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Cape May Jazz Festival

Jam session at Carney's Main Room during Cape May Jazz Festival
Tim Warfield and Pat Bianchi at Cape May Jazz Festival
Shemekia Copeland at Cape May Jazz Festival
Spyro Gyra at Cape May Jazz Festival

If the Cape May Jazz Festival is an economic barometer, things are turning around as the U.S. creeps out of its recession and the festival continues to overcome financial challenges that pre-dated the downturn.

The April 16-18 edition, the 33rd semi-annual festival in 17 years in New Jersey’s southernmost city, drew the largest crowd I’ve seen in more than two years. And the music was strong and diverse both in style and the demographic range of its artists.

“This is the best attendance since before our economy went south,” the festival’s executive director, Sal Riggi Jr., said Saturday as he visited the Saturday afternoon jam sessions in three clubs within a 100-foot stretch of Beach Drive. He estimated total weekend attendance would top out at about 7,000.

It’s an idyllic festival, with events scheduled in a series of hotel ballrooms and restaurants, a state-of-the-art high school performing arts theater a couple of miles away, and the three clubs: Carney’s Main Room, Carney’s Other Room and Cabana’s (the latter hosting most blues acts).

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