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Five Years Out of Your Head

The vital music series celebrates a milestone

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A 2010 Out of Your Head session


Don’t be surprised to see big smiles, handshakes, and maybe even a few hugs when musicians gather at the Windup Space March 4 for the five-year anniversary of the Out of Your Head music series. Started in 2009 as an every-Tuesday-night event, becoming bi-monthly last year, OOYH puts new ensembles together to see what happens. In 2010 the series started inviting guest artists to town to play with locals, and bassist and series co-founder Adam Hopkins estimates that hundreds of people have played in some OOYH combo, be it in Baltimore or in the New York outpost he started after moving there a little over two years ago. Yes, the impetus behind the series was to provide musicians a place to meet and play with new people, but the goal was something more vital to incubating careers in improvisational music: a community.

“In a town like Baltimore, people are probably going to cross paths eventually,” says guitarist and series co-founder Matt Frazao, but “from where I stand, it really does seem like we’ve been able to connect a lot of people from really disparate scenes who are working together in projects for years now.”

Hopkins agrees. “The majority of my closest collaborators I’ve met just by getting them involved [in OOYH], both in New York and Baltimore,” he says by phone. “The people that I am always coming back to if I’m going to start a band, it’s probably somebody that I’ve played with in Out of Your Head.”

Frazao points to the local quintet Talking Points—saxophonist Derrick Michaels, drummer Mike Kuhl, guitarist Dan Ryan, pianist Savino Palumbo, and bassist Alex Weber—as one of the up-and-coming young combos that grew out of the series. And it’s served as an incubator for ideas not strictly jazz-based: Eric Spangler (aka turntablist DJ Dubble8) and DJ/producer Wendel Patrick have both participated in OOYH shows, and their Baltimore Boom Bap Society has taken this format and become a crucible for hip-hop experimentation and hybridization.

For the anniversary performance, Frazao and Hopkins say they’re trying to bring together as many of the performers from the past five years as they can—Hopkins says he hopes to bring a carful of people with him from New York. Milestones are also times for reflection, and Frazao and Hopkins both report that they’re consistently thinking about how to keep the series fresh and vital for the community it’s created and ways to entice new participants to take part.

“There’s a lot of really young people who come through Peabody and Towson [University’s jazz program] who are doing it now, and I think it’s important to get different people involved,” Hopkins says. “As soon as we see those people come out a couple of times [as audience members], we hope that they’ll be involved on the playing side of it as well. The real focus is on building a community.”

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