Michael Kline Tunes the Jazz Details

The following guest blog by Michael Kline, Founder of the Exit Zero Jazz Festival, explains the festival is rooted in Cape May. Pulitzer/Grammy winning headliner Wynton Marsalis has the potential to be the single largest musical attraction in Cape May’s history. 

Wynton is coming to town! Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis is coming to Cape May!

A few weeks ago I came across a headline in a local paper that made me do a double take – Cape May Loses Jazz Festival Events – blared the headline. Since I produce the Exit Zero International Jazz Festival, the headline caught me by surprise. I was under the impression that the Festival was very much still taking place in Cape May Convention Hall.

I figured since the news was a little confusing to me, it might be to others as well, and I jumped on the opportunity offered by John Cooke – a man who works tirelessly promoting Cape May and all of the great things that happen here to set the record straight on the exciting changes happening with the Exit Zero Jazz Festival.

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In May of this year, just a week before the Spring Festival, I was made aware that it might be possible to present the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis at our November festival.  I don’t know about all of you, but for me, I got that feeling you get when you are awash in the last rays of a blazing Cape May sunset, when you think that light is shining only on you and you are invincible and divine providence has its hand on your shoulder and you’re in love with everyone around you – even the relatives you just spent every waking moment with during your Cape May vacation, kind of sunset.

The sound of Marsalis has that effect on promoters, and it should. A Pulitzer Prize Winner, only musician in history to win Grammy Awards in five consecutive years in multiple genres, a New Orleans guy, built the brand and fiercely protected the brand of Jazz at Lincoln Center to the level of Apple & IBM, the holder of more hugely deserved honorary doctorates for education and jazz education than there are Victorian houses in Cape May.

We needed a bigger house and lucky for Cape May and everyone in the region, the Schmidtchen Theater in the Lower Cape May Regional High School with 1100 comfortable theater seats and state of the art lighting and sound facilities is just across the bridge from Cape May. It’s the perfect venue to present world-class artists like Terri Lyne Carrington and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. And with the commitment to education Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center is known for, the chance to include in the production students from LCMR & Cape May County schools was not something the Festival could pass up.

After the Festival offer was accepted by Wynton’s agent, I took a step out of the glowing sunset and remembered that I now had to figure out how to pay for this. One thing you should understand. The man does not play for cheap. He’s not coming for a vacation and doing a gig or two around town in exchange for a nice stay in a local B&B. The artistic budget of our little festival is six figures (think of that the next time you try to sneak in Cabanas) and the marketing budget to put the Festival and Cape May in front of folks from Virginia to up-state New York is immense as well.

Since 2012, the Festival Main Stage has been located in Cape May Convention Hall, and five soul enriching, musically inspired Festivals took place in Convention Hall with headliners like Ramsey Lewis, Dianne Reeves, Eddie Palmieri, Dr. John, Jonathan Batiste and more.

What about Cape May Convention Hall and the City of Cape May?

The City of Cape May receives $2.00 for every Festival Pass and ticket sold-on top of the rental fee. Festival Central will still be located in Cape May Convention Hall and the venue will host 4 of the biggest POP’s Pass Series show of the Festival including the Incomparable Bettye LaVette, the Groundbreaking Skatalites, the Legendary Pat Martino, and the Harlem Sessions with Marc Cary!

Thinking of Cape May Convention Hall in the context of a club, and having Convention Hall included in the Pop’s Pass series, where folks can now attend the 4 Convention Hall shows plus all of the shows in the club venues for just $45.00 all weekend, we think is a winner for the Festival, the City of Cape May and Cape May County. Lets make Jazz history together.

For guest blog opportunities contact John Cooke @ Cookecapemay@gmail.com 


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