Jazz in Baltimore

Baltimore is home to artists and musicians who keep the city’s jazz tradition alive

Electrifying and provocative, jazz is a study in contrast, creativity, and American genius. A complex art form with roots in African-American culture, jazz came of age in America’s cities, where African-American musicians improvised with polyrhythmic percussion and soul-stirring harmonies.

For musicians in Baltimore’s early jazz scene in the 1920s and ‘30s, jazz was an expression not only of instruments like the saxophone, trumpet, piano, and drums but of the body—dance, lyric, and melody were interwoven to tell stories of humor, heartache, and devotion. Jazz has always had a presence in Baltimore; it’s a uniquely American art form in a uniquely American city.

Today the tradition continues. Baltimore is home to artists and musicians who keep the city’s jazz tradition alive. Read on and stay tuned for upcoming events celebrating jazz in Charm City.


June 2017 Jazz Events

Now through June 25

World Premiere of Toni Morrison’s Jazz at Baltimore Center Stage
700 North Calvert Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21202
Don’t miss the world premiere of award-winning playwright Nambi Evelyn Kelly’s stage adaptation of Jazz. Based on the work of the same name by Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison and directed by celebrated British actor, playwright, and artistic director of Baltimore Center Stage Kwame Kwei-Armah, Jazz tells a story entrenched in the realities of turn-of-the-20th-century America: migration from the south to the north, and a heart-stopping tale of love and tragedy.

June 4

Federal Hill Jazz and Blues Festival
South Charles at Cross Street Market
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Baltimore’s historic Federal Hill neighborhood celebrates jazz each year with the annual Federal Hill Jazz and Blues Festival. Founded in 2000, the festival celebrates its 17th year this summer. A showcase for Baltimore’s jazz and blues musicians, the day-long event offers a closer look at the city’s local talent. Hang out with friends, nosh on tasty eats, and enjoy more than 80 food and arts and crafts vendors. A great event for families, the festival includes activities for all ages.

June 7, 14 and 28, 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Summer in the Squares
Mount Vernon Place-West Square
699 Washington Place
Baltimore, Maryland 21201
The Mount Vernon Place Conservancy features two free jazz concerts in June as part of their “Summer in the Squares” series. On June 7: The Rhonda Robinson Jazz Trio features Baltimore-based jazz vocalist and flutist Rhonda Robinson. On June 14: Jazz pianist, bass player, and Peabody Conservatory faculty member Blake Meister leads the Blake Meister’s Jazz Trio. June 28 features the group Otherworld Jazz. Bring your own lawn chair or blanket to this outdoor event.

June 11, 4 p.m.

A Taste of Jazz at The Avenue Bakery
The Avenue Bakery
2229 Pennsylvania Ave.
Baltimore, Maryland 21217
The Avenue Bakery
Grab some signature “Poppay’s” rolls, and enjoy live music by Baltimore jazz singers and musicians in the manicured courtyard adjacent to the bakery.

June 11, 6-9 p.m.

Gypsy Jazz with the Hot Club of Baltimore
Sotto Sopra Restaurant
405 N. Charles St.
Baltimore, Maryland 21202
Gypsy Jazz at Sotto Sopra
Enjoy an Italian dinner while you listen to Hot Club of Baltimore with chanteuse Alexis Tantau perform vintage jazz and early swing music.

June 15, 8 p.m.

Third Thursday Live Jazz: On Kee Jazz Band
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum
830 E. Pratt St. br />Baltimore, Maryland 21202
Third Thursday Live Jazz
Enjoy the contemporary jazz sounds of the On Kee Jazz Band as part of the museum’s Third Thursday series. Each third Thursday of the month, enjoy late-night admission to the galleries until 8 p.m. and a liver show. Cash bar and food is available for purchase.

June 24, 11 a.m.

Jazz: Front and Center with Center Stage
Reginald F. Lewis Museum
830 East Pratt Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21202
Join the cast of Jazz for selected readings from the play before its closing day at Baltimore Center Stage on June 25. The reading will be followed by a talk with director Kwame Kwei-Armah and the cast, moderated by Shirley Basfield Dunlap, ‎Director of Theatre at Morgan State University. Admission included with museum admission. RSVP required.

Where to See Jazz in Baltimore

An Die Musik LIVE

409 North Charles Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201
888-221-6170 or 410-385-2638
Voted one of the city’s best venues for jazz, the top floor of this Baltimore music store features a small stage graced by jazz greats and new musicians alike.

Bertha’s Restaurant and Bar

734 South Broadway
Baltimore, Maryland 21231
One of Fell’s Point’s best-known seafood spots is all about mussels—and live music, including jazz.

Caton Castle Lounge

20 South Caton Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21229
This authentic jazz haven in southwest Baltimore has been around for more than 25 years. Visit the website for information on upcoming performances.

Cat’s Eye Pub

1730 Thames Street
Fells Point, Maryland 21231
Since 1975, the Cat’s Eye has been a Baltimore icon. Stop by for jazz and blues on the waterfront. See the website for the band schedule.

Germano's Piattini

300 South High Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
In the upstairs dining room at Germano’s, enjoy a wide range of musical styles including jazz. Tickets are available for purchase online.

Gertrude’s Restaurant

10 Art Museum Drive
Baltimore, MD 21218
Located at the sculpture garden at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Gertrude’s features jazz and Chesapeake Bay cuisine during Sunday brunch and throughout the weekend.

Jazz at the Johns Hopkins Club

3400 North Charles Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21218
Johns Hopkins University and the Department of Jazz Studies at the Peabody Institute partnered to create this concert series featuring world-class performers.

Joe Squared

Station North Location
33 West North Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21201

Inner Harbor
30 Market Place
Baltimore, Maryland 21202
Visit Joe Squared for a taste of Baltimore culture and an exciting calendar of events each month, including live music and jazz performances.


Honoring Jazz Greats and Baltimore Natives

Baltimore was a hot spot of jazz in the 20th century, and is the birthplace of several jazz legends, including Billie Holiday, Eubie Blake and Cab Calloway. You can get even more jazz history at two of Baltimore’s museums dedicated to the contributions of African Americans, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum and the Great Blacks In Wax Museum.

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday spent her early childhood years in Baltimore. Her presence is celebrated throughout Charm City— on murals and painted screens in Fell’s Point on the 200 block of Durham Street, and on the poignant Sankofa mural at Pennsylvania and North Avenues. A bronze statue of Lady Day by Baltimore sculptor James Earl Reid is less than a block from the historic Royal Theater at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, the fabled performance hall where she performed with other jazz greats during the roaring ’20s.

Eubie Blake

In 1883, James Hubert Blake was born the son of a former slave. Blake began organ lessons at the age of six. Better known as “Eubie” Blake, the famous pianist and composer met lyricist, Noble Sissle, and together they wrote their first Broadway show, "Shuffle Along," in 1921. Baltimore’s Eubie Blake National Museum and Cultural Center was named after the ragtime legend. Eubie Blake is known to have attended the first free public school for African-American children at Peale Museum.

Cab Calloway

Legendary bandleader and African-American jazz great Cab Calloway grew up in Baltimore. The consummate performer, Calloway’s scat singing, acrobatic dance moves, and high-energy performances captured the imagination of audiences during his heyday in the 1930s and for generations to come. His trademark refrain (“hi-de-ho”) came from his hit “Minnie the Moocher,” a song which would be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame nearly seven decades later. Calloway’s family keeps his legacy alive through their involvement in music, the arts, and arts education in Baltimore.