Jazz impresario Todd Barkan has been putting together concerts for nearly half a century. In 1972 he acquired the Keystone Korner club in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood and turned it into one of the decade’s premier jazz venues. He relocated to New York in the 1980s to produce albums, work with the Boys Choir of Harlem, and, in 2001, became Jazz at Lincoln Center’s artistic administrator. He was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2018, and in 2019 he revived his Keystone Korner club in Baltimore’s Harbor East neighborhood.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t care one bit about those career achievements, however. “I’m one of the most elder and experienced jazz presenters in the world, but that doesn’t help me in this situation,” Barkan says by phone in September, adding that, at 74-years-old, “I’m facing by far the most difficult challenge in my entire life in music.”