Nico Sarbanes: Live in Baltimore (self-released)
When we think of Baltimore jazz, we think of a bygone era, filled with small nightclubs, three-piece suits, and plenty of cigarette smoke. But local jazz is alive and well, thanks to a number of surviving legends, as well as the next generation of stars, like the Dunbar Alumni Jazz Band and Nico Sarbanes. Professionally trained, Sarbanes is one of the city’s most talented (and under-the-radar) performers, playing a mean trumpet and confidently crooning in a style associated with the Great American Songbook. At 23 years old, the Baltimore native has just released his debut album, a set of live recordings from the acclaimed Mount Vernon music venue, An die Musik, that features some of his hometown heroes, including saxophonists Antonio Hart and Tim Green, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, and drummer Winard Harper. Across five accomplished jazz jams and standards—like a feel-good Baltimore original dedicated to a local Union Square barber, or an up-tempo, twinkling rendition of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s smoky “Ishafan”—Sarbanes connects and celebrates our city’s vibrant jazz community, and honors its rich history.
Bond St. District
A Church On Vulcan (Friends Records)
In the summer of 2014, a young black rapper from West Baltimore met a young white percussionist from Montgomery County. In an unlikely twist of fate, the two instantly clicked, and by fall had released their first EP as the hip-hop duo Bond St. District, one of the city’s most animated, vivacious acts. MC DDm spits fire with his sharp, confident lyrics—at times clever and humorous, at others candid and poignant. Like a pastor pushing the gospel, DDm engages crowds with bona fide swagger, and his bodacious presence is only amplified by his right-hand man, producer Paul Hutson, who mixes in his masterful, multi-layered beats. Together, these distinct halves make a seamless whole, founded in a mutual respect for each other’s talent, and at live shows, their genuine chemistry is clear as soon as they hit the stage. But the strength of their bond is never more apparent than now, on their first full-length album, out exactly two years after their debut. From the rattling, energetic knocks of “Show Me Your Hands” to the lush, dreamy melodies of “How Come” and the sunny funk of “Yesterdays,” their infectious songs—and synergy—make you a forever fan.