Jazz band lends helping hand to Wilde Lake High

Jazz musicians play gigs all over the place, but some of these concerts emotionally hit home. In the case of Alex Brown, it's an upcoming concert at his former high school that has special meaning for him.

This Wilde Lake High School alumnus is a member of the band playing for Jazz at the Lake on Saturday, Jan. 18, at 7:30 p.m., in the Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School. It's the 10th annual fundraising concert sponsored by the Wilde Lake Band Boosters.

"I love Columbia and coming back is a really nice break from the city," said Brown, a 26-year-old jazz pianist, referring to the present New York City apartment he shares with his brother Zach, a 23-year-old jazz bass player and Wilde Lake alumnus who is also a member of the band for the upcoming concert.

Alex has performed at all of the Jazz at the Lake concerts and Zach has performed at most of them. In fact, Alex was still a high school senior when he helped put together the first such concert.

For a previous fund-raising event, "everybody made sandwiches in assembly line fashion for orders for Super Bowl parties," Alex recalled. "I thought it would be cool to make music instead. The concert just kind of happened and became an annual thing."

Alex and Zach's mother, Jill Lapides, a Hickory Ridge resident, is among those school boosters who administratively ensure it still happens every year. In terms of the money raised each year for the high school's band program, Lapides said it is "a flexible fund to help this stellar program. It's an annual event that brings good music into the community."

The featured performer the first year was the nationally known flute player Dave Valentin; and in the years since, renown jazz musicians similarly have come to Columbia and been accompanied by local players.

Himself now a professional jazz musician, Alex played both classical and jazz piano while a student at Wilde Lake. Then he graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston; Zach graduated from the Berklee School of Music, also in Boston.

The brothers will be joined at the upcoming Columbia concert by Diego Urcola on trumpet, Mark Gross on saxophone and Eric Doob on drums.

This same band appeared earlier this month at a jazz festival in Uruguay. That South American festival's artistic director is the Cuban-born clarinet and saxophone player Paquito D'Rivera, whose long residency in the United States has seen this Latin jazz star work with numerous American musicians.

The musicians performing at the Wilde Lake concert have many performance connections to D'Rivera. Alex became a member of D'Rivera's band in 2011, and Zach is a substitute player with it.

A longtime member of D'Rivera's band and the leader of the band playing at Wilde Lake, New York-based Diego Urcola said: "I've been part of Paquito's band for more than 20 years now. His influence is always present, although my approach to music is totally different."

Urcola added that the program for the Wilde Lake concert will consist of music from Urcola's 2011 CD "Appreciation."

Another jazz veteran, Mark Gross, grew up in Baltimore City, graduated from the Baltimore School for the Arts and then the Berklee School of Music in Boston.

"I had known Alex from the New York scene and I guess he looks up to me as a mentor," said Gross, 47, who lives in New York. "Alex is one of the young cats who really studies the music and not just from a piano player's perspective. Whether accompanying Paquito or myself, he's one of the musicians who's trying to make us sound better."

"Jazz at the Lake" is Saturday, Jan. 18, at 7:30 p.m. in the Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School, 5460 Trumpeter Road in Columbia. Tickets are $20, $10 for students; purchase online at instantseats.com/events/jimrousetheatre. Call 410-997-2070 or go to WildeLakeJazz@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad