Rudi Harst (center) joins the group for an improvised song about the night. Photo by Gretchen Greer.

Whether you call it Midtown, Museum Reach, the Pearl area, or SoBro (please don’t), it’s clear that the neighborhood just north of downtown is changing. The Pearl mixed-use complex has revitalized a long-neglected area of San Antonio, and this year will witness a remarkable flush of development. Along with businesses and apartments have come coffee shops and restaurants. San Antonio has never been short on culture, but this burgeoning sense of community has reaffirmed the city’s identity.

“San Antonio is starting to gently roar,” said local jazz musician and Rivard Report freelance contributor Adam Tutor, saxophone in hand. Friday night at Rosella certainly roared. The coffee shop at 203 East Jones Avenue, adjacent to The Luxury and the San Antonio Museum of Art, is now open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. If you’re not a late-night coffee drinker, their menu also includes extensive offerings of beer and wine, and legendary snacks.

Adam Tutor and Odie Wallace form the duo "Slim Pickins" at Rosella. Photo by Gretchen Greer.
Adam Tutor and Odie Wallace form the duo Slim Pickins at Rosella. Photo by Gretchen Greer.

Owner Charles Gonzalez said they tried live music nights when they first opened, in spring of 2014, but there wasn’t the demand for late-night activity that there is now. Rosella recently partnered with SATX Music for live music every Friday night. Even late, the atmosphere is of the relaxed, anything-goes, coffee-shop sort – with a little more music and movement.

Friday last, Adam Tutor on sax and Odie Wallace on guitar played as Slim Pickins. They described their music as a mixture of jazz, funk, soul, and blues.

“We don’t want to limit the sound,” Tutor said with a smile. He calls his music “soulzzafying … a feeling of soulful wonder in a swingin’ state,” and plays with the same easy passion with which he speaks and writes.

Adam Tutor on the saxophone. Photo by Gretchen Greer.
Adam Tutor on the saxophone. Photo by Gretchen Greer.

By day Tutor works for P16Plus where he connects educational resources from cradle to career; by night he’s a musician helping to liberate the souls of San Antonio and its inhabitants.

“The music is giving soul to the expansion,” he said. He hopes that when he plays, people will stop thinking, let loose, and connect with each other.

It worked. As the night went on, discrete tables began to meld. People who had never met got up to dance together to Sister Sarah Gabriel’s soulful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” while her sultry version of Peggy Lee’s “Fever” evoked the timeless vibe of historic jazz clubs.

“Rowdiness is encouraged,” Tutor said to the crowd before playing, although the music wove between the soothing and quiet to the lively and loud.

Both Gabriel and Wallace sang songs of their own composition, and invited anyone else who felt the impulse to come up and do the same. Local Rudi Harst improvised a particularly brilliant song about the night, the music, and the people in the room. By the end of the evening everyone was up and dancing.

Sound fun? There’s more, all you have to do is look.

“You can find jazz any night of the week in San Antonio,” Tutor said.

Though not specifically jazz, the Pearl Brewery’s Echale concert series has been bringing a similar vibe to Midtown for two years.

These events are not only forging communities, but also giving them a sound. But the culture extends beyond the music: Rosella is bright with local artwork, currently prints from Cruz Ortiz/Snake Hawk Press, and their menu replete with local wines and beers.

“We are proud of what we have here in San Antonio,” Tutor said. “And no one has to say the word Austin.”

For their final song, Adam Tutor leads the crowd on a "train" through Rosella and the Snake Hawk Press artwork. Photo by Gretchen Greer.
For their final song, Adam Tutor leads the crowd on a “train” through Rosella and the Snake Hawk Press artwork. Photo by Gretchen Greer.

*Featured/top image: Rudi Harst (center) joins the group for an improvised song about the night at Rosella. Photo by Gretchen Greer.

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Gretchen Greer

Gretchen Greer

Gretchen Greer is a freelance writer and photographer, born and raised in San Antonio. She has lived in France and England, and currently divides her time between Texas, London and Burgundy. You can find...