wailing "Ghetto Child," Spyro Gyra inspiring fans to jump up and pump their fists in the air at the climax of "The Deep End," or Inetta Visor's booming blues voice lifting swarms of previously seated men onto the dance floor for a feverish two-step. Festival organizers, who believe this fête to be among their best, say they fielded a great many wildly enthusiastic compliments over headliners Copeland and Spyro Gyra, not to mention saxophonist Tim Warfield's tribute to Shirley Scott and Chuchito Valdes showmanship on the piano.
At 17 years old, the Cape May Jazz Festival has reached the pinnacle of its teenage years. As it readies itself for a third decade, its mere sustainability would be noteworthy enough. Yet this festival continues to deftly navigate its way through the cultural waters, from staying course throughout several periods of national economic unease, to consistently showcasing some of the world's most revered jazz musicians, to cultivating a rabidly loyal fan base, to generating positive press and accolades year after year.
Far from copping the turbulent attitude of a typical teen, when viewing its lifespan in the aggregate, the twice-yearly musical party flows relatively smoothly and magnanimously within its biannual rhythm, ebbing and flowing like a mellow tide.
As with any chronological pattern, the fest's history reveals weekends that flash with incendiary musical magic: three-day moments when performer, audience and any otherworldly presence that might hold together the space in between inhale and exhale together in tight harmony and thereby support 44 hours of suspended molecular perfection.
Yet with every peak must accompany a valley, and the most recent festival was regrettably one of these depressions in the landscape. To be sure, there were episodes that crested within the emotional receptacles of the audience: Shemekia Copeland
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