Jazzed at An Die Musik

The Baltimore Sun

Jeff Chang closes his jazz saxophone solo with a post-bebop flourish on a recent Monday night.

"How was that?" he says happily to an audience of 10 or so at An Die Musik. "'Like Sonny' by John Coltrane. I told you it's a great tune."

Chang, 30, plays alto saxophone in a quartet with Devin Arne, 21, on guitar, Blake Meister, 22, on bass and Shareef Taher, 24, drums. The group plays each Monday night at An Die Musik.

Henry Wong, the eclectic proprietor, says he reserves Mondays for Peabody Conservatory jazz musicians so they can get experience performing.

"Most of these young jazzmen will play together through April. They're all excellent musicians who are frequently joined by equally fine players from Peabody, often classical students who also like to play jazz," Wong says.

On a recent Monday night, the group played before a quietly appreciative crowd, as jazz audiences tend to be - undemonstratively cool.

"I think we've come a long way," says Chang, who leads the group and recently completed the teacher certification program at Peabody. "We've been playing together since September. At times, we really get into it."

Some of the musicians are students of Michael Formanek, who plays the acoustic bass and teaches at Peabody.

"I've actually played here with Michael Formanek," says Taher. Formanek has a 15-piece jazz band.

Meister, the bass player, came down from Philadelphia to attend Peabody.

"I think the faculty is tremendous," he says. "I study bass with Michael Formanek. He plays the hell out of the bass.

"It's always good to play in front of people," he says, "And we're treated well."

Arne, the guitar player, says he loves playing at An Die Musik.

"I think it's a great, great experience to play before a live audience every week," says Arne, who recently completed his study of guitar at Peabody. "A live audience is the best practice there is. "

"I'd really like to get into a big jazz orchestra," says Arne, who plans to pursue his master's in music.

He's been playing guitar for about 10 years. He started out playing rock and alternative rock, but gravitated toward jazz.

"I was looking for something more challenging, more complex," he says. "I found it in jazz.

Chang graduated with a degree in music from the University of California. He came to Peabody for teacher certification. He's taught at Elkridge Elementary School and Cockeysville Middle School.

"To me, since in jazz music there's a lot of improvisation involved," Chang says, "I feel like every time you're playing, you're flying. I feel like the band is a safety net. Whenever I start to improvise, to know they're there to catch you, I could try to fly higher, or fly further."

Peabody students play jazz every Monday beginning at 7:30 p.m. at An Die Musik, 409 N. Charles St. Call 410-385-2638. Tickets are $5-$8.


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