Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Cape May Jazz Festival

The 29th semi-annual Cape May Jazz Festival was billed as “The Next Wave,” but “next” can be a relative thing when applied to a lineup that included the Rippingtons and Winard Harper, Ray Vega and Christian Scott, Rachel Z and, in a sideman role, Houston Person. What unified this festival, if anything did, was the setting. Cape May is a peninsula, but it’s almost as remote as an island, perched on the southern tip of New Jersey between the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay. That remoteness, and the informal homey quality of the venues (mostly resort dining rooms and bars/nightclubs) leads to a sense of camaraderie among the participants, both musicians and fans.

You don’t usually encounter un-encouraged sing-alongs at jazz festivals, but when pianist Chuchito Valdes launched into “Bye Bye Blackbird” after a long, Erroll Garner-like prelude, the audience at the parochial school gym where he was playing became a sing-along choir as an enthusiastic fan in the front row stood up, turned around and led them through the words. A force of nature, Valdes pounded and pummeled the poor Yamaha grand piano to within an inch of its life during his thunderous set, which carried the audience along as if it was part of the roiling Atlantic a couple blocks away.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published