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Baltimore Rebirth: A New Bloom Of Jazz In Charm City

Richard Smith Photography

"Growing up where I grew up — it's everything." If there's a touch of defiant pride in Kris Funn's voice as he says these words, maybe that's only natural: Funn, a highly regarded bassist, is talking about Baltimore.

In the 1920s and '30s, Baltimore was a mecca for African American popular music. It was still a jazz hotbed well into the '60s, but then Baltimore fell into a long series of struggles and setbacks. Funn, who came up in Charm City during the Reagan era, recalls the whir of police helicopters overhead — a sense memory he incorporated into one of his tunes, "Ghettobird."

The city has recently seen a resurgence, and jazz is one notable part of that story. That's what we'll focus on this episode of Jazz Night in America, featuring music from the Baltimore Jazz Collective — founded by trumpeter Sean Jones, who now leads the jazz program at The Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University. We'll hear the band at Keystone Korner Baltimore, which opened last spring and became the city's first major jazz club in ages.

We'll also hear tales from the Baltimore jazz scene past and present: from Keystone Korner proprietor and NEA Jazz Master Todd Barkan; from Jones and Funn; and from Todd Marcus, a bass clarinetist and community activist who also plays in the Collective and has made the revitalization of West Baltimore his all-consuming mission, one step at a time.


Sean Jones: trumpet; Todd Marcus: bass clarinet; Kris Funn: bass; Mark Meadows: piano; Brinae Ali: tap dancer; Quincy Phillips: drums.

Set List:

  • "Once Upon A Purple Night" (Mark Meadows)
  • "Glisten" (Todd Marcus)
  • "The Baltimore Collective" (Alex Brown)
  • "Thursday Night Prayer Meeting" (Kris Funn)


    Writer and Producer: Sarah Geledi; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Host: Christian McBride; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Music Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Tech Director: David Tallacksen; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey.

    Copyright 2021 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

    [Copyright 2024 WRTI Your Classical and Jazz Source]
    Sarah Geledi left her job in advertising in Montreal to pursue a career in music in New York City. She fulfilled that mission, producing content for the JAM Festival at WBGO, segments for The Checkout, and programs for WWOZ and PRI's Afropop Worldwide. She also served as a producer for NYC Winter Jazzfest before landing the "job of her dreams," producing radio for Jazz Night in America.