Cape May Jazz Festival
Cape May, NJ
Both communities are surrounded by water, and therefore are extra vulnerable to Mother Nature. New Orleans felt it in ways still unimaginable for most of us, despite the stories and the vivid broadcast images of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath. Cape May, billed as America's first seashore resort, a Victorian gingerbread resort nestled at New Jersey's southern tip, rolled out the red carpet for several dozen musicians, and grand traditions, from the Crescent City at the 26th edition of its semi-annual Cape May Jazz Festival.
From left: Michael White, Christian Scott, Herlin Riley, Victor Goines, Corey Henry
"New Orleans comes to Cape May was the theme. Brightly colored beads were passed out everywhere, a number of restaurants added New Orleans specialties to their weekend menus, and there was even a poignant Second Line parade down the asphalt "boardwalk. The opening concert by a nine-member all-star band led by drummer Herlin Riley proved to be the weekend highlight, packing Convention Hall for its opening Friday night set. The second set drew a smaller but more enthusiastic crowd that danced with joyous abandon during the closing numbers. The multi-generation band featured clarinetist Michael White, trumpeter Christian Scott, pianist Jonathan Batiste, saxophonist Victor Goines, trombonist Corey Henry, bassist Roland Guerin and singer Topsy Chapman. From the "Royal Garden Blues that began the evening to "The Saints Go Marching In second set closer, there was no repetition as the band coursed through Big Easy standards to swinging hymns like "Sing On.
Just as the Hoagy Carmichael tune "New Orleans was a vibrant feature for Henry's exuberant trombone artistry, Riley, Goines and 19-year-old Batiste filled drummer James Black's composition "The Magnolia Triangle with top-flight solos. Throughout the night, the all-stars showed why there is no more amazing feel for musical time than that emanating from New Orleans. The second show featured two astonishing arrangementsa rollicking, shuffle-beat version of "Caravan and a Henry-dominated version of "St. James Infirmary that was set to a boogie-woogie rhythm.
As much as opening night thrilled at Convention Hall, night number two disappointed. The Louis Armstrong Summer Jazz Masters never seemed to get in synch. The band featured saxophonist Kidd Jordan, clarinetist Alvin Batiste, flutist Kent Jordan and trumpeter Marlon Jordan (Kidd's sons), trumpeter Clyde Kerr Jr., pianist Darrell Lavigne, bassist William Parker and drummer Alvin Fiedler. Singer Germaine Bazzle was on the cusp of saving the evening, but her four tunes were marred by horrific sound mix problems.
Other New Orleans-linked performances in the festival's nine venues included a standing-room-only appearance at Aleathea's Restaurant by Marlon Jordan and his sister, singer Stephanie Jordan; Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers at Cabana's, the festival's customary blues venue; and a set by trumpeter Maurice Brown's quintet at the Grand Hotel ballroom. The latter showcased younger music coming out of the New Orleans tradition, with Brown & Co. offering original material ranging from frenetic up-tempo compositions to the gorgeous ballad "Lovely. The crowd clapped alongin timeon his piece, "It's A New Day.
Next to Friday night's all-star opener, the best musical event was the Aleathea's shows by Boston-based singer Rebecca Parris with pianist George Mesterhazy's trio. Her scheduled one-hour second show stretched to 90 minutes. Opening the tune with just piano accompaniment, Parris seemed to coax extra drama from Billy Strayhorn's classic "Lush Life by stretching the lyrics like salt water taffy. She followed this torch song with a gospel/R&B-inflected "You Don't Know Me," before closing with two encore tunes"All My Tomorrows and "Day By Day both titles speaking to a hopeful future for New Orleans.
At a mid-weekend news conference by five New Orleans jazz figures, Alvin Batiste expressed great optimism amid his city's slow recovery from Hurricane Katrina. "I meet every day virtuosos who are 15 years old. They play their little behinds off, he said. "Katrina is a test of humanity and philanthropy. Our society has given us jazz.
Other weekend performers included trumpeter Chuck Mangione, the Latin bands of Steve Kroon and Edgardo Cintron (the latter featuring trumpeter Winston Byrd), blues singer Frank Bey (a perennial festival favorite), singers Carrie Jackson, Lou Watson, Kevin Mahogany and Jeanie Bryson, saxophonist Tim Eyermann, bassist Brian Bromberg, Philadelphia's Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble, Puzzlebox Experiment, and three afternoon jazz and blues jams.
The most poignant part of the weekend was a Saturday morning memorial tribute to pianist Brian Trainor, a festival mainstay, who died in July. It was followed by the aforementioned Second Line paradeled by Byrd and Eyermannfrom Convention Hall down the boardwalk to the jam sessions.