Building the Jazz Audience

— by Bob Jacobson —

Wanting to hear some Dixieland music, which seems to be in short supply in the Baltimore area, I went on Sunday, February 25th at 5 p.m. to hear the Starvation Army Band at An die Musik. The sextet of trumpet, trombone/vocals, clarinet/sax , tuba, drums and piano was terrific. SAB played two sets that were almost half Dixieland, almost half swing, with two klezmer (East European Jewish) tunes. There was only one problem. Only seven people were in the audience. Of those seven only two of us were neither family nor friends of band members.

Okay, it was a cold Sunday night at 5 p.m. But seven people, at one of the world’s greatest jazz venues (according to DownBeat magazine)?

I realize that for any performance to draw an audience, both the presenter and performer(s) need to do outreach. But what responsibility do we have as jazz fans? I suggest that in order to maintain and perpetuate jazz in the Baltimore-area, we need to step out of our comfort zones and check out some performers we are not already familiar with and some genres we’re not already in love with.

My own taste is pretty traditional. I love the Great American Songbook, mid-20th century jazz standards, hard bop, Brazilian and Latin jazz. Every once in a while I go a bit beyond that, such as with the music of Todd Marcus. Yet I have never been to the Windup Space. To practice what I preach, I should check out that venue, or in a different direction, the jam session at The Place, which I’m guessing is more contemporary-jazz oriented.

Please take a look at our jazz calendar and give some new performers and/or venues a chance.
I’m guessing that you’ll like at least some of what you hear, and you’ll be aiding the growth of the local jazz scene.