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On The Road Again: Musicians Return To The Stage At Exit Zero

Matthew Whitaker, Gabrielle Cassava and Pedrito Martinez perform at the Exit Zero Jazz Festival.
Richard Conde/Mitra I. Arthur
Matthew Whitaker, Gabrielle Cassava and Pedrito Martinez perform at the Exit Zero Jazz Festival.

What a difference a year makes. This time last year, it was virtually impossible to imagine attending a live concert in person, let alone a festival. One of the first American jazz festivals to make a comeback and bring a little rejoice to the world, is Exit Zero in Cape May.

It's a picturesque seaside town on the southern tip of New Jersey, known for its pristine beaches and Victorian charm – but who are we kidding, we're here for music.

First up, we spotlight a piano prodigy, Matthew Whitaker. This young man – blind since birth – started to play at the age of three, taught himself to play the organ at nine, and picked up the drums along the way. In fact, he has so much extraordinary talent, that a few scientists are studying his brain.

Then, we introduce a newcomer to the scene – the co-winner of the 2021 Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition – Gabrielle Cavassa. The singer-songwriter used the great lockdown of 2020 to really reflect and update her artistry as a singer/songwriter.

In conclusion, we bring you a New York-based Cuban conguero institution, Pedrito Martinez. (He's also the artist that kicked off our inaugural season with Wynton Marsalis.) In the last decade, he's collaborated with legends across the jazz and rock spectrum from Kenny Garrett to Bruce Springsteen."I never thought a rumbero – a percussion player – black dude from a very poor neighborhood in Cayo Hueso was going to come here, in New York, and be able to play with all those great human beings and extraordinary musicians," Martinez says. "It's a beautiful journey."

Our video team visited Exit Zero too, capturing sets by Pedrito Martinez, Gabrielle Cavassa and Shemekia Copeland. Live music is back.


Matthew Whitaker, piano, organ; Karim Hutton, bass; Marcos Robinson, guitar; Isaiah Johnson, drums

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

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

Set List:

Matthew Whitaker

  • "Come Together" (Lennon–McCartney)
  • "It Will Be OK" (Matthew Whitaker)
  • "Take A Break" (Matthew Whitaker)
  • Gabrielle Cassava

  • "It Was Supposed To Be A Love Song (Cavassa)
  • "Do Something" (Sam H. Stept and Bud Green)
  • "Podcast" (Cavassa)
  • Pedrito Martinez

  • "Yo Si quiero" (Issac Delgado Jr., Mitchell Delgado, Pedrito Martinez)
  • "Recuerdos" (Juan Mesa, Arranged by Edgar Pantoja-Alemán)
  • Credits:

    Producers: Sarah Geledi, Alex Ariff; Recording Engineer: Tyler McClure; Audio Mix: Corey Goldberg; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann, Gabrielle Armand

    Produced in partnership with WRTI, Philadelphia. Special thanks to Michael Kline.

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

    Copyright 2021 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

    Sarah Geledi left her job in advertising in Montreal to pursue a career in music in New York City. She fulfilled that mission, producing content for the JAM Festival at WBGO, segments for The Checkout, and programs for WWOZ and PRI's Afropop Worldwide. She also served as a producer for NYC Winter Jazzfest before landing the "job of her dreams," producing radio for Jazz Night in America.
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