I recently had the pleasure of attending the first Fells Point Jazz and Arts Festival, held on a beautiful sunny day in May (5/12/2018). Actually, I was there to set up a BJA booth, to talk to the people there about all the great jazz that happens regularly in Baltimore and about our ongoing project of bringing more audiences and opportunities to the jazz scene. But I would have been there anyway, for it’s exciting to see this kind of effort being put forward to support local jazz, especially by a neighborhood like Fells, which hosts several stalwart establishments of the Baltimore jazz community: long standing steady gigs at Bertha’s and the Cat’s Eye, plus intermittent gigs at various other establishments.
The festival didn’t disappoint. The organizers were kind enough to locate our booth right near the stage, so we could watch and listen to all the great musicians who played: Sac Au Lait, Eric Kennedy, Hot Club of Baltimore, and Lafayette Gilchrist and the New Volcanoes. The weather was gorgeous and a good crowd turned out to hear these fine musicians. As usual, we caught people’s attention with our “Where’s the Jazz?” map, and as usual, many people were surprised and excited to learn that there is so much great live jazz going on in Baltimore. Some of them were regular visitors to the venues—especially the ones in and around Fells Point—but almost everyone who stopped by our booth was pleased to learn of new (to them) opportunities to hear live jazz.
I think that’s the point of a festival like this: not only to have fun on the day of the event, but also to highlight the wealth of culture that the neighborhood and city have to offer. And that, of course, is the core of the BJA’s mission; that was why we presented the Baltimore Jazz Fest in 2016, despite the fact that presenting live music is not our primary focus, and despite the fact that as a small-budget, all-volunteer organization, we stretched ourselves very thin to make it happen. So we are thrilled to see an organization like Fells Point Main Street take up the challenge and bring their skills and resources to promoting Baltimore jazz. I hope that they viewed the inaugural festival as a success, and that it can become a new tradition for Baltimore; I think the crowd made clear that there is interest and appreciation for Baltimore’s great jazz culture. So thank you Fells Point, and to all who missed this great event, we hope to see you next year!