BY KREIG MEYERS — Almost two years after the closure of their namesake, the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra (BCJO) may have found a new home thanks to the Artist Partner Program at the University of Maryland (UMD).
The 17-piece jazz band, founded in 2010 by baritone saxophonist Brad Linde, had been a Monday night staple at Bohemian Caverns. The BCJO served as the defacto house band for the historic U Street jazz club until its closing in March 2016.
The BCJO has a large repertoire of about 400 arrangements, Linde explained. This repertoire ranges from jazz staples, written by Duke Ellington and Count Basie, to songs that were written specifically for the band, either by band members, themselves, or by guest musicians.
“It’s not one person’s vision,” Linde said. “Maybe we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
Having such an extensive repertoire of songs allows for the band’s spontaneity and community atmosphere. During their time playing at the Caverns, Linde said it was not uncommon for the group to be “randomly choosing arrangements each night,” and added, “Two sets weekly, we never rehearsed.”
The BCJO recently started a residency at the MilkBoy ArtHouse in College Park as part of the UMD’s Artist Partner Program supported by The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (The Clarice). Their debut performance at MilkBoy ArtHouse occurred in October 2017.
Linde said he worked at The Clarice back in 2005 when he was a graduate student at the UMD’s School of Music.
According to Megan Pagado Wells, associate director of the Artist Partner Program, working with BCJO was a perfect opportunity to “support Terp musicians.” She described how the program’s goal is to “curate performances that connect audiences with local, regional and internationally-based artists” through events and arts festivals featuring innovative artists.
According to the programs mission statement the Artist Partner Program seeks to cultivate educational and cultural experiences for members of the UMD community and surrounding area and to “supplement and extend the academic learning and investigation of the classroom for UMD students.”
For BCJO, the Artist Partner Program gives them the chance to perform regularly at the MilkBoy ArtHouse, where they will perform on the second Monday of every month starting this February.
“For a band that has been homeless for two years, it’s great to have a spot that sounds great… and the vibe at MilkBoy is a lot like Bohemian Caverns,” Linde said. “I think we’re starting to find our audience.”
The Artist Partner Program hosts numerous performances throughout the year — the program’s Visiting Artist Series alone has 30 events scheduled for the 2017-2018 season. Through the Artist Partner Program, The Clarice also sponsors master classes, artist workshops and matinee performances for school groups.
BCJO has an upcoming CD-release party at Blues Alley with two shows on Jan. 29 at 8 and 10 p.m.
For BCJO’s eight-year anniversary, they will be performing on April 15 at 6 p.m. as part of the Levine School of Music’s Jazzfest 2018.