As Daudi Abe tells in his 2020 book, Emerald Street: A History of Hip Hop in Seattle, the city’s black folks first set down roots in Central District (the CD) in the late 1880s. After World War II, during the Second Great Migration, Seattle’s black population soared into the tens of thousands, 80% of which lived in the CD by the mid 1960s. In recent decades, the portion of black residents in the CD has declined due in part to gentrification. Nonetheless, the black community’s influence on the life of this neighborhood remains alive and well.

Cherry Street runs down one of Seattle’s many hills, past 206 Zulu headquarters at Washington Hall, up another hill, and down again into a cluster of Ethiopian restaurants and other black-owned businesses. Among them is Seattle’s first black-owned brewery, Métier Brewing Community Taproom, which opened last summer here in the CD, which Métier calls “the heart and soul of Black Seattle”.

I had never heard of Métier Brewing when my friends called to invite me down. They had come to Métier for a drink and found a jazz trio performing for free. It sounded good over the phone. I arrived in time to catch only one song before the band took a break. I recognized the tune, but couldn’t remember what it was. Masego, maybe? While I ordered an IPA and a kimchi pork okazu pan at the bar, I got a chance to ask the keyboard player, Brandon J. Young. The song was Footprints by Wayne Shorter, the jazz giant who passed away that very day at the age of 89. I realized later that I recognized it from Madlib’s Shades of Blue, an instrumental hip hop album assembled from the archives of Blue Note jazz records.

On the way back to my table, I passed a wall emblazoned with the brewery’s promise: Brew Damn Good Beer, Build Stronger Community, Inspire Bigger Dreams For Everyone. In keeping with their mission statement, Métier had recently partnered with NW Folklife to offer free live music every first Thursday, and this month’s artist was the Chris Patin Band (pronounced Pot-tan). The trio’s drummer and leader had attended high school down the street at Garfield High thirty or so years ago and played in their winning Jazz Combo. Longer ago, Garfield’s jazz program educated a young Quincy Jones.

Soon, the band settled back behind their instruments for the second half of the set, this time joined by a singer and Freddy ‘Fuego’ Gonzalez on trombone. Freddy introduced the singer and warned us we didn’t know what we were in for. Seconds into “Feeling Good” it was clear that Freddy wasn’t talking her up. Here was not only a talented singer but a performer with a presence befitting a stage the size of this whole taproom. And yet here she was singing among the wooden benches where we sat drinking. Singing for free, for the community.

Next, the band launched into a version of “Fever” infused with a Buena Vista Social Club-style rhythm. The singer swayed and stepped as she sang, but the small crowd was too shy to be beckoned up onto their feet. I grooved in my seat, head bopping, foot bouncing. The song ended but the singer hadn’t given up on us. As the band started playing the slow, unmistakable intro to “Stand By Me”, the singer started recruiting us one by one.

And you, you’re bopping your head, that means you have rhythm.

She lined the four of us up side by side as the intro came to an end.

Just dance til your soul is happy!… When the night… has come…