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Hot Riffs And Cold Beer: CMBC Sponsors The Exit Zero International Jazz Festival

It’s arguably the greatest Jersey musical event of the year (and we’re not just saying that because we’re sponsoring it for the third year running). In case you aren’t familiar with the Exit Zero Jazz Festival, here’s the rundown:

In 2010 the Cape May Jazz Festival, which ran for 17 years, came to an end, and people were — to put it lightly — pissed. Especially Michael Kline.

Dr John of Dr John and the Nite Trippers, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, will headline this year's festival.
Dr John of Dr John and the Nite Trippers, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, will headline this year’s festival.

A native of Reading, Pennsylvania, Michael had fallen in love with Cape May on family vacations as a kid, so he moved here after college in ’92. But nine years later, his heart would lead him to the the Big Easy… he’d developed such a passion for jazz, New Orleans simply called his name. There, Micheal got involved with WWOZ radio, managing their underwriting and sponsorship departments, and eventually became a booking agent for the likes of Charlie Haden, National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master. In a short amount of time, Michael had won entry into an impressive inner circle. (He can tell you what it’s like to chat with Ray Charles, or about the bowling scores of Irma Thomas — the Aretha Franklin of New Orleans.)

And then: Hurricane Katrina.

Michael moved back to Cape May where, in 2006, he launched his own boutique international booking agency, Michael Kline Artists, and that job has taken him all over the world. Traveling throughout Europe, South America and Asia, he’s learned what makes for the world’s best jazz festivals. Four years ago, Cape May benefited from Michael’s expertise when he relaunched the now-defunct Cape May fest, this time as the Exit Zero International Jazz Festival.

We caught up with the musical guru to ask about this year’s event , happening May 28-30, which features such big name headliners as Dr John, six-time Grammy award winner, and Joey Alexander, 11-year-old piano prodigy.

Here’s what he had to say about the weekend, and about CMBC’s role:

The festival has many big name sponsors, including Xerox. Why are you excited to count CMBC among them?  How many reasons do you want? We pride ourselves on accentuating what Cape May and South Jersey do best, so this is an ideal collaboration. And the music happening on the Cape May Brewery stage [at Cabanas Beach Bar and Grill] is going to blow the roof off. It’s a really great fit for the brewery.

How so? Let’s see… there’s the Rebirth Brass Band straight out of New Orleans playing there on Saturday evening. To me, this is the greatest party band in the world, but I’m not the only one who thinks it. Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers tweets it all the time, saying these guys are the best band he’s ever seen live. They’ve got a funky, explosive sound… they’re going to blow the roof off. Then there’s The Lost Bayou Ramblers on Sunday. They’re also from New Orleans but with a whole different sound. We’re pairing that performance with a real Louisiana crawfish boil — between that and the music and the beer, it’s going to be one hell of a party. Joe Keys and the Late Bloomer Band are also on the CMBC stage — they’re another horn-predominating group, funkadelic, and they’ll have people on the dance floor all night long.

How many musicians are we talking about total, throughout the city? Over 100.

What makes this year’s festival cooler than  year’s past? Our goal was to have as much music outdoors as possible, and we’ve worked hard to fulfill that. There’s Jazz at the Estate, happening on the lawn of the Emlen Physick Estate. Then there’s the pier at the Lobster House restaurant, and there’s going to be a tent on Diamond Beach where we’ll host two Havana nights. I’m not really doing it justice, calling it a tent; this is a semi-permanent structure that fits 400 people, and I’m really excited about the incredible Cuban music that will be happening there. Basically, from Friday at 9pm until Sunday at 5pm, there’s going to be music all over the place.

Where can people get CMBC beer? At all of the venues. And Cape May’s is the exclusive beer available at Convention Hall for the headliner performances, and at Jazz at the Estate.

Why is it that craft beer and jazz go so well together? Neither are the kind of thing you can get just anywhere; you have to work a little bit harder to seek them out. Both are for people who want something just a little bit above the norm… they’re for people who want something better.

For more information on times, tickets and musicians, visit exit0jazzfest.com.