Cyrus Chestnut helps introduce the Brown Center


You could call one event last weekend a double debut. It was the first concert given in the recital hall of Maryland Institute's new Brown Center. You know, Baltimore's beautiful big ice cube of a building over on Mount Royal? And it was the first public event put on for the 3-year-old Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance. And we haven't even gotten to the cool part -- the concert itself.

Cyrus Chestnut, one of the world's top jazz pianists, dazzled for 75 minutes. GBCA honcho Nancy Haragan says she was blown away by Chestnut, as was the crowd of 500.

"It was electrifying," Nancy says, "I heard a comment from someone who said he had [Chestnut's] CD's, but they were nothing like hearing him in a live performance."

And to top it off, the guy could not have been nicer, even calling Nancy Monday morning to thank her for giving him the opportunity to play in his hometown.

"And he contributed his performance," Nancy said. "Here's a guy who normally gets a very nice fee for his shows."

As for GBCA's big bow--Nancy says, up until now, the organization had been keeping a low public profile as it got going on its mission to connect all aspects of culture and the arts in the Greater Baltimore area.

"We're trying to be the glue for a very important aspect of our community's quality of life," she explains.

One example of getting all our arts stuff stuck together is GBCA's free bi-weekly e-newsletter Art Scoop. "It's a rolling two-week calendar that lets you know what's going on."

Want a subscription? Just send an e-mail to gbca@balt

A bash for the blind

Hey, that was some bash over at the National Federation of the Blind last weekend. More than 1,300 folks showed up to tour NFB's new Jernigan Research and Training Institute on Johnson Street in South Baltimore. About one-third of the guests were blind, many of them having flown in from NFB affiliates from across the country.

It was a mob scene -- a good mob scene -- as folks milled around, sampling all sorts of goodies at food stations set up by a whole passel of B-more restaurants. They could also check out some state-of-the-art technology, such as a hand-held reading device for the blind, or get behind the wheel of a "smart car" simulator that may someday enable the blind to drive. If that wasn't enough stimulation, there was the evening's big show by the Rhythm and Blues All-Star Review, whose members were former Drifters, Temptations, Platters and Delfonics.

"People were dancing in the aisles," raves Randy LeFaivre, a member of the party planning committee.

Belly dancers

Feel like this winter weather has got you in a rut? Here's one happening this weekend that will most definitely get you out of it. The Egyptian Sun Belly Dancers will perform along with T.T. Tucker and the Brooklyn Bumrush Band tomorrow night at 6. Not at a local nightclub. No, you'll find these guys at Baltimore's hippest pie shop -- Dangerously Delicious Pies at 2400 Fleet St. in Canton. Who cares about ordering by draft or bottle when you've got choices like coconut custard and Key lime?

To submit tips, ideas and possible items for Hot Stuff, send e-mail to or fax to 410-675-3451.

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