The Intimate and the Unknown: Jazz in Baltimore

EJB Trio at An Die Musik

Review by Dan Adler

I was standing next to a closed door where I could hear a faint hum. My friends behind me pushed to open the door, but the hard gaze of another bystander clearly meant for us to quiet down and wait until the music subsides. After a few minutes of playing this awkward staring contest, thankfully, intermission began and I finally opened the door to An Die Musik, a local-jazz mecca located in Baltimore’s Mt. Vernon neighborhood.

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The ascent to An Die Musik

An Die Musik has been making waves in Baltimore as a premier venue for local and world-renown artists. The Baltimore Jazz Alliance, has praised it as a “dream come to life.” Started by Henry Wong in 2004, the concert hall was originally a record store, until the owner decided to shift his direction. My visit began late on a Friday night. Headlining the performance was EJB Trio; a group led by DC saxophonist Elijah Jamal Balbed. An Die Musik’s appearance feels very “Baltimore”: located in a quintessential city-row house with a grand staircase and once-waxed wood floors. The main hall was once a parlor and is now accompanied by an amalgam of lounge chairs for the audience to sink-in and enjoy listening.

The performance showcased the venue’s fine acoustics, which amplified each instrument perfectly. The crowd’s interest was varied, with intent listeners leaning forward, gravitating towards the music, while other more placid listeners remained engulfed into their armchairs. Most of the songs were jazz standards– from Coltrane’s rendition of “Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise” to Monk’s “Evidence”- with an original composition snuck in from Balbed’s new album. Overall, the venue displayed a strong sense of community, and courageous audience members even joined the trio during their last few pieces.

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Am I the only one?

Despite an inner intimacy, the venue remains mysterious from the outside. My awkward entrance was due to a lack of information about the event online. In the internet-era, newcomers feel welcomed through Facebook events and other social media to group up and meet others attending a show. An Die Musik has a great concert hall to advance Baltimore jazz, it just needs to advertise it.

 

EJB Trio at An Die Musik: 02/05/2016

Dan Adler loves science and jazz music, and thus sometimes cares more about an instrument’s fundamental frequency than its sound. If this sounds cool (or even if it doesn’t) you can check out his blog here.

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