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Vibraphonist Joe Baione plays Dover

Andre Lamar
Dover Post
Vibraphonist Joe Baione will gig at the Concerts on The Green series in Dover on Thursday, Aug. 20.

Joe Baione is a unicorn. While a number of kids are introduced to the vibraphone, very few stick with the underappreciated instrument into their teens, let alone adulthood.

After decades of striking up jazzy grooves, Baione, who’s nearing retirement, is still going strong on the melodic steel bars.

Baione, of Dover, will show off his vibraphone at the Concert on The Green series in Dover on Thursday, Aug. 20.

Why do few adults play the vibraphone?

It’s not that it’s a bad instrument. It’s an awesome instrument. You know that’s what I play. But it’s the norm for people to go with the other instruments. So it gets picked the least. Out of 150 kids that sign up [to play instruments in grade school], only two or three want to play the bells. I guess the flute, clarinet and saxophone (and all those) are just the norm.

Who are some famous vibraphonists?

The ones who were my influences growing up, and still are, are Milt Jackson. Then there’s guys like Bobby Hutcherson and Lionel Hampton. Lionel was one of the first Black musicians to crossover with a white group. Benny Goodman was a white clarinet player and his group was white. They wanted to, back when segregation was still going on, bring Lionel Hampton in. It was a “no, no.” But similar to how Jackie Robinson was one of the first Black baseball players [to break the color barrier], Lionel Hampton was one of the first jazz musicians who integrated with a white group, which was a big step.

How long are concert venues gonna be shut down, or operating at limited capacity?

I think it’s gonna be six months to a year. There’s gonna be a change. I don’t know how to explain it, but I don’t think the money is gonna be as good. I don’t play for free anymore, except for one or two nonprofits I believe in. I think it’ll be one of those things where you play and you get the door [sales]. A musician who [undercuts] themselves is not only hurting themselves, but everyone else. I worry that’s going to happen because of the desperation of people wanting to perform again and getting out there on stage.

You think smaller musicians are going to charge less and that’ll affect the market?

I believe the industries that are hiring them could take advantage of that situation. As far as venues closing because of COVID... that’s one thing. But taking advantage because of COVID – where you see the desperation of musicians needing work, and knowing you don’t have to pay them top dollar... you can pay them mid-dollar because they need the gig now – that’s what I worry about.

IF YOU GO

WHAT Concerts on The Green featuring Joe Baione

WHEN 7 p.m, Thursday, Aug. 20

WHERE The Green, 25 The Green, Dover

INFO cityofdover.com/parks-recs-home or 674-7541