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Philly vs. New Orleans: From the Exit Zero Jazz Fest, two concerts suggest a battle of the bands

Adonis Rose reps New Orleans, and Orrin Evans stands up for Philly, both leading all-star bands at the Exit Zero Jazz Festival.
Richard Conde Photography
Cape May Exit Zero Jazz Festival
Adonis Rose reps New Orleans, and Orrin Evans stands up for Philly, both leading all-star bands at the Exit Zero Jazz Festival.

For more than a decade, Cape May's Exit Zero Jazz Festival has been bringing top-tier talent to the quaint New Jersey seaside town. If you take the southbound Garden State Parkway to the final exit, Exit Zero, you’ll hit Cape May. The festival is spread out all over the town. Back when the festival grounds utilized a large outdoor field by the ferry dock, artists competed with inclement weather, and the gargantuan horn the ferry would sound when departing.

Recently, the festival pivoted to indoor performances along a main shoreline drag, with The Convention Hall as the marquee venue. And in April 2023, when two supergroups were programmed back-to-back, WRTI saw a fun opportunity: Philly vs. New Orleans.

In this corner: pianist Orrin Evans. Known for his unfiltered opinions on the Philly scene and even bolder style on the keys. He assembled an intergenerational rhythm section with the elder statesman Mike Boone on bass, and Justin Faulkner on drums. The frontline was filled out by Electronic Valve Instrument (EVI) virtuoso John Swana and trombonist from a Philly familial legacy: Robin Eubanks. The special guest on vocals was none other than Bilal, class of 1998 from the famed High School for Creative And Performing Arts (CAPA). The dynamic set features originals by both Bilal and Eubanks.

And in this corner: drummer Adonis Rose. Adonis Rose has been a New Orleans mainstay for decades but came to more prominence when he took the leadership of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra in 2017. That large ensemble is a supergroup in its own right, and proved Rose’s skill for assembling some of the first-call cats from the Big Easy. But the light shines brightest in this set on the group's vocalist: Quiana Lynell. Simply put, she steals the show. The “Crescent City All Stars” played a mixed bag of familiar music and "deep cuts" from the Big Easy repertoire.

The Philly Jawn Personnel:

Orrin Evans, piano and keyboard; Bilal, vocals; John Swana, EVI; Robin Eubanks, trombone; Mike Boone, bass; Justin Faulkner, drums.

Crescent City All-Stars Personnel:

Adonis Rose, drums; Quiana Lynell, vocals; Ricio Fruge, trumpet; Terrence Taplin, trombone; Miki Hayama, piano and keyboards; Christos Melios, guitar; Jenelle Roccaforte, bass; Alexey Marti, percussion.

Alex Ariff: Senior Producer (WRTI)
Tyler McClure: Audio Engineer and Mix (WRTI)
Jeff Casella: Director of Photography, Videographer, Editor
Tristan Sachar: Videographer
Joe Chapman: Videographer
Paul Marchesani: Production Assistant (WRTI)
Richard Conde, Photographer

Michael Kline: Executive Producer (Exit Zero Jazz Festival)
Josh Jackson: Associate General Manager (WRTI)
Bill Johnson: General Manager (WRTI)