The Jazz Scene: Jazz in Jersey, jazz by night, and everything in between

Famous Philadelphia drummer Mickey Roker in the 1980s. (Photo by Brian McMillen via Wikimedia Commons.)

Cape May’s Exit Zero Jazz Festival, taking place on a variety of stages from Thursday, November 10, through Sunday, November 12, has grown substantially since producer Michael Kline put the confab together six years ago. The fest features an impressive mix of regional and national performers, highlighted this year by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band on November 9, a rare appearance of supergroup/fusionists Fourplay on November 10, and on November 11, a day of big-name jazz with drummer/vocalist Brian Blade’s Fellowship Band at 4:30pm; Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Gregory Porter at 7pm; and Arturo O’Farrell and the Latin Jazz Orchestra wrapping things up at 9pm.

Remembering Roker

Closer to home in Media, PA, the 15th anniversary of Media’s Jazz By Night festival will be celebrated on Saturday, November 18, from 6pm until midnight.  The event, dedicated to Philadelphia drum legend Mickey Roker (who died at age 84 in Philly last May), will be held in various restaurants and nightspots on Media’s State Street. Instrumentalists set to appear include saxophonists Bootsie Barnes, Larry McKenna, Kenny Ulansey, and Elliott Levin; vibist Tony Miceli; guitarists Johnny DeFrancesco and Jason Klinke; and trumpeter John Swana. Vocalists on the lineup are Rhenda Fearrington, V. Shayne Frederick, and Andrea Carlson.

The return of the Mahavishnu

Given that guitarist John McLaughlin had a solid background with jazz artists like Miles Davis and Tony Williams and rock/R&B performers such as drummer Buddy Miles and frontman Georgie Fame, his formation of the genre-busting Mahavishnu Orchestra circa 1971 was inevitable. While McLaughlin didn’t singlehandedly invent the rock/jazz hybrid later known as fusion, he was at its forefront, as were the Mahavishnu bands, which existed from 1971 to 1976 and again from 1984 to 1987. This tremendously influential artist is coming to the Keswick Theater on Thursday, November 9, for a 7:30pm show with his 4th Dimension Band: the 2017 Meeting of the Spirits/Mahavishnu Orchestra Music, on its “Farewell U.S. Tour.” As if that weren't enough, also on the bill is veteran jazz/rock guitarist Jimmy Herring and his group the Invisible Whip, named, according to the leader, for the “intangible musical force that fuels them.” 

Intimacy and Exuberance

Trumpeter Terell Stafford — “one of the great players of our time,” says fellow Philadelphian and legendary pianist McCoy Tyner — is seemingly everywhere these days. Among other things, he’s the director of jazz studies at Temple, plays around the globe as leader and featured soloist with any number of swinging and cutting-edge small groups, and is the leader of the Philadelphia Jazz Orchestra, a wonderful ensemble often heard at the Kimmel. Stafford will appear in Philadelphia on Wednesday, November 15, at 7pm, in a musical setting unique to him: a duo format with veteran pianist, composer, and recording artist Bruce Barth. The venue, Exuberance, at 1220 N. Mascher Street, is also special, as it’s not a bar, concert hall, or restaurant. Exuberance is actually the home of jazz fan Matt Yaple, who has been presenting monthly, semi-private jazz performances for the last two years or so.  It’s best to visit the Exuberance Facebook page to reserve a coveted spot.

Mysterious Travelers 4: Further Investigations, a collaboration between the Free Library of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Jazz Project, continues this month with a free concert at the Parkway Central Library on Monday, November 20, at 7pm. This show, which features the group of talented drummer Ben Singer, is the fourth in a series that continues through May.