[Photos courtesy of Steve Oney]
On Father’s Day 2019, BJA presented Baltimore Jazz Fest, a free day-long festival that featured some of the best jazz in town. I say the BJA presented, but in reality, this was truly a community effort. When we first presented Baltimore Jazz Fest in 2016, at Druid Hill Park, we also had great support, but it was a big effort for our small organization, and while we tried to repeat it the following year, we really didn’t have the resources to make it happen right away. We kept hearing from people “When are you going to do it again?”, and “How can I help?”, and so when St. John’s Episcopal Church in Waverly approached us with the idea of holding a Father’s Day event on Greenmount Avenue, the Fest was reborn.
St. John’s is a beautiful, historic church with multiple buildings and outdoor areas, and is interested in participating more in the surrounding community. Another neighborhood resident, Linda Richardson of LCR Jazzy Productions put them in touch with us, and worked with both of us to plan and organize. But still, it takes a lot — of time, of money, of connections — to produce an event like this, and it was still more than BJA and these partners could take on alone; luckily we didn’t have to. We contacted our friends and partners in the jazz community and secured their help in hiring — and paying — the performers, giving them a chance both to promote their organizations and also to highlight artists with whom they have a special relationship.
Some of Baltimore’s premier jazz presenters stepped up to the call: Contemporary Arts, Germano’s Cabaret, Jazzway 6004, Bertha’s, and Keystone Korner all sponsored performances, making this truly a community effort. We deeply appreciate these organizations, not only for helping us to make this event a reality, but for standing together to help launch an event that really belongs to the whole Baltimore jazz community. We also are deeply grateful to the many other supporters of this event, including the Maryland State Arts Council, 32nd Street Market, Mid-Atlantic Drums, AAPS Productions, UrbanThink Media, Chamber Music America, and the many individuals who volunteered time and resources to make this a success.
And indeed it was a success! First off, despite the threat of rain, the weather held and gave us a beautiful day to perform and enjoy live jazz. We had a steady stream of audience members, from our opening with the amazing Baltimore School for the Arts Big Band to the rousing closing act by Rufus Roundtree and da B’more Brass Factory. Each artist artist put on an amazing show — in addition to those above, Todd Marcus and his jazz orchestra, the Kings of Crownsville, the Eric Kennedy Ensemble, and the Women of Baltimore Jazz Collective all dazzled the audience with a variety of styles and excellent musicianship. Over and over I’ve heard how much people enjoyed every single act, and the atmosphere was definitely a reflection of the value placed on great music, with audience coming from all around the area and mingling with neighbors from the surrounding blocks to enjoy the sun, sounds, and the company of the jazz community.
Baltimore Jazz Alliance, along with St. John’s and LCR Jazz Productions, are committed to continuing this event and helping it to grow, with the support of the community. To any who want to see it grow, or who have ideas to improve it, please reach out to us! While BJA serves as the organizing force, this is truly a grass-roots effort, and it will continue to grow as we all continue to lead it. Thanks again to all our performers, sponsors, audiences, vendors, and volunteers, and we’ll see you next year at Baltimore Jazz Fest.
-Ian Rashkin, President Baltimore Jazz Alliance