ATLRetro Holiday Gift Guide #3: A Holiday Inn-dependent Spotlight on Avondale Estates

Posted on: Dec 19th, 2011 By:

By Jennifer Belgard
Contributing Writer

The holidays are almost upon us.  Frost is finally on the ground.  Some of us are still scurrying to find gifts.  Don’t fret, pets!  The shops of Avondale Estates can help.  I recently spent the day there with three talented ladies from Blast Off Burlesque: Astrid, Barb and Sadie, their righthand-man Coleman, and my good friend Lori from Third Half Studios.

We met at Avondale Pizza Cafe to strategize our day, have a HUGE slice, and enjoy a Wild Heaven Craft Beer.  The Georgia-based craft beer company plans to have its own brewery in Avondale by 2013, but you can currently find them at the Beer Growler, along with many others.  A whiskey gal myself, I don’t really drink beer, but this place may convert me. I’m a sucker for good marketing and these craft beers have my number.  Southern Tier Brewery (my old stomping grounds in Western New York) has a Krampus Lager and a Creme Brulee Imperial Milk Stout.  Each with their own distinct personality and perfect for a couple characters on my list.  Prices start around $16.99 a growler.  Grab a Beer Growler Koozie while you’re at it.  The koozie has a strap for easy portability.  Great idea and design, $16.99.

 

What do you need to go with all this malty goodness?  Artisan meats, of course!  Pine Street Market is where you’ll find it. We were treated to samples of their drool-inducing Coppa, a dry cured pork shoulder spiced with black pepper and chiles. Alongside their more traditional meats you’ll find specials like Spiced Pear Sausage (Applejack Brandy, nutmeg, ginger, and pear; fall and winter only), Roasted Poblano Sausage (roasted poblano peppers, ancho chiles, garlic, and cumin; spring and summer only) and the Applewood Bacon Burger (applewood smoked bacon ground with fresh pork for the ultimate rich, smoky burger).  Can’t decide what to get the meat lover in your life?  Buy them the Meat of the Month Club, $40.00 per month.  Each month includes a pound of Applewood Smoked Bacon and a featured salami or sausage.  They also carry condiments and specialty items.  A special someone in my life enjoys Bloody Marys, so I picked up a couple jars of pickled okra and green beans from Phickles, an Athens-based gourmet pickle company.

 

At this point we’d had about all the food and drink we could handle (or so we thought), and we headed to Second Life. This organization is wonderful and one of my new favorites. Second Life is a nonprofit, thrift store that donates proceeds to animal rescues.  Barb found a brand new BCBG dress for just $14.00.  Vintage ornaments starting at $1.00.  If I had the space, I would have a collection of creepy dolls (much to my boyfriend’s chagrin) and this is a great spot to find them!  They also hold in-store adoptions once a month featuring other nonprofits like Royal Potcake Rescue USA, Inc.  Their goal is to save homeless pets from Atlanta, Georgia and Abaco, Bahamas.  We lucked out and met a few of their sweet pups on our visit. I am in no way advocating buying someone a pet for the holidays, but if you’re searching for a furry friend of your own, check them out.

 

 

 

Our last stop was Sweet-n-Sinful Bakery.  Layne Lee is the sweet and sassy brainchild behind this boutique bakery. Sweet-n-Sinful boasts 24 cake flavors from Vanilla to Green Tea, 30 cake fillings like Fresh Strawberries, Black Forest and Lemon Curd, and 14 different frosting options, including 11 different types of Butter Cream.  Her brownies are so good that Whole Foods has picked them up for two of their Georgia stores and hope to take them nationwide.  Layne’s cupcakes are available in yummy seasonal flavors like Chocolate Peppermint,  Pumpkin and French Toast.  Need something for Christmas morning?  Take along some fresh bread or over-sized muffin tops.  Shipping & delivery is also available.  Whatever you choose is sure to please!

I’m off to wrap this haul of goodies!  Hopefully our trying day of shopping, eating, and drinking will help you complete your holiday shopping while helping our independently-owned businesses.  Shop local.  Happy Holidays!

Jennifer Belgard is Co-Conspirator at Libertine, Curator of Curios at Diamond*Star*Halo,  Barkeep at Euclid Avenue Yacht Club, and Co-Coordinator of Chaos for the Little 5 Points Halloween Parade & Festival.  In her spare time she enjoys Turnin’ TriXXX and playing Queen of Your Distraction.

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Kool Kat of the Week: A Jazz Interlude With Kayla Taylor: Why She Loves ‘30s/’40s Classics, the Unsurprising Success of Her New CD and the Pleasures of Playing the Vintage Artmore Hotel This Friday

Posted on: Nov 16th, 2011 By:

Atlantans who love classic jazz won’t be surprised to hear that Kayla Taylor’s new and sixth CD YOU”D BE SURPRISED hit #23 on the CMJ Jazz charts this week and is receiving airplay across the nation and throughout Europe. Instead, we’re liable to say it’s delovely and just one of those things that had to happen. But then local audiences have had the treat of listening to this Atlanta native and chanteuse extraordinaire resurrect top tunes from the ‘30s,  ‘40s and ’50s  live for a decade or more with musical partner/guitarist Steve Moore. And because this Friday night, Kayla will be performing at one of Atlanta’s coolest vintage venues, the courtyard of the Artmore Hotel in Midtown whose building dates back to 1924, we thought the timing couldn’t be more perfect to make her Kool Kat of the Week.

One of those rare actual Atlanta natives, Kayla literally grew up singing, in her school chorus, church choir and in the shower, but winning two awards in a 7th grade talent show cemented her ambition to make music a career. Along the way, she has performed country music, gospel, R&B and classic and original rock ‘n’ roll until she finally found her heart resided in the golden era of Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Irving Berlin—all of whom are represented on YOU’D BE SURPRISED’s playlist. ATLRetro caught up with Kayla to find out more about why she decided to embrace one of our favorite musical eras, what she has planned for this Friday night at the Artmore, her new CD, what’s next and where you might catch her singing while shopping…

ATLRetro: According to your bio, you always sang even as a little girl, and through the years, in addition to jazz, you’ve performed country, gospel, R&B and rock n roll, too. How did you come to embrace vintage jazz?

Kayla Taylor: I have always loved vintage jazz. The charm and romance of the ‘30s and ‘40s was something that always attracted me. I love how clever the lyrics are. When I was a kid, I watched a lot of old movies that were filmed and set during that time period and found all of it to be a natural embrace. Then in the mid-‘80s, Linda Ronstadt—one of my rock heroes—came out with her Big Band albums with The Nelson Riddle Orchestra and the romance started all over again.

Photo credit: John Lee Matney.

I understand that your earliest award was for singing Irene Cara’s “Out Here on My Own” from FAME? What’s the story and how big an early influence on you was the movie, FAME?

I wouldn’t say that FAME had a big influence on me, but the music and Irene Cara’s voice definitely did. I loved the pure emotion that was in her voice when she sang “Out Here On My Own.” The school talent show was coming up, and so I decided that I’d sing that song. I practiced for weeks in my room with the door closed. I must have played that record hundreds of times. My parents had no idea. I wasn’t trying to win—I just wanted to sing in front of all those people. I was also in a girls’ trio that performed “Sincerely”— a tune from the ‘50s. Well, the trio took 1st place, and I took 2nd place. I was so thrilled and excited. My parents had always been supportive of whatever I wanted to try, but at that point, they jumped completely onboard with my singing adventures.

Who are some of your favorite classic jazz composers and performers, and why do you think their music remains so timeless and relevant today?

Cole Porter, The Gershwins, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Johnny Mercer . . . there are so many amazing composers from that era that I adore, but these are just a few of my top picks. As far as performers, Julie London, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Peggy Lee, Etta James, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. I think the music is so well-crafted that it can’t help but remain timeless and relevant. Most of the songs are about love or the loss of love—that will always be timeless and relevant.

How did you meet Steve Moore and end up working together?

Great Story! Steve Moore was in a rock band called A Fine Line—an original rock project. They ran an ad in the Creative Loafing looking for a female vocalist. (That’s what you did 19 years ago—you ran an ad in a printed publication if you were looking for a musician.) I called about the position. They sent me a demo of some of their tunes, and I thought they were really cool, so I learned them and showed up at the audition. Later that night, Steve Moore was the one who called me to tell me I had gotten the job. That was the beginning of an amazing relationship as friends, co-writers and business partners. We went through several original rock projects together (A Fine Line, OneWithout) and even an acoustic duo (The Adventures of Kayla & Steve). One day we were talking about all these great jazz standards that we both loved and how much we would both love to play that music one day and to have our own jazz combo. Five minutes later we had made a decision to start working towards that direction. That was over 10 years ago, and we’ve been at it ever since.

Kayla Taylor and Steve Moore. Photo credit: John Lee Matney.

Can you tell us a bit about YOU’D BE SURPRISED came together, and what it means to you that it’s doing so well?

To say we are excited is an understatement. OVER THE MOON with excitement might scratch the surface. All of this came about because we hired an expert to handle it for us. We’re indy artists—SmartyKat Records—that’s our own label. We don’t have the connections personally to make this kind of airplay and exposure happen, so we hired Kari Gaffney and Jeff Williams of Kari-On Productions to handle all of it for us. Kari has over 21 years experience promoting and marketing CDs to radio and print media. I have never seen anyone work as hard as she has been working. I don’t know when she even has time to sleep. She’s done a fabulous job for us.

What’s your favorite song on the CD to perform and why?

WOW. To pick one tune—that’s tough because I love every song that’s on the CD. It’s like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. If I have to pick one, though, I’d have to say the title track—“You’d Be Suprised.” What I love about that song are the great lyrics. They are so clever!!! I love the Marilyn Monroe version.

The Jazz in the Courtyard series at the Artmore, where the building dates back to 1924, promises an urban escape with “sultry music, sexy vibes and sinful drinks.” And the signature cocktail is “The Prohibition.” Can we surmise that the goal is to create a speakeasy atmosphere, and will you be tossing some Roaring ‘20s tunes into the mix?

Artmore is a great hotel, and the courtyard is a beautiful venue. We have a great time playing there and love that they have embraced our music. We’ll still be hanging out in the ‘30s and ‘40s era but love that they have created a speakeasy feel—with a modern twist. All concerts take place in the courtyard, and there is a fabulous firepit and heaters to keep everything warm. If it should rain or turn freezing cold—we’ll move the show into their basement speakeasy lounge. I think we might be good to have this final concert of the season out in the courtyard, though.

Anything else you’d like to share about Friday’s gig at the Artmore?

Reservations are not required, but if you want to reserve a seat, you can email them at sales@artmorehotel.com. Come prepared to have a great time. I have a retro-styled microphone that is wireless so I can move all over the courtyard, and I love to come by and sing to anyone who seems like they might be receptive. Trust me, though—if it’s clear you’re there with a date and you just want to make eyes at each other—I’ll stay out of your way.

Where else will you be playing in Atlanta soon, and any plans for a tour to promote YOU’D BE SURPRISED?

Our next big show will be at Feast in Decatur on Saturday, December 3. This will be a great show because it’s the beginning of the holiday & Christmas season, and we’ll have some of the great jazzy Christmas tunes from the era to throw into the mix. This show generally sells out, so it’s a really good idea to call them to make a reservation. We play from 7:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. with the five-piece combo. The food at Feast is fantastic and we always have a great time. [Call] 404.370.2000 – for reservations.  As far as a tour to promote YOU’D BE SURPRISED—definitely something we are thinking long and hard about we just have to make the numbers work out.

Do you really burst into song at the grocery store? If yes, where do you shop?

Not every time I’m in the grocery store, but yes, I have been known to burst into song in the middle of a shopping excursion. My sweet husband, Scott, has been so good about dealing with those moments and I know they have been embarrassing—but sometimes a song just wells up inside and I have to blurt it out. For the record, my favorite place to shop locally is Publix—the stores are smaller and easier to navigate and everyone is super-friendly. If I’m going to travel away from my neighborhood to shop, you’ll find me at Whole Foods.

Finally, we’ve got to ask. What would we be most surprised to know about you?

Two things: first, I am an avid gardener. I love digging holes and putting plants in them and then nurturing them and watching them grow. It fascinates me! The next thing . . . I actually suffer from stage fright on occasion. It’s true.

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