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Jazz in Downtown Westminster

Common Ground on the Hill started in Westminster in 1994 as a summer festival of American roots music. In recent years Common Ground’s offerings have been expanded to include summer music camps, workshops, and year-round concerts in Westminster and Baltimore.

Organizations that present American roots music rarely include jazz, oddly enough, so I was pleasantly surprised when Common Ground announced that it was sponsoring jazz at two of six venues in downtown Westminster on July 7th, with Celtic, blues and “alt-grass” bands at the other four locations.

Harry Orlove, who boasts an impressive resume in rock, pop and country music, played solo jazz guitar at Jeannie Bird Baking Company, the kind of homey independent business where “everybody knows your name.” Well, it wasn’t exactly solo guitar, as Orlove played with tracks of bass and guitar to standards such as “There Is No Greater Love,” “Gentle Rain,” “Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me” (at a wonderfully slow tempo) and “All the Things You Are” (in ¾). There were plenty of indications of blues and Wes Montgomery influences in his beautiful playing.

Just a few doors down on Main Street, the Henry Reiff Trio held forth at Rafael’s restaurant/bar. Sports appeared on seven muted screens. However, until a guitar player at the bar requested that it be turned off, canned music played softly while the live jazz trio performed! Reiff’s trio of bass, piano and guitar played all standards, including “All of Me,” “Triste” and “Four.” I’m sorry that I can’t list more, but I wanted to check out the two blues bands one block over.

Many listeners who were not jazz aficionados responded to the music enthusiastically at both venues. This was a win-win-win for the musicians, for the venues that attracted new customers, and for listeners. Kudos to Common Ground on the Hill.

2 thoughts on “Jazz in Downtown Westminster

  • Lynn Summerall

    Please consider my 12-piece band for the newsletter, or profile, or review.

    THE HOTEL PARADISE ROOF GARDEN ORCHESTRA is a 12-piece big band specializing in early jazz and sweet dance tunes from 1920 to 1935 (well before the Glenn Miller Swing Era). Some of our songs go back as far as 1910. Our sound is what one would hear in Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies, plus Roaring ‘Twenties-flavored jazz as played by the young Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington or Guy Lombardo. Many of our arrangements came from the Library of Congress and are the same ones first played and recorded ninety years ago by such legends as Fats Waller, W. C. Handy, Jelly Roll Morton, Glen Gray, Fletcher Henderson, Irving Berlin or George Gershwin. The style—and look—of the Hotel Paradise Orchestra is unique to Baltimore big bands, and authentic to the period, thanks to the inclusion of a tuba (vs. string bass), banjo (vs. guitar), and a violin section. Sometimes we are HOT…sometimes we are SWEET!
    We play each month (2nd Sunday) at Paulie Gee’s in Hampden.
    Lynn Summerall, Musical Director, 410-235-1566

    • Hi Lynn, glad to hear about this, we’ll definitely consider it as we go through our editorial material.


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