Jazz at Baltimore's World Trade Center

Up Here, Find a Rhythm of Your Own

Sarah Mulnick, 23, and Etienne Luneau, 27, take in the view from the 27th floor of Baltimore's World Trade Center, which hosts jazz nights on Saturday evenings in August.
Sarah Mulnick, 23, and Etienne Luneau, 27, take in the view from the 27th floor of Baltimore's World Trade Center, which hosts jazz nights on Saturday evenings in August. (By S. Michael Shoemaker For The Washington Post)
Friday, August 22, 2008

Baltimore's Inner Harbor is thick with people every weekend as they drift from shops to restaurants and everywhere in between, exploring one of Charm City's best-known attractions. In the middle of the bustle is a building that at 30 stories tall -- the tallest pentagon-shaped building in the world -- is difficult to miss.

On a recent Saturday night, Baltimore's World Trade Center, complete with a stern guard at the entrance, sat quietly aloof from the festivities going on around it -- or at least that's how it seemed from the outside. On the 27th floor, however, a party was in full swing.

During these last summer Saturday evenings, the observation level offers a jazz night. On this recent evening, about 40 people fit easily in the spacious Top of the World level and took in the nearly 360-degree view of the city as the Shook Russo Quartet played.

In a relaxing atmosphere above Baltimore's busy night-life scene, Top of the World offers displays on Baltimore's history, an exhibit about Cab Calloway (a Baltimore native and zoot-suit-wearing celebrity) and spectacular views of the city.

Sarah Mulnick, 23, a Baltimore student, and her boyfriend, Etienne Luneau, 27, hugged and leaned against a rail to get a good look out one of the windows.

"We toured the city all day, and we didn't get to see it from this view," Mulnick says.

The concert attracted such people as Mulnick and Luneau who were attending for the unique atmosphere 27 floors up, as well as devoted jazz listeners from the area, including Anatoly Gelvasser, 64, of Owings Mills. Gelvasser first heard jazz when he was growing up in Russia. He says he built a short-wave radio to tune in to Voice of America and listen to jazz.

His love of the genre was one factor that contributed to his move from Russia. Since then he has spent his time searching for the best music in the area. And on this night, he found it high up in the Baltimore World Trade Center.

"This music kept me . . . alive [when I was living in Russia]," Gelvasser says as his body appears to involuntarily groove to the music.

A jazz historian at the same table agreed about jazz's power, saying it swings and bounces even during a ballad.

And at that moment, high above Baltimore, swinging and bouncing is exactly what the room was doing.

-- Amy Orndorff

WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO KNOW? The concerts, part of the "Saturday Sunsets at the Top" series, continues Saturday with the Dave Smith Project and Aug. 30 with Tom Reyes and Lovecraft. Concerts run from 8 to 10 p.m., and the building is at 401 E. Pratt St., Baltimore.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?$10.

WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION? Call 410-837-8439 or visit http://www.viewbaltimore.org.


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