Malcolm John “Mac” Rebennack — aka Dr. John — may very well have one of the most recognizable jazz voices of our time. But maybe even more than the unique voice of this talented musician, who has become synonymous with his hometown of New Orleans, it’s his adroitness at the piano that has garnered him comparisons to greats such as Fats Domino and Huey “Piano” Smith, both also from Crescent City.

The six-time Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, who recently released an album honoring yet another New Orleans’ son — Louis Armstrong — will headline the Exit Zero International Jazz Festival 8 p.m. Saturday, May 30, at Cape May Convention Hall.

The event brings “The Doctor” to town with his Nite Trippers, and together they will perform tunes from some of Dr. John’s most iconic albums such as Gris Gris (Collector's Choice Music), Babylon (Wounded Bird Records) and In the Right Place (Atco) from which came the Top 10 hit “Right Place, Wrong Time.”

His latest album Ske-Dat-De-Dat (Concord), his Armstrong tribute, came to him in a dream — literally.

“Louis Armstrong was the most famous guy who ever came out of my neighborhood,” says Dr. John, who shared a booking agent with Armstrong. “So it was special to me when he came to me in a dream and said: 'Do my music, but do it your way.’”

The three-day Exit Zero Festival takes place from Friday to Sunday, May 29 to 31, during which the city of Cape May will host more than 35 jazz, blues, R&B and soul concerts performed by newbie up-and-comers to seasoned headliners.

Names such as Daisy Castro, Charenee Wade, Brian Charette and Selwyn Birchwood will play in venues ranging from Carney’s and Cabanas to the Lobster House and Hotel Icona, a new addition to the venue lineup. Jazz at the Estate, the outdoor music and food festival, returns for its second year, and Night in Havana offers two nights, Friday and Saturday, of authentic, rousing and exciting Cuban music by Sin Frontera and Pepito Gomez, respectively.

Dr. John, who sounded as if he just awakened from an extended nap just seconds prior to being interviewed, promises a heck of a good show in Cape May.

“We got a lot of bad-ass musicians in the band and that’s a good thing,” says Dr. John, who still seems keen on adhering to the famous New Orleans motto “laissez le bon temps rouler,” or “let the good times roll.”

Unfortunately for him, it’s rare that he’s able to stick around to view the other acts at festivals such as this. But you can’t really blame him, as he plays numerous fantastic jazz festivals throughout the course of a year, with as many or even more acts than Exit Zero.

Performing in and attending such a multitude of fests throughout a half-century career, would cause anyone’s memory to be a bit fuzzy.

Even for Dr. John, who when asked if he had a favorite festival memory, answered in a way that was simultaneously simple and profound.

“I don’t have favorite memories. I just remember what I remember, and I don’t what I don’t.”

Paul Jost Reimagines Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’

You might think that Michael Kline, producer of the Exit Zero Jazz Festival, listens exclusively to jazz. But it turns out that he is an enormous fan of Bruce Springsteen. And when he realized that this year marked the 40 anniversary of his now-iconic album — Born to Run — his wheels started to spin.

Kline wanted to do something to honor this momentous occasion during Exit 0. He conceived the idea of creating a “re-imagined,” jazzier version of Springsteen’s most classic songs such “Thunder Road,” “Jungleland,” “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” and, of course, the title track. So he reached out to Paul Jost, one of the more innovative performers in the region and a terrific arranger and composer, and commissioned him to recreate these classics and perform them 8 p.m. Friday, May 29, at Cape May Convention Hall.

The show is a collaborative effort between Jost, internationally renowned vibraphonist Tony Miceli and legendary musician Barry Miles, who wrote all new arrangements of Springsteen’s hits. The band is composed of Jim Ridl on piano, John Swana on E.V.I., Chico Huff on bass, Anwar Marshall on drums and Micelli on the vibraphone.

Single tickets for the performance are $25 and $40. For more, go to

Introducing Joey Alexander

Eleven-year-old piano prodigy Joey Alexander may not be a name you’ve heard of yet. But word is quickly spreading about this native of Bali, as he has already appeared on the Today Show, as well as a been featured in a New York Times article. Alexander tickles the ivories with a maturity, respect and understanding that is sometimes not even found in musicians thrice his age. Backing him are some of the world’s most seasoned musicians who sometimes forget they are actually playing with a child, mystified that a talent so large comes from a human still so small.

This self-taught musician is touring behind his debut album My Favorite Things (Olaine), from which you’ll hear his interpretations of such classics as Over the Rainbow, Giant Steps and My Favorite Things. Alexander will open for Paul Jost 8 p.m. Friday, May 29.

Single tickets for the performance are $25 and $40. For more, go to

Jazz at the Estate

For the second year now, Exit Zero will have “Jazz at the Estate,” all-day food and music fest that includes some of Cape May’s best grub, wine, beer and an array of artisan vendors.

The rain or shine event takes places on the picturesque grounds of the Emlem Physick Estate, where there will be a world-class musical lineup and South Jersey-centric food, wine and beers.

Jazz at the Estate is on Saturday, May 30. The fun starts at 11 a.m. with the Dylan Reis Quartet and goes until about 5 p.m. Melissa Aldana and the Crash Trip follow Reis at 12:15 p.m., then Joe Locke’s Love is a Pendulum occurs at 2 p.m. Headliner the Rebirth Brass Band, another Grammy winner, takes the stage at 3:45 p.m.

“To me, this is the greatest party band in the world, but I’m not the only one who thinks it,” says Producer Michael Kline of the Rebirth Brass Band. “Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers tweets about it all the time, saying these guys are the best band he’s ever seen live.”

Tickets are $25 in advance, $35 at the gate. Go to

Get our Best Bets at the Jersey shore delivered to your inbox every Wednesday, just in time to plan your weekend!

Recommended for you

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

PLEASE BE ADVISED: Soon we will no longer integrate with Facebook for story comments. The commenting option is not going away, however, readers will need to register for a FREE site account to continue sharing their thoughts and feedback on stories. If you already have an account (i.e. current subscribers, posting in obituary guestbooks, for submitting community events), you may use that login, otherwise, you will be prompted to create a new account.