Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cape May Jazz Fest Fall 2008 Preview

Cape May Jazz Fest Fall 2008 Preview - By Bill Kelly


Fall 2008 Cape May Jazz Fest Retrospective – By Bill Kelly

Fifteen years down the line, thirty festivals, hundreds of shows, thousands of great performances and a youthful exuberance that indicates the show will go on.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been fifteen years since they held the first Cape May Jazz Fest, which featured a select few acts who started something that should continue, twice a year, indefinitely. Co-founded by Woody Woodland and Carol Stone, the Cape May Jazz Fest has become an important staple for the town of Cape May and east coast jazz fans alike.

Every festival kept getting bigger and better for the first decade, but eventually it leveled off to where it was no longer a matter of being bigger to be better, and this fest will be among friends, some of whom were there at the first fest, and some youngsters who will keep this thing going into the future.

Continuing the tribute to past jazz greats, the fall 2008 fest will spotlight the music of the late great Maynard Ferguson with Ed Vezinho and the Jim Ward Big Band with trumpeter Jon Faddis doing Maynard Ferguson impersonations on Friday night, and Denis DiBlasio and Bob Fergusion with their bands on Saturday, making for a heavy horn ensemble that will blow your socks off.

The Friday night show at Lower Regional HS Theater includes Jon Faddis, Jim Ward, Joe Scannella, Dave Kennedy, Mike Natale, trumpet; Ed Vezinho, Cliff Tracy, Skip Spratt, Bob Rawlins, saxophone; Denis DiBlasio, baritone fax; Joe Ziegenfus, Paul Arbogast, Rich Goldstein, Joe Jacobs, trombone; Demetrio Pappas, keyboards; Jack Hegyl, bass; Harry Himles, drums.

There’s also the return of Pieces of a Dream on Saturday, though since the Cape May Convention Hall is closed, the venue will also be the theater at nearby Lower Regional High School, a schoolbus ride away.

Back in 1975 Peaces of a Dream were just teenagers flush with talent when they were recognized and adopted by Grover Washington, Jr., the sax master who will be forever associated with them. Now they are accomplished journeymen, with James Lloyd on keys, Eddie Baccus, sax; Rohn Lawrence playing guitar; David Dyson on bass and Curtis Harmon, drums, Pieces of a Dream are living legends.

And between the Maynard Ferguson tribute and Pieces of a Dream at the main theater, there’s a dozen other acts that are often going on simultaneously at different clubs, so you have to pick and chose carefully, where you want to be and who you want to see. The only thing for certain is that wherever you are, there will be some really terrific jazz going on.

My preferred approach to the whole weekend would begin with the Fergusion tribute with Faddis, and then catch a bus back to Cabanas where my main man Frank Bey will sing up a storm. They’ve always fit in a good blues band during every fest and after a few years the blues bands began to settle into Cabanas, where you’ll find me if I’m making the circuit.

This historic building once housed Gloria’s Saloon downstairs and the culinary legend, Maureen’s upstairs, and you can still feel some of that history at Cabanas, especially when Frank Bey is in the house.

The Georgia-born Gentleman of the Blues, Frank Bey has a deep baritone voice that, as Carol Stone says, “mesmerizes and envelopes you.” Boy can this guy sing, and he can scat too. And if you miss him during the fest, Frank Bey will also be singing in the Boiler Room in Congress Hall on Saturdays, Nov. 29 and Dec 1, 20 & 27, throughout the holidays.

Jackie Ryan, a West Coast vocalist who sings in five languages, was recommended by WRTI’s Bob Perkins, performs down the street at the Grand Hotel Ballroom, while Chembo Corniel and Grupo Chaworo are in Carney’s Main Room and Michael Pedicin, Jr. in Carney’s Other Room next door. Chembo and Pedicin next door to each other.

Chembo Corniel and his Latin Rhythms play traditional Cuban music, rumba, salsa and traditional jazz with Chembo on congas, Ivan Renta playing tenor sax; Elio Villafranca doing the keys, Andy Eulau on bass and Vince Cherico, drums. They are hot, hot, hot, while Pedicin is just plane cool.

Having toured and recorded with Maynard's big band, Pedicin continues the Tribute to Maynard Ferguson, but he says his major influences are John Coltrane and Michael Brecker. His dad, Michael Pedicin, Sr., is still famous for playing “Shake a Hand” at Bayshores in Somers Point, where Junior played a toy sax on stage at his father’s knees.

A program notes that John Valentino was scheduled to play guitar, but couldn’t make it so Bob Ferguson joined the band on trumpet. Michael Pedicin, alto/tenor sax; Jim Ridl, keyboards; Andu Lalasis, bass; Bob Shomo, drums.

Since the Grand, Cabanas and Carneys are all there downtown on Beach Drive, it’s actually possible to catch all the acts if you move around between sets.

Things start early Saturday morning, with great breakfasts around town, with The Mad Batter being a favorite. Then mosey over to end of the Washington Street Mall for the workshops at the elementary school, which includes lessons and sessions with Monette Sudler, the First Lady of Jazz Guitar.

Monette first came to Cape May to play at the Old Shire Tavern, where many of the Philadelphia jazz acts played back in the 80s and early 90s. While the Old Shire is now a retail store on the mall, its liquor license was moved to the Boiler Room at Congress Hall, keeping the jazz vibs going.

Monette is just one of a dozen top flight jazz performers from Philly who played the Shire and now comes back routinely to play the jazz fest, either as a featured act or as part of the Saturday and Sunday afternoon jam sessions. And to not only get a load of her performing on stage, but sit down and have her show you how to pick a fret on the guitar, well that’s pretty awesome. I hope the kids appreciate it.
10am-11am beginners guitar -- Monnette Sudler 11am -12n advanced guitar -- Monnette Sudler 10am-12n improvisation workshop -- Doug Mapp, Brian Betz, Seth Johnson 12n - 1am saxophone workshop -- Tim Price 12noon - 1am Rhythm Jam -- Marc Jacopec, Jeff Hebron, Carol Sabo, Chris Jacopec Cape May Elementary School, 921 Lafayette St
The Cape May Jazz Fest is a non-profit enterprise, and all profits go towards established scholarships for local musicians, and they’ve already bankrolled some of the education of a number of young, professional musicians, who are actually earning a living playing jazz.

Extra credit classes begin Saturday at noon, at Carney’s with the Divine Jazz Combo in one room and the Eleazar Shafer Quintet in the other. Both will develop or degenerate into jazz jams that will continue until four in the afternoon.

Carney’s is one of the last of the real Jersey Shore beach bars, where you can walk in with sandy sandals and a bathing suit on one side, and sit down to a fine dinner in the other room, which they actually call the Other Room. That’s where Mrs. Carney could usually be found, sitting at the end of the bar next to the kitchen door. While the main room always featured rock & roll, famous for Sunday afternoon jams, Mrs. Carney brought in some Irish bands to play the Other Room, so you were bound to have a good time whatever your flavor. Mrs. Carney was a big supporter of the Jazz Fest and her family continues the tradition, especially the afternoon jam sessions, which are always the first tickets to sell out.

With the Sunday afternoon jams so popular, they eventually got around to having them on Saturday afternoon as well. While most traditional jam sessions are pretty spontaneous affairs, with long drawn out songs that give each musician a chance to play a solo, the Cape May sessions have become pretty competitive over the years, and now everybody tries to out-do each other, which only makes for some sensational music.

Trumpet master Eleazar Shafer opens the Saturday jam with Tryrone Shafer, keys, Irwin Hall III sax, Alex Hernandez, bass and Chris Beck, drums. “The Shafers have been performing at the jams for 11-12 years,” says Carol Stone, who remembers “when El was 9 and Ty 11, and extremely talented young men with fabulous quintet. Not to be missed.”

Beginning the jam in the Other Room is the Divine Jazz Combo a group of teenage musicians founded and directed by 16 year old sax teen Dahi Divine, who studies with Ray Wright at the Phila Clef Club. Dahi Divine, sax; Joseph Gullace, trumpet; James Santangelo, Jr., keyboards; Alex Claffey, bass; Devon Waring, drums

At the same time those guys are cookin’ at Carney’s, Alen Weber and the Frenz Blues jam will be mixing things up at the other end of the block at Cabanas, and Edgardo Cintron and Inca will be playing hot Latin rhythms over at the Grand Hotel Ballroom.

With Alan Weber on sax/flute, the Frenz Blues are Ursula Ricks and Ann Oswald, vocals; Perry Leondro, violin; Don Shaw, Frank Dinunzio, guitar; Walt Sapsah, bass and Mike Antol, drums. Ursula Ricks began singing the blues at age 5 and jives well with Weber, who picks up the alto, tenor, baritone and soprano saxophones and flute.

Carol and Woody didn’t have to go far to find Edgardo Cintron and his gang, as they hail from South Jersey, and have a standing invite to play this fest. The Latin Jam is in Grand Hotel 1st floor Ballroom, so there’s plenty of hardwood floor to shuffle around. Edgardo Cintron, timbales/percussions; Noel Cintron, congas; Bill Murray, sax/percussion; Roosevelt Walker, Jr., guitar; Doug Travis, lead vocals/keyboards; Mike Rivera, bass.

After four hours of intense jazz jams, its time to take five, or four, as there’s a four hour break for dinner that can be had at one of Cape May’s finest restaurants. There really is more fine, four and five star restaurants per square block in Cape May than anywhere in New Jersey.

Some of the restaurants are part of the jazz fest, and it’s always good to patronize the sponsors, but there are others that also support live music and jazz all year’ round, including the Ugly Mug and the Merion Inn, both on Decatur Street.

If you’re ready for a good oceanburger, cheesesteak or clams on the half-shell and a cold, draught beer, the Mug is the place go. Since the Merion doesn’t usually open until 5, I usually hit the Mug first anyway, and then go down to the Merion, where George Mesterhazy plays piano.

From Old Atlantic City, I remember George playing in the band at the Club Harlem on Kentucky Avenue, and after years playing the casino showrooms and on tour with legends, George has settled down quite comfortably at the Merion, where some of the musicians from the jazz fest always drop by to pay their respects to the master.

So besides getting a first class meal at Cape May’s oldest bar, you get to hear some great tunes and a real spontaneous jazz jam with George and whoever stops by, and no cover.

Now I learn that George has invited his old combo over to jam every Thursday night from 8:30pm through the holidays, a scene that deserves closer attention.

The official jazz resumes at 8pm with Pieces of a Dream at Lower Regional Theater and an hour later at the Boiler Room of Congress Hall. Things can get hot in the Boiler Room, downstairs at Congress Hall, where John Phillips Sousa once had the house band and some of the jazz fest perfomers can be found throughout the year.

Today Bob Ferguson plays his horn like his Ferguson namesake, with Dean Schneider, keyboards; Andy Lalasis, bass; Vic Stevens, drums, while at the same time, around the corner and down the block, Dennis DiBlasio, does Carney’s Main Room with Jim McFalls.

Being music director for Maynard Ferguson’s band for five years and the director of the Maynard Ferguson School of Music at Rowan University, DiBlasio is uniquely qualified to pay tribute to his old master. And you should get college credit just for hearing them play. Denis DiBlasio, baritone sax, with Jim McFalls, trombone, Jim Riddl, keyboards; Steve Varner, bass; Jimmy Miller, drums. McFalls is a regular member of the internationally renowned Capitol Bones and their larger counterpart, the Capitol Bones Big Band.

David Cole and the Main Street Blues keep the blues going at Cabanas on Saturday night while Pamela Williams is at the Grand and Antoinette Montague is at Carney’s Other Room, keeping the jazz going until 1 am in the morning. A favorite of the D.C. Blues Society Cole and the Main Street has a song list includes jazz as well as old school R&B. David Cole, vocals/guitar; Wes Lanich, keyboards; Emory Diggs, bass; Steve Walker, drums.

Pamela Williams plays sax with Patti Labelle. That’s all you got to know. Her 7th CD "The Look of Love" puts a different twist on 10 classic Burt Bacharach compositions, and has her own funky style. Pamela Williams, sax; Damon Bennett, keys; Stan Davis, guitar; Doug Grigsby, bass; James Rouse, drums. And they go late.

After a late breakfast Sunday morning, things start slow after Church, but Carney’s will start to come alive around noon with the Little Jazz Giants in the Main Room and Young Lions Jazz Quartet in the Other room, before the traditional Sunday afternoon jazz jam takes over at Carney’s and everything winds things up at around four in the afternoon.

Besides the duel jams at Carney’s, Xclusive picks up the blues beat at Cabanas. A 5 piece band with 3 vocalists Xclusive includes Big Walt Johnson, vocals/percussion; D. s. Nixon, vocals/tenor/baritone sax/ percussion; Ryan Gibson, tenor/baritone sax; Louie Beeks, keyboards/vocorder; Frank Greene, tenor/baritone sax/organ; Dave Peterson, guitar; Joel T. Williams, bass guitar; Rasheid Schnidmill, drums.

Little Jazz Giants, who open the Sunday Jam in Carneys Main Room are a group of young musicians from Camden who range in ages 9-13, and are directed by Jemal Sadiq, head of music department at Camden High School. Rebeya, vocals; Emanuel Garcia, alto sax; Arnetta Johnson, Dhalil Sadiz, trumpet; Khawan Wilson, trombone; Micah Johnson, drums.

The Young Lions Jazz Guartet has 13 year old Jordan Williams on keys and Manny Jimenez, trumpet. Jordan started on the piano at age 7 and taught himself to play "Afro Blue" by ear. He studies at the Philadelphia Clef Club and the Performing Arts. Jordan Isaiah Williams, keyboards; Emanuel Jimenez, trumpet; Devon Jamal Waring, drums; Jordan McBride, bass.

After the kids play for an hour keyboard wiz Robin VanDuzee will add some experience to the jam in Carneys Other Room, with Barbara Walker, Ursula Ricks, Lois Smith,vocals; Jesse Andrus, alto sax; Michael Pedicin, Tim Price, Alan Weber, Dahi Divine, tenor sax; Jim Fittipaldi, soprano sax; Bob Ferguson, Joe Breidenstine, Leaster Carnegie, Clifford Buggs, trumpet; Calvin Green, trombone; Geno White, Don Moore, Bruce Hector, guitar; James Lloyd, Robin VanDuzee, Tyrone Shafer, keyboards; David Dyson, Andy Lalassis, Rich Kurtz, bass; Austin Marlow, Curtis Harmon, Tony Day, drums.

Trumpeter Cliff Buggs, one of the original founders of the Jazz Fest, also coordinates the Coast Guard Band, and usually takes the lead for the grand finale in playing “When the Saints Come Marching In” and taking the point in the parade around the room.

And even though you don’t want it to end, they ring the bell and the music is over and all falls quiet and you after taking it all in you start thinking about next spring’s festival, and wondering what the theme will be.