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John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet at the Earshot Jazz Festival

Ahmad Jamal

Carol Stone and Woody Woodland’s bi-annual clambake on the Jersey Shore is one of the best-kept secrets of the mid-Atlantic region. Attracting straightahead jazz fans from the major metro areas of New York City, Philadelphia, Newark, Wilmington, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., as well as all points throughout New Jersey, the Cape May Jazz Festival has grown by leaps and bounds over the past ten years (up from 1,100 attendees in 1994 to nearly 10,000 today) while also boasting a significant African-American audience among its regular clientele (answering the question often posed by critics and commentators, “Where is the black audience for jazz?”).

The theme for the spring edition of this vibrant festival was “Exceptional Pianists,” a title certainly befitting such stylistically diverse players on hand as Ahmad Jamal, Benny Green, Omar Sosa, Freddie Cole, Patti Wicks, Norman Simmons and Cape May’s own George Mesterhazy. With ten separate venues spread out along the shore, and a free shuttle bus service available to festival-goers to help them take in as much music as possible in a given night, the music flowed continuously throughout the evening in the charming seaside community of Cape May, a historic landmark district teeming with gorgeous late 19th century Victorian homes.

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