33rd Cape May Jazz Festival: A Patch of Choppy Water in Otherwise Smooth Seas
Festival co-founder Carol Stone says attendance came in at slightly under 5,000, down significantly from a high of 8,400 in 2003 and a fairly consistent number since April 2008, when the sudden condemnation of a principle venue coincided with the middle of the recession. To be fair, this past April, the chilly, dreary weather probably kept casual fans away, and at $150 for a weekend pass, the likely effects of the dreaded "R" word on jazz lovers' wallets can be surmised.
But with thinner crowds and two sponsors pulling their support, it may be worth considering a temporary retreat from such an ambitious schedule (30 nighttime sets in seven venues) so as to consolidate the audience and potentially reduce ticket prices. It may not be a popular strategy and it certainly shoulders some risks. But it can be argued that, taking the long view, a greater concentration of electricity within each venue would more deeply serve the audience, musicians and the festival itself than an energy that's refracted too sparsely.
Fortunately, the retrenchment could be short-lived, as economic news begins to improve and plans for a new Convention Hall are underway. Ideally, this contraction might be viewed in retrospect as just another challenge that must inevitably arise throughout the lifespan of any event that enjoys such success and longevity. And as savvy co-founders Stone and Woody Woodland and their board surely understand, it's occasionally necessary to channel an imaginative teenager's unrestrained creativity when the objective is to rear a more stable and productive young adult.