BJ Jazz draws mixed crowds to Waverly


BJ Jazz

Where: 3407 Greenmount Ave.

Hours: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily.

Menu: Seafood, sandwiches, burgers.

Credit cards: Not accepted.

Call: 467-4022.

Even if the revisionist jazz historians are right and Billie Holiday was born in Philadelphia instead of Baltimore, it still ain't fair that so few local clubs offer live jazz. Considering Baltimore's rich jazz history, and some of the fine musicians who live here, the paucity of jazz venues is a puzzler.

So a warm welcome is in order for a new club in Waverly, BJ Jazz, that will be presenting live jazz bands at least a couple nights a week and will otherwise rely on a CD jukebox with 800 jazz titles.

"I thought Baltimore needed a casual jazz bar," says owner Ann Friedenberg, 24, a 1989 UMBC graduate who is younger than most of her BJ Jazz patrons.

She's transformed the former Olympic Lounge, taking out its pool tables and making over its rough 'n' ready appearance. Now you'll find a black-and-white tile floor, mirrors and signed jazz star photos on the walls, and lots of neon tube lighting. The new look may not be as impressive as art deco knock-offs can be, but it seems like a congenial setting for the music. Likewise, ++ the bandstand is nothing fancy, but already it has held up to a seven-piece band.

Ms. Friedenberg says she selected a club location near both Morgan State University and Johns Hopkins University because "I really wanted a mixed black and white crowd here. There aren't enough clubs in town where you find that."

Sure enough, BJ Jazz on a recent night had a racially mixed crowd not commonly found in Baltimore night spots. There also was an interesting mix of mature patrons trying out a new neighborhood watering hole and the young collegiate types who have sensitive antennae for detecting fresh clubs on the scene.

Food- and drink-wise, there is a happy hour from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The bar features frozen drinks and also has non-alcoholic drinks. The seafood, sandwich and burger menu, which this week became available at lunchtime too, features the occasional spicy Cajun entry. A midnight attraction is that food prices plunge to a maximum of $2 at that hour.

Nightly specials include a Monday college night with reduced drink prices, and a Thursday Caribbean night with reduced rum drinks, Red Stripe beer for two bucks a bottle and some drinks a mere 25 cents for the ladies. Live jazz bands play Friday and Saturday starting at 9 p.m. Tonight is Michael Raitzyk, with B.K. Jazz on Saturday. There is an open mike night Sunday, with Michelob draft beer for a dollar -- a likely way to get volunteers up to the mike.

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