On Sunday, November 3rd, Urban Roots held their monthly 1st Sunday Brunch from noon to 5pm. This was my first time attending the event, but having been to Urban Roots a couple times before, one might think I would have known what to expect. One would be mistaken. If there’s one thing one should expect at Urban Roots, it is to never know what to expect. Each time I’ve visited has been a totally unique experience. The beauty of the establishment lies partially in how its configuration and personality adapts to whatever event is taking place at the time. The venue can take on the feel of a five star eatery, coffee house, concert hall, juke joint or living room, separately or all at once, with as much or as little of each element as is necessary to set the perfect mood. Today’s casual-yet-elegant family style brunch was no exception.
The Urban Roots atmosphere is always lively and inviting at the quaint social gathering spot best known for excellent live music, good food and cultured entertainment, but on this Sunday afternoon, awash in lazy autumn sun, the daylight ambiance of the culture-rich meeting place added to the decidedly family-oriented profile. Folks fresh out of church, still dressed in their Sunday best, easily mingled with others who were more casually attired, creating a communal environment in which anyone would have fit in. The generous representation of children and elders gave the establishment a village atmosphere beyond that which one normally experiences during an evening or late night session at the historic Deep Deuce hangout.
Upon arrival at Urban Roots, it is customary to be greeted and engaged by friendly and courteous staff. Again, this Sunday was no exception. In addition to the adaptable environment, another thing that is unique to the establishment is that the “staff” doing the greeting frequently includes Urban Roots founder and head Chef Chaya Fletcher. Chaya, though at the helm of the busy ship, still manages to make her rounds and mingle with her patrons, her mild mannered family friendliness always perfectly seasoned with an unmistakable professionalism and pride in her vision and handiwork. Urban Roots is her beautiful brainchild, and we are the co-reapers of her reward. She graciously shares the fruits of that reward with all who enter her doors. One thing that distinguishes Urban Roots from other establishments is that Chaya, though always friendly, is never phony. Her no-nonsense friendliness is that of a beloved family member who causes you to care about her as much as she seems to care about you. She’s your auntie ‘nem. It’s the personification of the familiar village rule that if you’ve been here before, you’re no longer a guest, you’re family. The expression on Chaya’s face seems to say “If you know where to sit, don’t look at me, go ahead and sit down. I love you.” We love you too Chaya, and we’re grateful for your gentle spirit, for your often unacknowledged hard work, and for the blessing to the community that is Urban Roots. Thank you.
Upon entering, I was greeted by the sounds of a pared down two-man version of Casino Band, unobtrusively entertaining dining guests in a masterful, workmanlike fashion, one on keys, the other on drums, both seemingly invisible to Urban Roots patrons as they played smoothly and gracefully together. Though supremely talented individually and collectively, they attempted to draw no attention to themselves, which is, I believe, often one of the hallmarks of a great musician. I couldn’t tell you either of their names. It would seem they preferred it that way. Casino Band is elegance and skillfulness personified.
Finding a seat at a small empty table for two near a friendly family who had clearly just come from Sunday worship, I exchanged greetings with the family – whom I had never met before – and awaited the arrival of the headliner for the afternoon, the fabulous Ms. Nita Fruit (pronounced froo-EE). Fruit arrived appearing as though she had just rushed in from getting her praise on and was ready to get it on again, dressed like Easter Sunday and ready to do what she does.
One can not say enough about Ms. Fruit’s incredible talent, but even greater than her giftedness, if that were possible, is her beautiful spirit. She never seems to meet a stranger, and though those who hear her are absolutely in awe of her, she has a way of making every single person she encounters feel as though she is equally in awe of us, just for being who we are. The epitome of humility, Nita lit up the already sunlight bathed room just by entering it. Her personality is its own person. Nita Fruit is every woman. She’s your cousin. She’s your sister. She’s your sister’s friend – the one you used to have the schoolboy crush on for eleventeen hundred years. I love how my spell checker just red-lighted eleventeen. Shut up spell check, they know what I mean. Common words can’t begin to describe the uncommon gift that is Nita Fruit the person, songstress aside.
Editor’s note: I am biased, but honest. Upon my first ever visit to Urban Roots, on a Saturday night back in September for my birthday, Nita Fruit serenaded me. The song: “P.Y.T.” by Michael Jackson. I’m still grinning today. Today another guest was celebrating a birthday, and Nita made this young lady feel just as special, dedicating a series of songs to her, each delivered in a manner that made us believe that Nita conceived it solely for her audience of one. Birthdays are something that Nita takes very, very seriously. If it’s your birthday, and Nita Fruit is performing somewhere, get there. For real.
Editor’s note #2: Nita Fruit was Culturocity’s first ever Twitter follower. That’s right, the first. We had zero followers. Zero. Who follows someone with zero followers? Nita Fruit does, that’s who (by the way, you can follow her @NitaFruitMusic). So yeah, I’m a little biased toward Nita. That said, my personal bias aside, there is absolutely no denying her talent, and dare I say, anointing, to encourage and inspire with song in a manner that only she can.
Simply put, Nita Fruit can sang. Not just sing. Singing is for mere mortals. This lady can flat out sang. She’s the kind of vocalist whose gift is so amazing that it makes you feel like you can sang too. Until you open your mouth to do it. Then you appreciate her gift even more. Children, young adults and senior citizens alike were spotted head-nodding, toe-tapping and alternately smiling and doing that scrunched up church face that looks like something stanks – not just stinks – when somebody is, well, sanging. Sang Nita! We love it, and we love you too.
Here is where I might normally rattle off a laundry list of songs that an artist performed, describing the style and personality of each one to try to convey the mood. Such an effort would be completely futile with regard to Ms. Fruit, so I won’t even try. Her original, inimitable style defies any description that words can convey. Though she is known for performing covers, she is nobody’s copycat, delivering vocal bliss in a manner that is a complete overhaul of the “original”, making her cover an original itself. Not only does she completely revamp and froo-EE-ize the sound of a song, she will quite often replace many of the lyrics with her own as well, letting us into her world and convincing us that she truly feels and understands what she’s singing about.
Midway through Nita’s first set, I was joined by Culturocity co-managing editor Dacia Hooks, who, like many others was slipping in late from church. That’s the kind of day it was; in fact the atmosphere of fellowship, love and happiness that flowed through Urban Roots almost made it feel like we were at an afternoon service. With food. Really good food. The menu was exquisite and the culinary fare was sumptuous. My hat is off to the Urban Roots kitchen. As my daddy used to say, it made my tongue want to slap my brains out.
The afternoon continued with little fanfare or formality as Nita sang some more, Casino Band played on skillfully, people ate, laughed, talked and sipped mimosas, sweet tea and ginger lemonade, and Urban Roots felt like everyone’s home.
Before leaving, I took the opportunity for an impromptu fan photo-op with Ms. Fruit. At her insistence, we had to let Dacia in one of our photos too, or whatever.
Photography courtesy of the Casino Band keyboard player who was standing nearby. That’s the kind of day it was.
See you next First Sunday at Urban Roots. To learn more about events at Urban Roots, visit their website at http://www.urbanrootsokc.com
Brian C. Scott