Jazz In Baltimore

by Michael J. West

Tuesday, September 3
As soon as the legendary jazz venue Keystone Korner put down roots in Baltimore, trumpeter Sean Jones — the director of jazz studies at Peabody Conservatory — made his move. Jones wanted to get top-flight local musicians onto the stage on the regular, something that hasn’t been easy in Charm City for quite a long time. Jones and Keystone Korner Todd Barkan thus put their heads together, and out came the Baltimore Jazz Collective, an assemblage of the city’s best players working out their stuff together. Among the stars who work within the Collective are bass clarinetist Todd Marcus, vocalist and tap dancer Brinae Ali, pianist Mark G. Meadows, guitarist Matt Stevens, bassist Kris Funn, and drummer Quincy Phillips. But it’s not limited to them: Their weekly Tuesday night set is always capped off with an open jam session. Bring your instrument! The Baltimore Jazz Collective performs at 7:30 p.m. at Keystone Korner Baltimore, 1350 Lancaster Street. $10-$20.

Thursday, September 5
There’s really not a bad reason to pay a call on Bertha’s Mussels in Fells Point. (The mussels in Guinness and Old Bay are a spectacularly good reason.) Nonetheless, here’s another really good one: They have live jazz. Thursday nights, that live jazz consists of the trio led by bassist Jeff Reed. Reed is one of those cats who seems to be able to do anything on his axe: any style, any flavor, any tempo, any harmony. In short, he’s a heavyweight, a regular and beloved presence on bandstands around the area (and, let it not be unnoticed, a hellacious soloist). When he’s the one at the head of the band, the personnel can vary a bit; recently, it’s featured guitarist Jonathan Epley and a drummer (either Todd Harrison or Mike Kuhl). Don’t be surprised, however, if there’s a piano in that scruffy little corner by the bar. The Jeff Reed Trio performs beginning at 9 p.m. at Bertha’s, 734 South Broadway. Free (but order something!)

Friday, September 6
Let us assume, temporarily, that what you really want in your live jazz first and foremost is groove. (In which case, you are correct.) What you’re looking for is a unit with the tightness and breadth of Jazzffluenza. It’s a quintet led by bassist Edward Plant, and it swings like hell thanks to his gut-level drive and the effortless power of drummer Timothy Ghiz. (And that’s just the pulse — we haven’t even gotten to the brawn of trumpeter Eric Heavner and saxophonist Steve LoGrande or the jabbing grace of pianist Phil Heileger.) What’s wonderful about them, though, is that they take on a tremendous range of concepts, especially rhythmic ones. You’re going to hear that pocket spang-a-lang for sure, but also a hefty amount of thudding Latin interchange and a solid dose of the Mid-Atlantic funk beat. All the good stuff, when it comes down to it. Jazzffluenza performs at 8 p.m. at 13.5% Wine Bar, 1117 West 36th Street. Free (but order something!)

Sunday, September 7
One of the traits that Baltimore has going for it — although the city, as a whole, sometimes seems unaware —is a remarkable scene for pre-war jazz styles. They’ve even got some people playing what should never be called “Dixieland” (and I will never call it so again; I just include that execrable term here to give freshman jazz fans an idea of what I’m talking about). In the spirit of jazz tradition from the beginning, though, bands like Tongue in Cheek Jazz Band mix the classic repertoire of Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Scott Joplin, and others with the modern jazz songbook. Thelonious Monk gets the banjo, tuba, and violin treatment just as surely as “Muskrat Ramble” does. (For good measure, there’s also trumpet, drums, and Bridget Cimino’s brassy-yet-playful vocals, too.) Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Of course it does—and it’s all danceable, to boot. The Tongue in Cheek Jazz Band performs at 7:30 p.m. at An Die Musik, 409 N. Charles Street. $10-$12.

Northern Virginia based alt-rock and indie-pop band, Frontier will be performing at Chapala Restaurant this Friday, August 23rd at 8:00 pm. Frontier has just released a brand new EP, Luminescence on June 28, 2019, which is currently available on their Bandcamp page (www.thefrontierband.bandcamp.com), along with two other EPs and a handful of singles.

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Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a freelance writer, editor, and jazz journalist who has been covering the Washington, D.C. jazz scene since 2009. He spends most days either hunkered down in the clubs or in his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.

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