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The Baltimore Jazz Collective: Building a Community

A new group featuring local jazz musicians has been created at the Keystone Korner Baltimore

The Baltimore Jazz Collective featuring (l to r) Todd Marcus, Mark Meadows, Sean Jones, Blake Meister and Brinae Ali, performing at the Keystone Korner Baltimore (photo by Michael Torres)

With the opening of the jazz club Keystone Korner Baltimore earlier this year, Todd Barkan, its co-owner and artistic director, realized that the venue needed stronger roots in the community. Barkan turned to another transplanted local—trumpeter Sean Jones—who last year became the chair of the Jazz Studies department at the Peabody Institute, one of the nation’s most prestigious music conservatories. Jones said that when Barkan called him about the possibility of involving the local community in the club, he was moved. “He called me and said, ‘Look, I’m going to need the community,’’’ says Jones. “So that immediately tugged at my heart, because I’m a community guy at heart. I’m not one of those cats that ever wanted to be perpetually on the road. I’m from Warren, Ohio. I like knowing my neighbors. I like saying, ‘Hey, man, you need some sugar?’ Or ‘You ran out of toilet paper?’ [laughs] Then a few weeks later he said, ‘Think about something you might want to do at the club.’ And I said, ‘Like a nightly thing? Or like weekly?’” 

Barkan was thinking weekly, specifically a Wednesday-night set that could also include a late-night jam session. They discussed having a house big band, like many New York City jazz clubs do on Monday nights. Jones, a former member of the SFJAZZ Collective, suggested something along those lines—more of a five- or seven-piece group, but with local artists. “I was a part of [SFJAZZ Collective] and I loved it,” explains Jones. “I think the concept was amazing, and I always struggled with the fact that we weren’t from San Francisco. I thought to myself, it would be cool if we actually got a collective of musicians that live here in the Baltimore area, local cats, and we do kind of what SFJAZZ does—everybody’s responsible for bringing in charts. But we have revolving chairs. Because the reality is that we all can’t make every week. It’s basically three or four musicians to a chair. And there’s the cats that I call if they’re in town and we all just share it, basically. It’s been great so far.”

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