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1st Summer Gypsy Jazz Fest to celebrate Maryland's "gypsy jazz" scene

Summer Gypsy Jazz Fest
Posted at 5:10 PM, May 28, 2024

BALTIMORE — There's a distinct music scene in Baltimore that many might not have heard of.

It's called "gypsy jazz," based on the unique sounds of jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, who became popular during the swing era of 1930s France.

Michael Joseph Harris has led the Hot Club of Baltimore, which has been performing the music here for years, and has spearheaded the Charm City Django Jazz Festival since 2016.

This Saturday, it'll be happening for the first time during the summer.

The Summer Gypsy Jazz Fest will be coming to Star Bright Farm, in the White Hall area of northern Baltimore County. It'll take place from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. June 1.

"It's just gorgeous there, and the music sounds really beautiful in the valley," Harris said about the location, noting the lavender fields of the farm.

Featured bands include Max Jacobs Quartet, the Hot Club of Baltimore, and Chicago musician Alfonso Ponticelli.

Ponticelli called the Baltimore gypsy jazz community "a real vibrant scene." He said Maryland seems like a "sister city, brother city" to the jazz community of Chicago.

The Baltimore Django Jazz Jam group has more than 700 members on Facebook, and was started as a Monday-night event by Harris in 2012. The group has been meeting at The Bluebird Green Room in Hampden.

Guitarist Michael Joseph Harris started the Monday Django Jazz Jam in the winter of 2012 to build community around the music of Django Reinhardt and traditional jazz. The popular Monday was awarded Best Monday Night by City Paper. The current location is Bluebird’s Green Room in Hampden every Monday from 6pm until 10pm.

Harris said:

Essentially, the pure music is really acoustic music and that just resonates with people bottom line... They just love the acoustic quality of it.

He said the gypsy jazz scene used to be older people "who just enjoyed jazz," but now there's a lot of younger people who enjoy the challenge and uniqueness of the music.