Jazz in Downtown Westminster

Common Ground on the Hill started in Westminster in 1994 as a summer festival of American roots music. In recent years Common Ground’s offerings have been expanded to include summer music camps, workshops, and year-round concerts in Westminster and Baltimore.

Organizations that present American roots music rarely include jazz, oddly enough, so I was pleasantly surprised when Common Ground announced that it was sponsoring jazz at two of six venues in downtown Westminster on July 7th, with Celtic, blues and “alt-grass” bands at the other four locations.

Harry Orlove, who boasts an impressive resume in rock, pop and country music, played solo jazz guitar at Jeannie Bird Baking Company, the kind of homey independent business where “everybody knows your name.” Well, it wasn’t exactly solo guitar, as Orlove played with tracks of bass and guitar to standards such as “There Is No Greater Love,” “Gentle Rain,” “Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me” (at a wonderfully slow tempo) and “All the Things You Are” (in ¾). There were plenty of indications of blues and Wes Montgomery influences in his beautiful playing.

Just a few doors down on Main Street, the Henry Reiff Trio held forth at Rafael’s restaurant/bar. Sports appeared on seven muted screens. However, until a guitar player at the bar requested that it be turned off, canned music played softly while the live jazz trio performed! Reiff’s trio of bass, piano and guitar played all standards, including “All of Me,” “Triste” and “Four.” I’m sorry that I can’t list more, but I wanted to check out the two blues bands one block over.

Many listeners who were not jazz aficionados responded to the music enthusiastically at both venues. This was a win-win-win for the musicians, for the venues that attracted new customers, and for listeners. Kudos to Common Ground on the Hill.