January 4th, 2015
November 30th, 2014
by joel roberts
The summer crowds may be long gone from Cape May, the historic resort beach town at the southern tip of the Jersey Shore, but for a weekend in November each year (and a second weekend in May) the town is filled by an eager throng of jazz fans from New York, Philly and beyond for the Exit 0 Jazz Festival. This year's festival (Nov. 7th-9th) kicked off on Friday night with The Cookers, the allstar group of jazz veterans featuring Donald Harrison, Billy Harper and Eddie Henderson, at the event's main venue, Convention Hall, which sits directly on the Cape May boardwalk. Unfortunately for many fans coming from out of town, the early start time, 6:30 pm, made for late arrivals and only a brief peek at the hard-hitting band. Any disgruntlement, however, was soon appeased by singer René Marie. Backed by a stellar quartet that she gave plenty of room to roam, Marie performed a focused, intense set drawn mostly from her recent tribute to Eartha Kitt. Eschewing imitation of Kitt's highly distinctive style (save for a purring spoken intro to Kitt's trademark "I Wanna Be Evil"), Marie tackled tunes associated with the late singer/actress, including "C'est Si Bon", "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" and "Peel Me a Grape", which Marie turned into an uproarious and commanding anthem of female empowerment. A forceful stage presence, when she sings the line, "When I say do it, jump to it", you know she means business. Marie, who doesn't shy away from disclosing her personal struggles and demons, closed her engaging set with some as-yet-unrecorded original compositions, including the heartrending "Go Home" and uplifting "Blessings".
Saturday night's early headliner was the young New Orleans-born phenom (and New York resident of several years) Jon Batiste and his band Stay Human. An accomplished pianist and singer and member of one of the Crescent City's most esteemed musical families, Batiste performs mostly traditional tunes drawn from the New Orleans canon, but with an entirely modern attitude. Above all, he's an entertainer with tons of charisma and obvious crossover appeal- something jazz sorely needs. He opened his eclectic show with, of all things, a solo piano version of "The Star Spangled Banner", played with dramatic classical and Gershwin-esque flourishes, which quickly established the Juilliard-trained artist's pianistic bonafides. After that, he brought his band (saxophone, tuba, electric guitar, drums) onstage for thoroughly deconstructed and unpredictable readings of classic
fare like Jelly Roll Morton's "New Orleans Blues" and Scott Joplin's ragtime classic "The Entertainer", which delved into free jazz territory. By the set's end, Batiste was leading his band and the audience on a swinging second line through the hall, a fitting and ecstatic conclusion to a memorable performance.
Veteran pianist Monty Alexander followed with his Harlem-Kingston Express-a jazz trio set up to the leader's right and a reggae quartet to his left. The band alternates between the two styles, often within a single tune, playing separately, or, somewhat too infrequently, together. Between anecdotes about how he was discovered in the early '60s by Frank Sinatra while playing in a Miami club frequented by gangsters, Alexander delivered an energetic set that reached its pinnacle in a rousing version of Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry". Still, fans longing to hear more of
Alexander's celebrated straightahead jazz piano chops were left wanting.
Besides the headliners, the festival featured a wide variety of jazz, blues and funk acts in the clubs along Beach Avenue. Aleathea's, a restaurant in a stately Victorian hotel, hosted an overflow afternoon crowd for a winning set by the Aaron Parks piano trio, with bassist Ben Street and the great drummer Billy Hart. New York stalwart Johnny O'Neal brought his vintage swing and bebop piano and vocals to the same venue for an entertaining late-night show. Some unexpected highlights included the Feedel Band, a brass-heavy group of Ethiopian musicians playing Fela Kutiinspired
Afrobeat in the Boiler Room, a club in the basement of the historic Congress Hall hotel; and a fine straightahead quartet led by a pair of Rowan University jazz educators, guitarist Brian Betz and baritone saxophonist Denis DiBlasio.
While some more afternoon events and slightly more adventurous programming would be welcome, the Exit 0 festival is a great destination for metro New York jazz fans looking for a weekend getaway. Cape May is a manageable, walkable town with excellent restaurants, charming Victorian architecture and, on at least two weekends a year, some great jazz.
© richard conde photography
September 9th, 2014
Motema Music, Exit 0 Jazz Festival and our featured vineyards – Auburn Road and Hawk Haven – bring you jazz, wine, and good Times! Head to Jazz For Wine Lovers – sign up, and be automatically entered into our contest to win a bottle of our featured wines, Kellylee Evans new cd, and 2 VIP Passes to the Exit 0 International Jazz Festival.
September 2nd, 2014
April 16th, 2014
March 29th, 2014
Cape May, N.J. jazz fest expands to springtime
Saturday March 29, 2014 12:01 AM
By Don Botch
On the web – For more on the Exit 0 International Jazz Festival, including links to lodging alternatives, see exit0jazzfest.com.
The burgeoning Exit 0 International Jazz Festival in Cape May, N.J., expands to springtime this year with a big weekend of music scheduled for May 30 through June 1.
Reading native and West Cape May resident Michael Kline, who runs the festival, which has been held the past two Novembers, said he always envisioned an outdoor component to Exit 0 that isn’t feasible at that time of year.
“When I think about festivals that I’ve been to, obvious ones that stand out are New Orleans, Monterey and Newport,” he said, “and these iconic festivals, all of which are held in the spring or summer, feature outdoor stages plus full vendor components including arts and crafts and food that speak to a region or a community.”
Exit 0 will follow that model with Jazz at the Estate, a Saturday afternoon of music at the Emlen Physick Estate, a landmark property in the heart of the Victorian resort town.
Jazz at the Estate will run from noon to 6 p.m. and feature performances by 16-year-old violinist Daisy Castro and her band; Vince Giordano & the Nighthawks, who appear regularly in the speakeasy scenes of the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire”; Matuto, the Brazilian hillbilly funk outfit who performed in Reading as part of the 2013 Bandshell Concert Series; and Jon Cleary, whom Kline regards as “one of the truly great New Orleans piano players.”
Adding to the local flavor, a number of Garden State wineries will be on hand that day, and the Cape May Brewery will be launching a beer named after the jazz festival.
“We’re really going to show off what Cape May and South Jersey are all about,” Kline said.
The festival kicks off Friday night with a headline performance in Convention Hall by Grammy and Tony-winning singer Dee Dee Bridgewater. Saturday night’s headliner will be Grammy-winning trumpeter Roy Hargrove. To wrap things up on Sunday night, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers will present “A Night in New Orleans,” which benefits the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts.
In addition, clubs throughout town will be hopping all weekend, presenting diverse artists such as the Gerald Clayton Trio, Red Baraat, Gregoire Maret, Tia Fuller, Cintron, Johnny Rawls, Kellylee Evans, Fredericks Brown and Roberta Gambarini. A $38 Pops Pass purchased by May 29 (or $48 thereafter) provides unlimited access to the club shows.
An all-access, three-day Duke’s Pass, which includes all headliners, club access and Jazz at the Estate, costs $179. An all-access Count’s Pass for Friday and Saturday only costs $145. A la carte pricing is also available for individual events. For details, see exit0jazzfest.com.
Kline said additional outdoor events, including brass band parades and a gospel concert on the seaside lawn of Congress Hall, are in the works.
The fact that the festival will take place as the summer tourism season gets going is a bonus.
“There are going to be a lot of people in Cape May that weekend who are going to happen upon this festival just by chance,” Kline said. “I think that’s
really exciting. It’s kind of cool that you’re going to be able to hear music all around Cape May that entire weekend, just walking down the street.”
Contact Don Botch: 610-371-5055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.