32nd Cape May Jazz Festival: Tribute to the Count
Saturday night, John and Alice Coltrane's son Ravi made his second festival appearance. Like the CBO, he appeared at the Theatre at Lower Regional High School, which replaced the condemned Convention Hall as the venue with the highest capacity. The soft-spoken, Brooklyn-dwelling scion once again brought his distinctive sound and repertory, perhaps esoteric to an older audience unmistakably interested in hearing how son has been carrying on father's musical heritage. To their delight or, in some instances, their dismay, the saxophonist refused to be categorized, paying homage to his father by intentionally not replicating his sound but by, in his words, "acknowledg(ing) with love my influences while attempting a move forwardto be open and receptive to shifts in the musical terrainto make music that is relevant to my present day experience." Generating monumental amounts of applause, his set included originals like "Narcine" and familiar fare like Thelonious Monk's "Epistrophy." Adding agility and zip while not sacrificing profundity was Geri Allen on piano, Massimo Biolcati on bass and Jeff Tain Watts on drums.
Once the headliners concluded their early sets at the theater, it was back to Beach Drive, where because of the reduced number of actsattributed to the recessionand the concentrated geography of the venues, it was far easier to catch the majority of the artists than in many previous years. Some attendees and organizers actually found this limitation to be a relief, as it made the festival more manageable and encouraged long-time aficionados to discover unfamiliar acts. But perhaps the greatest beauty of this forced contraction was that interested newcomers and veterans could take the opportunity to sample more of the festival's wares, gaining greater exposure to the diverse possibilities that lie within the "mainstream" jazz tradition.
For the benefit of festival-goers, who paid up to $150 for a weekend pass, along Beach Drive those differences were on fire: Dapper Houston Person compelled a room full of genteel African-American seniors to smile knowingly along with his soulful jazz saxophone at Aleathea's, while Richie Cole's bopping and rocking alto sax and slouchy beat-poet attire provoked his 50-something, jeans-clad, Caucasian audience to dance madly and cackle at the moon outside the window of Carney's Other Room. Radam Schwartz, a loosened-up Baby Boomer prankster, filled tavernesque Carney's Main Room with the up-tempo yet soul-funk sound of his Hammond B3 organ 24 hours before organist Kyle Kohler backed up guitarist Teddy Royal with a jumping beat that poured New Orleans all over Cape May's basement Boiler Room. And if passersby thought they might have heard Carlos Santana jockeying with his guitar from within one of the Carney's locations, that was actually drummer-singer Edgardo Cintron invoking Santana's living spirit, paying tribute with his Inca Band to a fellow Latino jazz/rock musician.
The heterogeneous possibilities that exist within the circumscribed boundaries of the festival were further laid bare by nightly blues acts that demonstrated their own genre's range by leaping all over the time-space continuum to pick up little pieces of eclectic styles and sprinkling them into their sets. But mercifully, at least for the jazz traditionalist who needed to regroup after experimenting with such disparate musical shards within this single and singular crystal palace, additional horn-dominated acts were there to bring the schedule's ensemble theme and sound to mind.
And whenever festival-goers required some soul-soothing or inspiration not found in the headliners, they could find it in one of those ubiquitous woman artists who proved so effective at nurturing ears through sweet harmonies or in one of those youths who offered, in addition to a spark of rejuvenation, optimism for a flourishing jazz future.
Sample the sounds of the 32nd Cape May Jazz Festival.