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“There’s something special here,” says Paul Sottile, the house piano player at the Ebbitt Room, discussing the upcoming Jazz Festival that is set to hit Cape May November 7-10, 2013. It’s that “something special” that he feels makes Cape May the perfect place for a festival of its caliber. Sottile has been playing the piano there every weekend for the past five years, and in that time has come to be a part of the backdrop. In a town stooped in history and tradition the music scene at the Ebbitt Room is no exception. For those coming to The Virginia every year, stopping by for dinner, a drink, and a song has become a part of the routine. “Since I’ve been here it’s been like a following that builds every year. A lot of times people will come in and they say ‘you played this for me last time,’ and a lot of times I remember what I played… and I’ll play it for them the same way again.” Paul Sottile plays at the Ebbitt Room every Friday and Saturday through the New Year, and every Saturday until March when the summer schedule returns. On November 7th, a new tradition will begin at the Ebbitt Room called Jazz Night, a special event to get the weekend going. Jazz Night will feature a special meal and the music of renowned musicians Charenee Wade and Aaron Diehl. On Friday and Saturday night of the festival, Sottile will continue to entertain the guests stopping by The Virginia.
Paul Sottile began playing the piano at the age of seven. Influenced by all forms of music, from Miles Davis to Kenny Kirkland, R &B to Pop and Soul, he began studying Classical Piano at West Chester University. He transferred to The University of the Arts in Philadelphia where he studied Jazz Piano, and it was there that he earned his degree in Piano Performance. While in college, Sottile played in a wedding band at the shore called The Chatter Band, which he credits as his “baptism” into professional music. His education in jazz and classical music was his basis for his career as a writer and for his experiences playing in Cape May. Reflecting on the many requests he has received over the past few years Sottile notes, “You have to know everything…they love music down here.” While it is a rarity that he would be unfamiliar with any song thrown his way, whenever he comes across a tune he doesn’t know, he learns how to play it for the next time that guest stops by the Ebbitt Room.
The term “jazz” is rather broad, in that it describes a specific type of music that has become the basis for so many other forms. Originating from a blend of West African rhythms and European harmonic qualities, it is marked by a sort of improvisation and free form distinct from other genres of music. Many times, the music consists of a steady beat permeating through the bass, while in the same song many instruments can go off on solo tangents bringing it all back to the melody in the end. While the chords may sound complex, good jazz musicians always somehow make even the most discordant sounds smooth and easy.
The recent resurrection of the Jazz Festival in Cape May has brought a musical exposition with internationally recognized talent to America’s First Seaside Resort. It is the perfect place for a weekend getaway, with plenty of distinct settings for each unique artist. “There’s a lot of great venues down here, and it’s a destination. It’s not overwhelming. You can go to a lot of different things at different times of the day, to something you never heard or saw before…it turns you on to something new.” Like the music, Sottile notes “Cape May is easy,” making it the perfect place from beach days in July, Jazz in November, and Christmas carols by the fire in December.
The Exit Zero International Jazz Festival will feature headliners Dianne Reeves, Eddie Palmieri, and The Kenny Garrett Quintet performing at the Xerox Stage in Convention Hall. While this base talent is lighting up the night life, other artists will go off on their own tangents throughout every corner of Cape May. Congress Hall’s Boiler Room provides the perfect atmosphere for artists Lakecia Benjamin and Robin McKelle and the Flytones. Benjamin will be performing Friday November 8th at 9:00pm and 10:45 pm while McKelle and the Flytones take the stage Saturday November 9th. Of course, you can always stop by The Ebbitt Room and listen to Paul Sottile as he keeps the melody going for those who want to stop by for dinner, a drink, and the same song they requested last year. According to him, it’s the perfect fit. “The Virginia is a really special place. I love playing in there. I wouldn’t play anywhere else in Cape May.”