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Annapolis Jazz Tradition Alive and Well at O'Callaghan Hotel

The venue's new jazz series continues to sell out, most recently with a performance from local piano great Stef Scaggiari and his trio.

After a second sold-out concert in the new “Jazz at O’Callaghan's” series last Saturday, we can assume that jazz is again alive and well in Annapolis.

Recent events reinforce the axiom that history repeats itself. Annapolis jazz goes back more than 40 years to concerts at the old King of France Tavern of Maryland Inn featuring such artists as guitarist Charlie Byrd and his brother bassist Joe Byrd.

After the death of his older brother in 1999, Joe continued to fulfill engagements and keep the jazz concerts going until two months before their 30th anniversary when Maryland Inn cancelled on a one-week notice with six shows pending. Later Byrd and his wife Elana contracted with Loews Power House where they presented jazz concerts for seven years to be canceled on two weeks’ notice following their sold-out all-Brazilian concert February 26, 2011.

Having retired from performing in December 2008, Byrd continued to keep jazz alive in Annapolis with his wife— attorney and jazz entrepreneur Elana. Although their intimate jazz series at 49 West has continued uninterrupted, a new venue was needed for already booked major jazz concerts, which Elana found at at 174 West Street.

The first concert at the O’Callaghan was held in May when a capacity audience gathered in the large two-stories-high dining room that provides great sound distribution. This room can accommodate 70 fans who can enjoy food and drinks served at their tables. At the end of the first concert, the Byrds agreed that the O’Callaghan “has terrific ambience and a great staff, and the feel of the place is perfect for jazz.”

At last Saturday’s concert the room was filled with folks who realize that jazz is indisputably our foremost national art form. Regardless of age, social status or political leanings, we were compatible as we savored our shared experience. Seated next to me was County Councilman Dick Ladd who speaks my musical language as does his wife Sava. Seated nearby was my first editor at The Baltimore Sun, Joel McCord a musician who knows what great jazz is.

Among regular artists who enhanced the King of France ambience is pianist Stef Scaggiari who over the past 30 years has honed his art to perfection. At the O’Callaghan this former US Marine Corps Band member, who appeared regularly at the White House, was joined by old friend Rick Whitehead who was featured guitarist for 22 years with USAF Airmen of Note. Together these long-time friends were a formidable duo meeting and surpassing each other’s challenges to re-define synergy.

Scaggiari also delivered the vocals with sensitivity for each lyric. Highlights with Scaggiari vocals were “Sometimes I’m Happy,” Depression-era tunes “Pick Yourself Up” and “God Bless the Child That’s Got His Own” along with Duke Ellington’s “Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me” all freshly interpreted by instrumental accompaniment. Completing the trio was bassist Gary Richardson, who was not to be out-classed as he provided a compatible foundation for the trio.  Excitement peaked with frenzied pace of “One Note Samba” beautifully contrasted with Whitehead’s solo guitar in his relaxed expressive “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”

Jazz fans should call 410-269-0777 to reserve for July 23 when Trio Caliente will heat up O’Callaghan’s or email reservations to elanabyrd@comcast.net.

Pat O'Shea White June 30, 2011 at 03:25 PM
Great review,thanks for helping keep jazz alive!
Stef Scaggiari June 30, 2011 at 05:37 PM
Thanks Mary for a terrific article. Great to see you and your husband. Take care. Stef.
Adrienne Collins June 30, 2011 at 08:49 PM
Such a great article...! Thanks so much, Elana and Joe, for providing such great jazz concerts, featuring a variety of fabulous jazz artists, in the Annapolis area ! It's ALWAYS a great time ! Adrienne-Michelle...
Steve Voorhis December 03, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Stef, I've been a fan since you used to play Chopin at the KIng of France. I'm listening now to my second cousins second cd, Carrie Wicks. Any chance We could bring her out of Washington State to Annapolis? --steve voorhis

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