Danny Harper at Churchill Grounds

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By: Megan Morian
1/28/09

Last night I went to my first Jam Session at Churchill Grounds, hosted by Danny Harper, a trumpet player known as “Atlanta’s Best Kept Secret.” I was impressed with the venue itself; it has an “old jazz” feel to it, with a small stage, small, intimate candle-lit tables, and paintings of jazz musicians and instruments decorating the walls. The mood was really set with the dim lights and the slow background music. Couples of varying ages, young to old, floated into the room, ordered drinks, and waited, well-relaxed, for the show to begin. Danny Harper himself made his way to all the tables to welcome Atlanta’s live music lovers. The whole atmosphere seemed very familial; everyone seemed to know each other and they welcomed those they didn’t know to an experience.

            Danny introduced himself and his quartet, consisting of himself playing the trumpet, a bass player, a pianist, and a percussionist. They began their first set with a light jazzy number. Danny played a muted trumpet and traded leads with a saxophonist who stepped up to give the song a different sound but with the same elegance. They both then gave a brief interlude to the bass, drums, and piano, who played wonderfully until Danny rejoined them will some soulful trumpet playing. The pianist joined in with some vocals as the tune got livelier. Danny Harper had taken the mute off of the trumpet, and the powerful sound of soul was drawing passersby to look in the windows. All in all, a great start.

            Soon Mr. Alvin Stone joined the instrumentalists with his deep, smooth vocals. As he sang, the saxophone joined him once again, this time with the jazz guitar. Following Mr. Stone were several singers from the crowd who lent their voices to preserve some real jazz that night. I felt that it was amazing, these normal every-day people, seemingly at random stepping up to the stage and singing their hearts out in a little live venue in Atlanta. How often do you see that? The Jam Session was some live music to behold, and they played well into the night, trading between singers, instrument solos, and real smooth jazz.

            Danny Harper’s quartet ended the night with a fun number they called their theme song. It certainly finished things off with a lighthearted satisfactory feel, and no patron left the place without a smile. Churchill Grounds is definitely the place to be on Tuesday nights if you are looking for real, live music.

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