There are times when the Baltimore-Washington Parkway seems to stretch 500 miles, rather than the 40 or so that separate the two cities. For instance, Greg Hatza's quintet, Moon August, has been quite successful in Baltimore for more than six years now, but Tuesday's Blues Alley engagement marks the group's debut in Washington. If local audiences take to the band's progressive sound as Baltimore audiences have, the next visit should be a lot sooner.
"Contemporary" is the word keyboardist Hatza would choose to describe the band's sound. "Fusion," he admits, is "what people call us sometimes, maybe because I play electric piano and synthesizer and we have an electric bass player (Tony Bunn). But to me fusion is rocky, Al Dimeola-type music, and we're not like that at all. We don't have guitars in the group, but we do have two saxophone players, Major Boyd and Harold Adams." Drummer Lurenda Featherstone and percussionist Lester Bailey round out the group.
Hatza, who teaches at Towson State College, writes most of the band's original material (the group has recorded two albums). The sextet recently won the citywide Jazz Quest, part of the Eubie Blake Jazz Festival, competing against a dozen other jazz bands ("most musicians didn't really like having to compete against each other, but they participated"). Moon August's prize, besides an appearance at the Baltimore festival, is a trip to next year's Grande Parade du Jazz in Nice, France. That's one gig in which distance should prove to be no object.