Cape May Jazz Festival April 17-19
By Debra Donahue
Cape May, NJ —The Cape May Jazz Festival celebrates 16 years of renowned jazz performances in the upcoming the April 17-19 “Legends and More Blues” festival.
The festival takes place at eight venues around Cape May.
Like the previous 30 Cape May Jazz Festivals, the performances are carefully scheduled so that you can go back and forth between venues.
Friday, April 17
The festival kicks off with a Tribute to Billy Eckstine and Sarah Vaughn with “Have a Song on Me Celebrating Mr. B” and the Big Band Music of the 40s and 50s with the B Swingers Big Band and Steve Butler.
Baritone Billy Eckstine, known as Mr. B, was one of the most influential ballad singers of his era. Steve Butler not only looks and sounds like Eckstine, but his gestures and style are “hauntingly similar” as well.
Barbara King, who's been compared to Sarah Vaughn, is one of the artists performing that night.
Sabrina Carten is Sarah Vaughn, the Grammy Award winning contralto (and Jersey girl.) You’ll have two opportunities to see this show, both on Friday night, so do try and catch it.
Other highlights of the evening are Odean Pope…a tenor sax legend who performed with the Max Roach Quartet (Aleatheas); Andrew Jr. Boy Jones (picture above right) who will slings the blues with his tasty quartet (Cabanas) and then there’s Brazilian/Latin and original material with the Sylvia Cuenca Group (Carney’s Main Room).
Saturday, April 18
Open your eyes, grab some coffee, and head over to the workshops if you’re inclined to have excellent instruction on vocals, guitar, improv or percussion. OR, sleep in and head over to Carney’s Other and Main Rooms, where from noon to 4PM , you can hear a talented group of West Trenton teens, Tom Zmuda and the Thursday Night Jazz, in addition to the Divine Jazz Combo.
Don’t miss the Saturday Jams featuring many of the festivals performers. At the same time, Cape May favorite Alan Weber and Frenz will be jamming at Cabanas.
During a brief break in the performance action,stop at the Boiler Room at Congress Hall where many of the artists will be signing their CD’s.
Now, have a quick nap then drive over to Lower Regional High School’s theater for one of two of tonight’s performances by the truly amazing Grammy Award winner James “Superharp” Cotton.
If you’re never seen him, don’t miss Superharp, whose impressive resume is a Who’s Who of the Blues community. His love affair with the harmonica began as a youngster in Mississippi, developing a signature style that remains one of the most recognizable in the world.
As a kid, he was playing for tips outside juke joints while more famous performers played inside; next was busking on Beale Street and being taken under Howlin’ Wolf’s wing, touring all over the blues-soaked South. He was building a reputation as a world-class blues harp player and before long, he found himself playing with Muddy Waters’ band, an association that lasted more than a decade.
With 65 years in the business, Cotton is known as the ultimate showman. After he blows just a few notes, it will be abundantly clear why he earned that moniker.
No time for lollygagging, get back to Cape May for the last three hours of performances. Vocalist Sharon Clark will serenade you at Aleatheas Restaurant; phenomenal Cuban percussionist Marya Casales will remind you why you brought your dancing shoes to Carney’s Main Room; dazzling guitarist Roni Ben-Hur will be blazing away at Carney’s other Room; and hard-bop and blues with the Michael Thomas Quintet in the Boiler Room at Congress Hall.
Simultaneously, you can catch Eddie Shaw and the Wolf Gang at Cabanas for more blues.
Shaw on tenor and alto saxes and harmonica, is a supremely talented songwriter and musician, who like James Cotton, played with both Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf's bands.
Still performing in Chicago, the high-energy band is considered one of the best around.
Sunday, April 19
You’ve probably only had a few hours of shut-eye, but you’ll want to snap on your ears and rev up your soul for the Sunday Jams at Carney’s Other and Main Rooms.
The Jams are a chance to see and hear many festival performers and invited guests strut their bluesy stuff.
Today, see Barbara Walker, Lois Smith, Jimi Odell, vocals; Michael Pedicin, Tim Price, Alan Weber, Jim Fittipaldi, sax; Leon Jordan Jr, Eleazar Shafer, Emanuel Jimenez, Joe Breidenstine, Eddie Morgan, Clifford Buggs, trumpet; Reut Regev, trombone; Geno White, Don Moore, Bruce Hector, guitar; Austin Marlow, drums.
Enjoy this stellar collection of blues makers plus Little Jazz Giants and the Young Lions Jazz Quartet.
Juke Joint Central
Just a few steps away, Cabanas hosts another ending event with more blues than you can shake a tail at. It’s Juke Joint Central, a thrilling band with a bluesy jamming feel, led by organist Greg Lamont and vocalist Dick Smith, joined by blues guitarist David Cole, saxophonist Randolph Spencer and drummer Percy Smith.
The Cape May Jazz Festival is an awesome gathering of familiar names with incredible pedigree and “street cred” — an amalgam of the most outstanding talents ever heard. This is uniquely American music and lots of it, so rest up…it’s jazz and blues you can use to keep you hopping, bopping and shaking your moneymaker.
Weekend passes for all events are $150. Passes for either Friday night or Saturday night only are $55. The Sunday afternoonn jam session is $25. Tickets can be ordered at (609) 884-7200. In addition to the concerts and jam sessions, be sure to take advantage of unique (and free) workshops Saturday morning.
Debra Donahue is a writer and public relations gal with a long history in Cape May.