The Baltimore Jazz Alliance is a not-for-profit organization created to promote jazz and the development and expansion of the jazz community in the Baltimore area. This fourteen-track CD capturing the performance by a variety of Baltimore-based local jazz groups, all members of the Alliance, is the organization’s first album. The disc is essentially a compilation of recordings by these groups culled for this effort. The music is a tasteful blend of straight-ahead, Latin jazz and post-bop styles containing standards from the likes of Cole Porter, Miles Davis and Rodgers and Hart as well as original contemporary jazz charts.
After only one listen, I was very impressed with the high quality jazz sounds that will no doubt please just about everybody. From sharp solo performances to the tight trio and quartets and large ensembles, all of the artists on this album prove that they deserve a place on the national stage.
The album kicks off with the tune "Al’s The Things You Are" by The Al Maniscalco Quartet featuring Mr. Maniscalco on the tenor saxophone in a very boppish opener. I just loved the Brian B. Smith original "Imagine That" by The Cold Spring Jazz Quartet showcasing a torrid tenor solo by Mark Osteen and the obligatory piano excursion by pianist Smith.
Derivative is a quintet that delivers an exciting and lively performance on "Abesroof." There’s a tasteful duo exchange between Gregory L. Thompkins on tenor and guitarist Brian Kooken on that old standard "Have You Met Miss Jones." Pianist George F. Spicka provides a key pounding piano run with The Phil Ravita Trio on " AHAMAY." The Richard Walton Group provides a flavor of the Latin Jazz with the spicy rhythm-rich "Rio Le."
Other notable tracks include a solo performance by pianist Spicka on his own original score "Them Gals." The other one-man show here is given by vibraphonist Justin Thomas on the Miles Davis "Milestones" in which Thomas also plays other electric instruments. One of the highlights on this disc is performed by The Todd Marcus Jazz Orchestra on the scorching "Pompeii." Marcus takes on the bass clarinet on a very brassy and swinging big band number.
I can say without question that Baltimore Jazzscapes is one attention-grabbing set of excellent jazz music played exceeding well by some of the most talented musicians around. Those who live in Baltimore are indeed fortunate to have such a cadre of players that represent the best of the East Coast jazz scene.