JazzFest is approaching: Music at the beach!

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I have been writing and talking about our restaurants in the Cape Town area for over 16 years. When it comes to dining on the beach, I love to help spread the word for those who deserve it. Not for the faint of heart, this matter of eating!

Now is the time of year when my appreciation for the food industry is matched by my love of music, thanks to our two annual jazz festivals taking place next week (October 13-17). For more than three decades, the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival has grown into successful events held in spacious venues – with online tickets, professional sound and lighting, and tight schedules. It runs concurrently with the True Blue Jazz Festival, where many headliners perform alongside our local student prodigies. The two festivals offer different sounds and there is something for everyone.

Beach restaurants love to act out. So not only locals and visitors can experience a long list of musical luminaries, but they can also do so while enjoying the talents of our local chefs and musicians. The combination of food and live music is, and always has been, perfect.

For the past four years or so, I have had the honor of providing some live music at some of these same restaurants. I’ve played professionally in the Washington, DC and Ocean City, Maryland area, and when I moved here I thought this first time would be my last. But when I heard Bill Dilks’ Hammond B-3 jazz organ trio at the 2017 True Blue Jazz fest, the spark was rekindled. So I put together what I guess is the aptly named 2nd Time Around band.

One of the hardest things for most bands is to come up with a songlist that matches the vibe, clientele, and menu of the host restaurant. It’s no secret that musicians are hired to enhance the dining experience – and the bottom line. If we are six notes in the first song and half of the restaurant patrons are screaming, “Check it out, please!” – then something is wrong. Performing in a restaurant is very (very) different from appearing in a theater or an auditorium.

Combining music and food is an art and a science. A good example is Turntable Kitchen, a well-designed blog that shares recipes and reviews of selected songs. Each month, the site’s editors create a monthly chord box that includes menu ideas and ingredients, as well as musical chord suggestions. A bit like wine pairings, but without the corkscrew.

We are fortunate to have so many large groups in the area! From quiet piano reveries to blues, country and hard rock, they adapt all their sets to please the guests. But the responsibility for the musical pairing also falls on the restaurant: a band that specializes in heavy metal rock may not be ideal to hire at Ruth’s Chris. And the singing cocktail piano probably won’t do very well on Conch Island. So a set list for 1776 Steakhouse will look very little like that of, say, Bethany Blues. This correlation has been confirmed in scientific studies, including those from the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford where the relationship between taste perception and certain audible frequencies (called pitch) is compared. In short, sounds of a higher frequency (like a piccolo or cymbal) seem to be related to foods that have a sweet and sour taste. Low frequency notes (a bass guitar or organ) have been linked to salty tastes commonly referred to as umami. So, can the music accompanying a meal really change the taste of that meal? The research is in progress. (And yes, I’m doing my part ….)

Jazzfest isn’t the only time to venture out for some live music. Once the echoes of next week’s festivities have faded, add an audio track to your dining experience by keeping an eye out for the Steppin ‘Out section of the Cape Gazette and the websites of the various restaurants. Local live music is a way of life at Bethany Blues, The Pond, Rehoboth Ale House, Big Chill Surf Cantina, 1776 Steakhouse, Irish Eyes, Dogfish Head, Victoria’s, Crooked Hammock, The Starboard, Café Azafran, Bluecoast Rehoboth and Casa DiLeo . The same goes for The Cultured Pearl, Conch Island Key West Bar & Grill, Hammerheads Dockside, Chaps Pit Beef, Blue Moon, Grain on the Rocks, The Pines, Blackwall at the Beach, Zogg’s, Bushels, the Wheelhouse, Sydney’s Milton and even Mulligan’s Point in Georgetown. Just to name a few.

By the way, you can still get tickets for next week’s musical assault by visiting RehobothJazz.com (one of the headliners is none other than Blood, Sweat & Tears!) And TrueBlueJazz.org. Either way, it will be a feast for the ears.


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