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Exit 0 International Jazz Festival: In the Spirit

JT publisher Lee Mergner reports from festival in Cape May, N.J.

Etienne Charles performing at the 2013 Exit 0 International Jazz Festival in Cape May, NJ
Frederic Yonnet in performance at the Exit 0 International Jazz Festival in Cape May, N.J.
Gary Bartz in performance at the Exit 0 International Jazz Festival in Cape May, N.J.
Bruce Barth in performance at the Exit 0 International Jazz Festival in Cape May, N.J.
Eric Wright and Michael Kline at the Exit 0 International Jazz Festival in Cape May, N.J.

Midway through his performance at the First Presbyterian Church in Cape May, N.J., during the Exit 0 International Jazz Festival, pianist Marc Cary stood up and told the audience, “We want to get you in the spirit.” An audience member responded from an otherwise quiet crowd, “You’re in the right place.” Indeed, the audiences and the artists at the festival seemed to be very much in the spirit and in the right place throughout the three-day festival. It wasn’t clear if it was due to the setting, the music or the audience, but every venue was packed with respectful listeners who didn’t need to be shushed or told to turn off their smartphones. Keith Jarrett would have approved.

For more than 15 years, the town of Cape May had been host to a jazz festival originally organized by two diehard jazz fans, Carol Stone and Woody Woodland, who had a keen appreciation and dedication to mainstream and straight-ahead jazz, with a smattering of blues. The couple acted as the jovial hosts of the twice-a-year jazz party that had its regulars, both locals and out-of-towners, who supported the festival year after year. For a variety of reasons-political, economic, philosophical-the two ended their association with the festival and the city of Cape May, creating an artistic or musical vacuum in that area until the Exit 0 International Jazz Festival came along to fill the niche.

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