My fondest childhood memories growing up in rural Berkeley County, South Carolina are filled with music. I recall the soulful voices of Whitney, Otis, Michael—Shirley Caesar, all leaping from my mother’s stereo and into my mind’s eye. These voices held a majestic quality and sounded as if they came from someplace far off. On Saturdays, my mother would open all the windows and doors of our modest Fox Creek Apartment and let The Supremes or David Ruffin serenade anyone within listening distance. Whether on cassette tape or vinyl record, the slightly gritty, mildly textured soul music sounds would take me farther than my imagination ever could on its own.
Fast forward 25 years later, to 2019—that imaginative, young boy has found his way back home to the Lowcountry. Heavily influenced by the soundtrack of my youth, I’ve found my voice as both a musician and an activist. With me I’ve carried the many rhythms, chords, jazz riffs and lyrics that are all collectively Black culture. The hauntingly constant refrain of “Try Me” belted out by James Brown traveled with me from my youth to the present day. Songs like these feel familiar; they feel like “home.” Yet, in a city such as Charleston it grows more difficult each day to feel at home.
Gone are many of the venues and retail spaces that once fostered black culture. I’m left asking the question: Where are the spaces created for us? One Answer is the Blue Note Bistro.
Intending to meet some friends, I found myself at the Blue Note Bistro for the very first time one Sunday evening in July. Immediately upon entering the building I noticed the walls were adorned with grand images of Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Frankie Beverly and many more. Every surface was bathed in a steely, blue light that seemed to emanate from each corner of the space. The crowded bar area was alive with conversation. The drinks flowed freely. Yet, the best feature was the performance area. Live music performances are a key hallmark in this wonderfully black space.
What is evident about the Blue Note Bistro is the vision entrepreneur Daron Smalls and North Charleston City Councilman Mike Brown, both had for the joint business venture. They were intentional about creating a restaurant space that would undoubtedly serve as the epicenter for black events, Black music and black culture in the greater Charleston area.
That first impression from my initial visit to the Blue Note Bistro left an indelible mark on me. The warm welcome, the atmosphere, the drinks with friends and the music, above anything else, all melded together to create the perfect cocktail for an experience I’ve longed to create ever since I came to Charleston. Hence, I was inspired to create a jazz themed event—Mo’ Better Brunch.
I’m extending an invitation to my fellow jazz and soul music lovers to join me at the Blue Note Bistro for an afternoon of live performances, fellowship, good food, signature cocktails, surprises and giveaways on Saturday, August 17 from 1pm to 4pm.
Mo’ Better Bruch was made with Black Charleston in mind. Click the following link for more information bit.ly/MoBetterBrunch.
Submitted by Benny Starr