It don't mean a thing if you ain't got a place to swing, and now two of Baltimore's best jazz singers, Brenda Alford and Aleta Greene, have got themselves a new perch.
Actually, it's an old perch that is itself getting back into the swing of things. A longtime fixture on the Charles Street restaurant scene, Danny's recently added a number of musical entrees to its menu.
"We had a sophisticated piano bar back in the early '60s. Although we eventually ended the piano bar, as the years passed we always had entertainment," notes June Dickman, co-owner with her husband, Stuart, of the restaurant opened in 1961 by his father, the eponymous Danny.
The younger Dickmans, who took over the restaurant on Danny's retirement last month, already have brought in a lot more live music to the restaurant's lounge. Mrs. Dickman says they may eventually go all out and remodel the lounge space for a return of the piano bar.
These plans are part of an ongoing renovation that encompasses new carpeting, repainting, cleaning the chandeliers and in general aiming for a floral color scheme. Lightening up the decor is welcome news to these eyes, because Danny's always struck me as being too dark and not quite as elegant as its high-price manner suggests.
Also lightening up is the dress code, which recently scuttled a coat-and-tie requirement that dated back to the origins of clothing. So jazz-loving nightlifers will find that they don't have to dress up to visit Danny's, although they'll probably want to spiff up a bit anyway.
After all, this is jazz singing that often seems tailor-made for its upscale setting. Hearing Aleta Greene ease into "My Funny Valentine" in this lounge last weekend was a reminder that some sophisticated ballads do indeed sound better when a chandelier is hanging nearby.
The weekly musical calendar offers pianist and singer Marcus Dagan on Mondays and Thursdays from 7:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Brenda Alford on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 8 p.m. to midnight, with her pianist, Jeff Wilson, playing until later; Aleta Greene on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.; and a Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with the rotating performers including saxophonist Carlos Johnson's trio, and keyboardists Fuzzy Kane and Dave Ross.
As for the musical tempo, expect gentler tunes for the dinner hours and the music becoming more soulful as the after-theater and lounge crowd comes in later.
Although an extensive light fare menu (which includes omelets, steaks, seafood, sandwiches and crab cakes), is served until 1 a.m., most items hover around $12. That's more than some nightlifers bargained for, so it would be a good idea if loungers had a few more single-digit options.
Where: Charles and Biddle streets.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays to Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays.
Menu: Features crab cakes, steak, stuffed lobster, fish, veal. Light fare menu includes omelets, seafood, sandwiches.
Credit cards: All major cards accepted.