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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Piano Bar Returns to Grand Central

Matthew Kenwothy at work
Immediately following the multi-vehicle accident in September that sent white paint splattering onto the exterior of Grand Central and damaged the front entrance, owner Don Davis used this opportunity to make extensive renovations to the bar. 
One of the changes was to install a piano bar on the street-level pub side, which made its debut on December 18.
Grand Central, one of the region’s most popular clubs and a fixture in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, had been without a piano bar for 10 years.  When it existed, it was located on an upper level—a steep vertical climb—that now houses the Sappho’s bar.  Don said that following the death of his pianist Carl Barnwell in 2003, there was a succession of pianists who were “not so good, and it was not the same.” The crowd dwindled as a result of those pianists as well as from the formidable stairs leading to the second floor.

Now he feels the time and the new pianist are right. “After all the years of not having a piano, I am real excited to have the piano in the pub,”said  Don.  “And we are so lucky to have a friend and excellent pianist and entertainer to perform here at Grand Central, Matthew Kenworthy.”
Kenworthy, a self taught pianist and vocalist from Richwood, NJ, is no stranger to Baltimore as he performed at Jay’s on Read and other venues.  He has also appeared in New York, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Chicago, D.C., Rehoboth Beach, and just completed a two-year stint at Resorts Casino in Atlantic City.

Matthew performs a broad range of music that caters to a more diverse and demanding audience. He offers selections from nearly any genre from Rock ‘n’ Roll to Broadway, Jazz, Pop, and, of course, the standards.
 “I am more than excited to return to Baltimore’s music scene,” said Matthew.  “In sixteen years of performing, I never had a more warm, supportive, and caring audience as I have in this city. My audience there doesn’t allow for a lack of intimacy; they demand the opposite, and returning to such open arms is just about the best gift I could have imagined for this holiday season.” 

Prior to opening night, Matthew Kenworthy promised, “We are going to sing until they fall over from exhaustion, or cocktails, or both. This I guarantee!”
In front of Grand Central’s packed pub on December 18, Matthew, playing a new piano backed by a solid sound system, made his Baltimore return to enthusiastic cheers.  Starting off with such favorites as “Good Morning, Baltimore,” “New York, New York,” and “Downtown,” he shifted into the Broadway genre with familiar tunes from A Chorus Line, Rent, A Sound of Music, Chicago and others while the audience cheerfully sang along with him. 

An hour into his set, Matthew, donning a Santa hat, pivoted to holiday favorites including “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and “Jingle Bell Rock.” He has this unique knack of substituting his own personal lyrics in certain numbers giving the performance a naughty edge.
Matthew generously allowed a series of “guest” singers to perform solo numbers to his accompaniment and for the most part they were quite good.

Matthew’s fans and other customers, some wearing Christmas attire, were loving every minute of opening night.  It’s a great show,” said Charles Village resident Gene Fedelli.  “Glad to have him back.”
The crowd on opening night was a bit more mature than one usually sees at Grand Central as piano bars in general have always been a favorite among this demographic.  “As a mature person I feel comfortable,” said Yaz Ali, 45, an immigrant from Somalia and now lives in Baltimore. “The piano player is amazing.  I’m glad to be a part of opening night.”

Some didn’t travel from as far as Africa to partake, but there were several folks from out of town.  Lori and her husband came in from Greencastle, Pa. and knew Matthew from his work in Philadelphia.  “The show is absolutely fabulous as Matthew always is,” she beamed. 
Don Davis stated that the piano bar entertainment will be featured every Wednesday and Sunday, 8 p.m. to Midnight.  “Real soon we will be doing a Jazz night every Thursday from 8 p.m. to Midnight,” he said.

Grand Central is located at 1001 N. Charles St., Baltimore 21201.  For more information, call 410-752-7133 or visit here .

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