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A Baltimore Jazz Homecoming: the Josh Ginsburg Quartet at An die Musik, Oct. 23

October 28, 2009

Josh Ginsburg was just a skinny, fledgling musician when he started playing bass as a teenager around his Baltimore hometown in the early ’90s. On Friday he returned home for a concert at An Die Musik as the 32-year-old leader of the Josh Ginsburg Quartet. He brought along three top colleagues from New York, where he currently lives and where he works as a member of the Metta Quintet and an in-demand jazz bassist.

It’s a familiar story: a Baltimore jazz musician gets a good start in his hometown, moves to New York to seek a career and makes a visit home to demonstrate what he’s learned. Ginsburg, now a stockier man with tousled brown hair, thick glasses, and a sparse goatee, played the kind of muscular lines on his upright bass that have found him work with the likes of Bobby Watson, Mark Turner, Kurt Rosenwinkel, and fellow Marylander George Colligan. Ginsburg gave the strings a percussive snap and even moved vertically as well as horizontally through the changes.

The set was devoted mostly to his own compositions, which ranged from the edgy post-bop experimentalism of “Narrow Sparrows” to the wistful balladry of “Breathe” to the brisk bebop romp of “10,000 Leagues.” If the heads on the fast tunes could have been more sharply defined, the tunes always pushed forward with momentum.

Ginsburg was joined by pianist Danny Grissett, drummer Jochen Rueckert, and tenor saxophonist John Ellis. Ellis has recorded three albums under his own name for Hyena Records (Lafayette Gilchrist’s label), and the time Ellis spent in New Orleans has paid off in a street-parade immediacy that gives some backbone to his fluid, lyrical melodies.

The comfortable armchairs in An Die Musik’s second-floor performance space were nearly full, allaying concerns that the divorce between the venue and the Creative Differences Series would result in fewer jazz shows in town. Instead, with Creative Differences installed at the Wind-Up Space and An Die Musik booking a full schedule as well, there are more jazz shows than ever in Baltimore.

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