Waterfront makes jazzy setting

Celebration: The fourth performance in a series by the Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts will present four local jazz artists.

October 07, 1999|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts is doing jazz, Newport style.

From mellow to funky, grass-roots to international, the latest installation of the center's Celebrate series is serving up four flavors of jazz on the waterfront of Downs Memorial Park.

Local artists from four groups -- the Rob Levit Group, Carl Grubbs and Friends, the Unified Jazz Ensemble and Dr. Rick Hochman's Dynamic Dixieland Band -- will take the stage at Downs Park in Pasadena from noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 16 for an afternoon of wailing horns, soothing bass, mellow vibraphone, rollicking piano, lightly brushed snare drums and crashing cymbals.

The Chesapeake Center's version of the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island, staged at the edge of the park with a spectacular view of the Chesapeake Bay, will show off local talent.

"We're offering an eclectic taste," said Wayne Shipley, acting director of the center, which is to be situated in a renovated Brooklyn Park High School next year. "We thought we could cover the gamut of jazz in these groups."

Don't expect elevator music. The bands scheduled to perform next week have been noted locally and nationally for their talent and contributions.

Annapolis composer and guitarist Rob Levit, head of the five-piece Rob Levit Group, has won two state arts council awards for the international flavor of his improvisational music.

The Unified Jazz Ensemble, also from Annapolis, has a contemporary sound made melodious by the vibraphone. For four years, the four members were artists-in-residence in rural areas of the country as part of a National Endowment for the Arts program.

Annapolis physician Rick Hochman plays a mean piano as he leads his raucous Dynamic Dixieland Band through New Orleans-flavored, swinging sets. The group recently played the Ram's Head On Stage music room.

Baltimore alto saxophonist Carl Grubbs has plenty of gyrations in his fiery, intense improvisations. Last year, he went on an eight-city Brazilian tour with two other band members.

"What I wanted to do was come up with four completely different groups to represent the [local] area of jazz," said Levit, who coordinated the concert for the center. "I don't feel as though jazz is supported by local festivals. They don't really show off what locals can do."

That's the focus of the Chesapeake Center's Celebrate series. The series began in January 1998 with a variety show, "Celebrate the Arts," that drew more than 800 visitors to the old Brooklyn Park High School.

Chesapeake Center extended that show into a series this year by sponsoring programs that focused on specific art forms.

The move is an effort to keep its name and mission in the spotlight while board members wait for a $20 million renovation at the high school.

In March, several hundred turned out at Glen Burnie High School for "Celebrate Dance," which showcased nearly 30 dancers and groups in brief performances.

In May, dozens dusted off their old poetry books for an evening of performance in "Celebrate the Spoken Word."

"Celebration: Jazz" is the fourth installment of the series, and the last for this calendar year, Shipley said. Organizers are working on plans for a new installment that will focus on voice.

The Chesapeake Center was formed two years ago as an arts council to promote and sponsor arts programs and education in northern Anne Arundel, in the way the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis supports arts at the southern end of the county. The auditorium and classrooms of Brooklyn Park, which is to open next fall, will provide space for arts classes, music, dance, theater, drawing, painting and singing.

Organizers have planned for a crowd of 600 at the four-hour concert Oct. 16. They hope the ambience of the park, the appeal of the music and the visions of Newport will bring crowds.

"It seems jazz has an appeal that goes well beyond the predictable," Shipley said.

Tickets for "A Celebration: Jazz," which will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 16 (rain date Oct. 17 ) at Downs Park at the end of Mountain Road in Pasadena, are available at the gate or by calling 410-590-6610 or 410-263-8779. The cost is $7 for general admission and $4 for students. Children younger than 5 are admitted free. There is a $4 entrance fee per vehicle for the park. Drivers with season passes may enter free.

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