. When they finished, they would always ask me the same question, ‘What’s for dinner?’ “

The Plan:
With the USA Today cover title in her mind, Fuller looked at many locations in the Metro Atlanta area and Forsyth County. She realized people wanted to appreciate the musical arts without the sketchiness that can be a part of urban areas. She found a suitable locale in a former frozen yogurt place on Old Milton Parkway in Alpharetta. Fuller was attracted to the area because, “The city of Alpharetta is making strides to help its residents enjoy live music. Mayor Belle Isle is instrumental in this endeavor.”

It took six months to renovate the store in the middle of a strip mall into the acoustical living room. She consulted with George Seldon, (a protégé of George Lucas) to create the perfect sound experience. The ceiling was raised fourteen feet to create a feeling of being under the night sky and to enhance the sound. Proprietary sound equipment is also part of the special feel of the acoustic living room. There is even special padding under the carpet with the sound in mind.

The Velvet Note:
“The vision of the Velvet Note is different and it’s on purpose.” The décor is “tree” themed, inspired by Fuller’s recurring dream. The carpet is brown to symbolize the dirt path.  Just like Fuller’s dream, in this 40-seat venue, audience members literally sit at the feet of the performers. There is not a bad seat in the place.

Every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, at the beginning of every performance, Fuller welcomes the audience into her acoustic living room with this phrase, “This is the best jazz you will ever find between a Brazilian wax place and a sandwich shop.” This puts the audience at ease and sets the tone for the performers in this intimate venue.

“People are looking for entertainment that involves them.” For the past four and a half years, the Velvet Note gives the audience members a toe-to-toe experience with the artists. “When a musical artist prepares a performance for the stage, they practice technique and vibe. It’s like preparing for a kiss.  A performer is essentially kissing the audience. At the Velvet Note, the audience ‘kisses’ you back.”

With such an unusual opportunity to interact with the audience, the Velvet Note attracts well-known jazz and vocal artists such as Chandra Currelley, Christian McBride, and Scotty Barnhart.

While the Velvet Note is satisfying its audience auditorially, it provides a menu of appetizers and entrees created by a New York-trained chef to satisfy the palate as well. The delicious fare is served on paper plates with plastic forks to avoid the din of silverware scraping against ceramic disturbing the musical experience.
There are no tables for just two people. All of the tables seat at least four. People are usually seated with strangers, but by the end of the evening, they have created connections with people that share the same love of live jazz music. Many patrons return with the people they have met at the Velvet Note.
This is what we love to do, “Bring people closer to the performer, closer to each other and closer to the song in your heart.”

The Velvet Note gives back:
Fuller was also interested in creating a jazz venue in Alpharetta because of the rich interest in music. “The area has great music opportunities for kids.” Families, middle schools and high schools invest in scholastic sponsored bands and nurture a love of music in the youth of the area. To support that, the Velvet Note offers local schools’ jazz students the opportunity to perform twice a year on stage to an intimate and engaged audience.

What’s next for the Velvet Note?
In a year and a half, The Velvet Note will host its first jazz festival. Top names in jazz will be performing. To keep in “the know” check out http://thevelvetnote.com/ ■


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