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Autumn Jazz 2002 Rehoboth Beach Festival

The 13th annual Rehoboth Jazz Festival: raise your hat and regain your soul! This year's theme, "Hat’s off to Jazz", was exemplified by a variety of artists and genres from Blues to Bebop, from Big Band to Contemporary Jazz.

From October 17th to the 2lst the Rehoboth-Dewey Beach area was alive with the sound of Jazz. Over the festival’s four days, as well as the 11 main ticketed events, it featured live musical brunches, lunches and dinners at many area clubs and restaurants. The headliners included artists such as Will Downing, Patti Austin, Chaka Khan, Peter White, Rick Braun and Boney James. There were also performances by Maynard Ferguson, Bob Baldwin, Marion Meadows, Deanna Bogart, Keisa Brown and Koko Taylor.

There was a Jazz sound for everyone no matter what your favorite genre. The annual Autumn Jazz Festival at Rehoboth is concert rather, than festival style, so there is an opportunity to cherry pick concerts to your taste and pocket. I ran into a sweat-shirted couple in their late 50's, ecstatic to be able to accommodate both of their musical tastes; he liked the blues and traditional jazz and she liked contemporary jazz and R&B.

When you’re walking down the street, music floats out from so many of the restaurants, you begin to feel as if you're on Bourbon St. in New Orleans French Quarter. I particularly loved listening to Tim Eyermann and East Coast Offering at the Adriatico restaurant. A Washington D.C. area staple for many years, the group continues to play strong and lovely saxxy tunes.

I recommend getting an oceanfront rental, the sound of the waves and the negative ions of the beach air get you in the perfect mood to enjoy the sounds of Jazz. The drive to Rehoboth from D.C. includes Rt. 404, a dual lane highway through rolling fields, speckled with bundled hay and black and white cows. The trees were just beginning to turn colors and the flatness of the land brought puffed cumulus clouds near enough to touch. We stopped at one of the roadside farm stalls where you can purchase crisp apples in every variety from Jonagold to Black Twig as well as homemade cider, cakes, pies and jellies. Warning: Do not attempt this drive at night unless you are familiar with the area. Local farmers have had to call towing and rescue operations for weary road hypnotized drivers, but during the day it's a lovely drive.

Each year, the festival has gained in audience, and sponsorship, which has led, to an ability to acquire more, well known performers but organizers feel this year was the best yet. Many performances sold out before the start of the Fest, and they had to add a second show for the incomparable Chaka Khan. Most of the concerts took place in the Rehoboth Convention center a small venue by any standards, only holding 800 seats, or the even smaller Cape Henlopen High Auditorium. This provided a small concert setting where there wasn't much difference between the first row and the last; every seat in the house was a good seat. I personally feel that most artists tend to give more in an intimate setting and audiences are more appreciative and attentive. The performers put on a show and there were multiple standing ovations for each artist at the Convention Center.

From all accounts Will Downing and Patti Austin were well received, as was the fabulous. Ms. Chaka Kahn. She definitely knows how to please an audience. Earlier billing had warned fans that she would be singing in a jazzier, rather than a R&B vein, but hers is one voice that there is no mistaking from the first note, whatever style she‘s singing. Fans that attended the first and second show amicably wrangled about what was the best show, the first or the second.

Norman Thomas and friends from the Maryland Suburbs of D.C. raved about the second show insisting they got the better and longer show. "It was great! She held back for the first show and saved the best for us". She sang the Stevie Wonder tune "Until You Come Back To Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do) and favorites from her post Rufus days such as "I’m Every Woman" and "Ain’t No Body". Both the men and women in the group seemed enchanted with the show and with Chaka’s wardrobe. To quote one of the men in the audience Chaka’s was "wearing that royal blue bodysuit". She also introduced her daughter, who sings back up for her mother, and brought her granddaughter on stage as well.

My favorite show was Peter White and Rick Braun. This show was jamming and full of energy. Peter White who I’d heard a bit on radio, but had no great hunger to see in person was the biggest surprise. He opened the show by joking about his thumb as if it was a separate entity as he hit the opening notes on the Guitar. The band members who all have their own CD’s out Randy Jacobs on guitar, Jimmy Roberts on keyboards, on drum Ray Brown, the son of Clifford Brown, and R. Dane on bass. Peter White played such hits as Venice Beach and Caravan of Dreams and Songs from the newest CD Glow was joined on stage by Jaared on saxophone. Peter White's great rhythms had the audience on their feet jamming especially on the Latin influenced numbers.

Rick Braun made the trumpet sound like it was a female torch singer. He played such recent releases as Missing in Venice and Night Walk and brought Peter White back out on stage to perform the song they have out together after joking back and forth about their eating habits. Braun gave props to all the musicians on stage and pranced out into the audience with his horn.

On Sunday at 2pm Darcus a singer that had played with Gerald Veasley the year before at the Jazz Fest was called in to open for Boney. Darcus, who usually performs in Las Vegas, has a nice amusing patter and a vocal style reminiscent of Lena Horne. She opened with Alicia Keys' Falling, and actually did it justice giving it a slightly harder edge, making it sound more cynical than helpless. She then went on to sing tunes from Anita Baker Song and Billie Holiday so pleasing the audience, that they found it hard to release her even for Boney James.

After a brief intermission, one of the main organizers of the festival hustled the last few stragglers into the hall like stray chicks, in order to see the opening number by Boney James. Boney played several selections off his Ride CD. He was in rare form, encouraging the audience to chant his name over and over as he fed them bits of music and was in turn energized by the applause. He pranced over the stage exuding sensual energy "working" his tight black leather pants. During the song "Ride", he chatted with audience asking who wanted to ride and as the hands went up one lady from the front was picked and came up on stage to dance while he played. He left the stage and was called back by fans for a blazing jam of "Grazing In The Grass".

Other artists I saw, was Vesa, a smoky torch singer, belting it out at the Cloud 9 restaurant and Bruce Anthony's smooth Sax playing and Vinx-like vocals at Sydney’s. You can have the best time just listening to the local artists at the beach bandstand and in and around the restaurants.

The festival culminated in the Grand Jam on Sunday evening at Sydney’s Jazz and Blues Restaurant. The food at Sydney’s’ was excellent and the music while I was there was down home, dirty south- juke joint blues with the off spring of B.B. King, Shirley and her young brother bringing down the house. Marion Meadows also gave a wonderful performance there.

Rehoboth Beach Delaware gets its name from the biblical verse about Isaac re-digging his father Abraham's wells. The first two wells were dug in struggle and strife, but over the third well, Rehoboth {meaning wide spaces}, they did not quarrel. Isaac took it as blessing that they would have room to be fruitful in the land." Genesis 26:22

There is a well of Jazz in Rehoboth and the organizers feel there is plenty of room for the festival to get even bigger and better. I definitely would recommend the festival, but start looking for information in July, because the tickets are hot!

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Various Artists
  • Concert Date: October 17 - 20, 2002
  • Subtitle: Hat’s off to Jazz
  • City State Country: Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
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