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Watch Highlights From Exit Zero Jazz Festival's 10-Year Anniversary

When the pandemic paused festivals around the world, the scrappy, first-rate Exit Zero Jazz Festival kept the music going. The organizers were nimble, producing an entirely outdoor experience including circle-pods in the grass for lawn chairs and special PA systems. "We found a new way to do things," says festival director Michael Kline, "and just had to reimagine everything ... every facet of the production we had to take a look at to make sure that it was safe."

Exit Zero began in 2012 and occurs twice a year in Cape May, a quaint shore town on the most southern tip of New Jersey, and features a lineup combining marquee talent with young musicians from around the country.

Like Pedrito Martinez, New York's most vibrant Cuban conguero, leading his powerhouse band's folkloric grooves. And Gabrielle Cavassa, a 26-year-old vocalist from New Orleans and recent winner of the 2021 Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition, who brought a quartet to present her original ballads. Our radio team spoke with Martinez and Cavassa about being at the festival.

We round out the medley of performances with the singer and eight-time Blues Award-winner Shemekia Copeland. Exit Zero was only her second gig in front of a crowd in over a year.

"I had already told myself we wouldn't go back to work until 2022," said Copeland, "so for me, everything I do the second half of [2021] is a bonus, you know, and I really feel grateful for it." If you missed her set from last week's episode, we recommend you check it out here:

Festival director Michael Kline echoes that gratitude when he speaks for Exit Zero audience who endured overcast, windy, and brisk temperatures for April's event."As they're getting to hear the music, they'll put up with all the protocols, the weather ... the music will make it work."


Pedrito Martinez: percussion, vocals; Sebastian Natal: bass, vocals; Ahmed Alom Vega: Piano; Manuel Marquez: percussion; Xito Lovell: trombone

Gabrielle Cavassa: vocals; Ryan Hanseler: piano; Lex Warshawsky: bass; Kobie Watkins: drums

Shemekia Copeland, vocals; Arthur Neilson, guitar; Ken 'Willie' Scandlyn, guitar; Kevin Jenkins, bass; Robin Gould, drums

Set Lists:

Pedrito Martinez

  • "Yo si quiero" (Issac Delgado Jr., Mitchell Delgado, Pedrito Martinez)
  • "Compa Galletano" (Traditional, Arranged by Edgar Pantoja-Alemán)
  • "Recuerdos" (Juan Mesa, Arranged by Edgar Pantoja-Alemán)

Gabrielle Cassava

  • "Jim" (Music by James Petrillo and Edward Ross, lyrics by Nelson Shawn)
  • "19th & Judah" (Gabrielle Cavassa, Jamison Ross, Ryan Hanseler, Lex Warshawsky)

Shemekia Copeland

  • "Walk Until I Ride" (John Hahn, Will Kimbrough)
  • "Devil's Hand" (Johnny Copeland)
  • "Big Brand New Religion" (Chris Long,  Oliver Wood)
  • "Ghetto Child" (Johnny Copeland)


Producers: Alex Ariff, Mitra I. Arthur, Nikki Birch; Recording Engineer: Tyler McClure; Audio Mix: Corey Goldberg; Videographers: Bronson Arcuri, Mitra I. Arthur, Nikki Birch, Nickolai Hammar; Editor: Mitra I. Arthur; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Audio Mastering for Video: Andy Huether; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Senior Producers: Nikki Birch, Katie Simon; Supervising Editor: Keith Jenkins; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann, Gabrielle Armand

Produced in partnership with WRTI, Philadelphia. Special thanks to Michael Kline, Paul Siegel, John Hahn.

Stream Jazz Night In America on SpotifyandApple Music, updated monthly.

Copyright 2024 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

Alex Ariff
Mitra I. Arthur
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Nikki Birch
[Copyright 2024 NPR]