Jazz Beyond Borders hopes to quench a cultural thirst for world jazz performances in this part of Anne Arundel County through Sunday Jazz at the Mezz. This six-month series opened in January and will run through June at Café Mezzanote at 760 Ritchie Highway in Severna Park.
“I think there is great local curiosity about the jazz culture in the rest of the world,” said Paula Anne Delve Phillips, event creator. “I feel very privileged to bring this series to my hometown area.”
Phillips was a regular performer in her parents’ Pasadena home even before she could take her first steps. By the time she hit double-digits, her parents were driving Phillips and her friends to not only lessons, but to experience dance and music performances in Baltimore and beyond. The artistic family loved the live performances but always wished there were more programs in Anne Arundel County. This sentiment turned out to be Phillips’ life-long passion.
Phillips co-founded and served as administrative director of Maryland Summer Jazz, a festival of workshops, jams and concerts. She also served as director for inDepth Jazz Clinics, highlighting Brazilian, Latin and other world jazz and women artists, and earned awards for developing county arts programs. After decades of working with and in the arts and entertainment industry, Phillips formed The Phillips Agency, a public relations firm representing nonprofit organizations associated with arts and culture, individual performing and recording artists, and record labels.
Her latest creation, Jazz Beyond Borders, a presenting organization and artist-booking agency, was born to help venue hosts, event planners and educators connect to world-class artists, educators and vice versa.
The first two nights in the series were sold out. “We are absolutely thrilled with how well-received these performances have been,” added Phillips. “It is so satisfying to see a very happy audience.”
“There was live jazz in Anne Arundel County before our series, but not enough to match the interest and rarely anything between Baltimore and Annapolis,” added Theresa Sise, who performed in January as the kickoff artist and who also works to organize Jazz Beyond Borders events. “It’s great to bring jazz to mid-county.”
Recent renovations to Café Mezzanotte provided Phillips a perfect venue for live jazz performances. A large meeting room is transformed into a 100-seat “theater” where artists perform two 50-minute sets with an intermission, between 5:00pm and 7:00pm. Café Mezzanotte opens its doors at 4:00pm for those who would like an early dinner before the performance. Guests are also treated to a meet-and-greet after the show.
When presented with the idea of the jazz series, Café Mezzanotte owner Tommie Koukoulis was onboard almost immediately. “We are thrilled to be able to feature live jazz in a setting where the music is the focus; it’s not just background music.”
Many of the artists have performed on expansive stages in large theaters, so they welcome the intimacy of the Café Mezz venue.
“These are international performing artists who may not often have an opportunity like this. Guests are very close to the music,” added Koukoulis. “Music is art, and food is art. Live jazz is a very good fit for us and we’re very happy to be able to bring it to the people of Anne Arundel County.”
Noting the success of the first two sold-out performances, Koukoulis is already looking to future jazz series, perhaps even events held outdoors.
“We made some great music and the audience response fueled us on. Mezzanotte staff were helpful,” said Sise of her January concert. “The circular tables and glowing fire created a feeling of warmth and intimacy despite having 100 people in the room.”
The next Jazz at the Mezz performance will be Sunday, March 15, when Hot Club of Baltimore will bring their gypsy jazz style to Severna Park. Bandleader and prolific composer Michael Joseph Harris will be joined by fellow guitarist Sami Arefin, bassist Shawn Simon, and feature vocalist Alexis Tantau.
To purchase tickets, call 410-647-1100 and visit www.instantseats.com. For more information or to find out which performers are up next, visit Jazz Beyond Borders on Facebook or at www.jazzbeyondborders.com.