–BY IAN RASHKIN
The Baltimore Jazz Alliance has always had as its mission the support of our great jazz community-—the musicians, audiences, and venues alike–and over the years many people have come up with ideas about what we can do to further that mission. Those ideas have been as different as our members—from help getting gigs, to presenting concerts and recordings, to writing reviews, giving workshops, and more.
But one idea that has come up again and again is a desire to socialize with other jazz enthusiasts; another common theme has been to bring more audiences out to hear live music in the many fine venues around town. Our new program—BJA Night—is designed to combine those ideas by providing opportunities to meet up with our members and anyone else who would like to join at various venues and to listen to live music, make new friends, and enjoy the company of fellow jazz lovers.
Each month a different board member will choose a venue/performance to feature and invite all jazz lovers to join us in supporting live music in Baltimore. There are no strict rules or limits—it may range from a no-cover jam session to a ticketed concert—and given the wide variety of tastes and styles among our board, it’s sure to be different each month. We’ll try to keep it accessible to all and to use this as an opportunity to stretch our own experiences and try some new places, new artists, or new styles. We’ll also try to make sure that whatever the venue and style, there will always be some social element, be it during the sets at a club date or jam, or before or after the set at a sit-down event. The key is: we want to talk to you and to hear from you, and for you to meet each other. Plus, it’s a great way for all of us to show our support for live jazz.
After an aborted attempt in July (the gig at Cookers was unexpectedly canceled at the last minute), I decided to kick this off in August 3rd with a visit to Trinacria Cafe (111 W. Centre Street, Baltimore) to catch the Thursday night jam session hosted by guitarist Steve Caballero’s trio (with Ben Grant on Bass and Scott Robinson subbing for Chuck Karner on drums), featuring BJA board member Liz Fixsen as hostess and on piano and vocals. Trinacria is a fairly new Italian cafe with a friendly staff; tasty, reasonably priced food; and a full bar, as well as rotating imported and local beers on tap. They’ve been hosting live music—jazz and otherwise–on various nights of the week—and this jam session has been running for a couple of months. It will be continuing in September on a once-a-month basis.
As is apparently our curse, a storm was dumping buckets of rain on and off, making it a poor night to go out, but it was warm and dry inside, and a number of members (including me, Rena Sweetwine, Alice Downs, and Tyrone Crawley, pictured above) showed up to enjoy the fun. The band was cooking on such varied tunes as the apropos “Stormy Weather” and the progressive challenge of “Bright Size Life”; several vocalists and instrumentalists joined in the fun.
For the next date, board member Bob Jacobson selected another newish downtown hot spot, the Poets Restaurant at the Hotel Indigo (24 W Franklin St, Baltimore), where bassist Jeron White leads a trio with saxophonist Niko Evans and drummer Keith Butler (plus guests) each Thursday. For this event, the manager agreed to extend happy hour pricing for the evening to help us enjoy the jazz. We’ll try to arrange such discounts whenever possible, to make these events as inviting as possible.
We really hope you’ll join us in showing the musicians and venues in Baltimore that audiences here value live jazz. That’s our mission, and if you choose to accept it, it can be yours as well. We’ll send out an email each month letting you know what’s up next. We hope to see you all soon!