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Baltimore Jazz Alliance calls upon fans, musicians to save the music

The Baltimore Jazz Alliance hopes to breathe new life into the Baltimore jazz scene by giving it just what it needs: an outlet for creative expression and an opportunity for fans and musicians to unite for one cause.

Strolling through New York City's Greenwich Village on any given night, one can hear the sounds of the lively jazz scene spilling into the streets. On every corner, jazz clubs packed to capacity with aging hipsters and bourgeois bohemians showcase the biggest and best musicians from the five boroughs and beyond.

This is not the case in Baltimore. For a major city with such a large black population, there is an obvious absence of black-owned bars and clubs preserving the African-American musical tradition.

The Baltimore Jazz Alliance was formed partly because of a lack of awareness about live jazz in Baltimore, and partly because of founding member Barry Glassman's love for the music. He recalled how his interest in jazz began 10 years ago when he visited a club in the East Village.

“I heard marvelous musicians playing their hearts out,” Glassman said, “and I just wanted to share such wonderful music and such wonderful artistry.”

Upon moving to Baltimore from Washington, D.C., he noticed a stark difference in the popularity of jazz between the two cities.

Where Washington, D.C., has sophisticated venues that attract a variety of national acts, Baltimore has an abundance of neighborhood restaurants and bars, “where jazz is incidental to dining,” Glassman said. There are very few upscale places where touring talent would feel comfortable playing.

Determined to share his love of jazz, Glassman began to compile a calendar of live jazz events in Baltimore. The calendar soon became popular with local fans and musicians, and Glassman found that the job was too large for any one person to handle. He created a network of musicians, club owners and jazz aficionados to determine the best way to promote the music in Baltimore.

Glassman had hoped that with the inception of the Alliance, he would begin to notice more artists and venues supporting jazz in Baltimore, but the result has been exactly the opposite.

“Baltimore is not a nurturing place for musicians,” Glassman said.

In addition to a less than overwhelming level of enthusiasm about the jazz scene, musicians are faced with a shortage of opportunities to present their craft and a lack of support from club owners and media. While City Paper recognizes the more prominent regional acts passing through town, the genre is blatantly ignored by mainstream outlets.

One goal of the Baltimore Jazz Alliance is to fill that void with its monthly newsletter, which features an all-inclusive calendar of live jazz events in the Baltimore area, jazz news and profiles of Alliance members, about half of whom are working musicians themselves. The Alliance is also focused on increasing its membership and finding creative ways to promote jazz.

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