2018 Berks Jazz Fest - Special Concerts & Events

By Val Vaccaro  [photos by Barry Chapman - BazPix Photography] 

The 2018 Boscov's Berks Jazz Festofficially opens on Friday April 6 with Brian Culbertson's Colors of Love Tour at the Santander Performing Arts Center. 

Kirk Whalum  - 2017 Berks Jazz Fest[photo by BazPix]

For the grand finale, the 2018 Berks Jazz Fest fittingly closes Sunday April 15thwith the inspirational  Kirk Whalum's Gospel According to Jazz Celebrationfeaturing Grammy-award winning saxophonist extraordinaire and ordained minister Kirk Whalum, with Kevin Whalum, JonathanButler, John Stoddard, Maysa, Sheléa Frazier, Wycliffe Jordan and the Doxa Gospel Ensemble at the Scottish Rite Cathedral.

Kevin Whalum [photo by Bazpix]

Jonathan Butler [photo by Bazpix]

John Stoddard [photo by Bazpix]

Sheléa Frazier [photo by Bazpix]

Here are a few other key highlights of this year's 2018 Berks Jazz Fest including special shows and events. 

On Saturday April 7, there will be a concert featuring the Reading Pops Orchestra with the Erich Cawalla Quartet.                   


Chuck Loeb [photo by BazPix]

 On April 8, 2018 at the Santander Performing Arts Center in Reading, PA will be a moving tribute concert "Remembering Chuck Loeb" to honor the guitarist, composer, producer, and recording artist who passed at 61 years of age from cancer in July 2017. Loeb worked with many artists over the years, from Stan Getz, to Steps Ahead, to Fourplay. He also created, arranged, and contributed to a variety of special concerts at the Berks Jazz Fest over the years.

The Chuck Loeb tribute show will feature a huge lineup of many musicians and friends he had worked with including: Eric Marienthal, Rick Braun, Bob James, Nathan East, Harvey Mason, Kirk Whalum, Will Lee, Michael Franks, Dave Koz, Everette Harp, Jeff Lorber, Randy Brecker, Paul Jackson Jr., Chieli Minucci, Nick Colionne, Kim Waters, Gerald Veasley, Bill Evans, Mitch Forman, Brian Bromberg, Andy Snitzer, Lionel Cordew, Ron Jenkins, David Charles, Matt King, Adam Hawley, The Berks Horns with Mike Anderson, Rob Diener and John Loos, as well as Chuck Loeb's wife Spanish singer and actress Carmen Cuesta-Loeb and two daughters - singer/songwriter/guitarist Lizzy Loeb, and vocalist and composer (Christina) Cuesta Loeb. 


Gerald Veasley  [photo by BazPix]

At the 2018 Berks Jazz Fest on April 6th, 7th, 13th, and 14thare bassist and musical director Gerald Veasley's four Midnight Jams at The Inn at Reading with a variety of artists including Nick Colionne, Lao Tizer, Karen Briggs, Chieli Minucci, Eric Marienthal, Kim Waters, Brian Bromberg, Kevin Whalum, Jay Rowe, Andrew Neu,  Andy Snitzer,  Nestor Torres, JJ Sansaverino, Albert Rivera, Elan Trotman, Rayford Griffin, Slam Allen, Jack Semple, Donald Robinson, Richard Waller and more.

On April 10th, there is a show with the U.S. Navy Band Commodores Band and the Berks High School All-Star Jazz Band directed by Gunnar Mossblad

On Thursday, April 12that 6pm at the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading, is a CD Release Concert by Brian Bromberg.  

Brian Bromberg [photo by BazPix]

Later on Thursday, April 12that 8pm will be the much anticipated 28thAnnual Berks All 
Star Jam 
which features Rick Braun, Gerald Veasley, Brian Bromberg, Kirk Whalum, Randy Brecker, Maceo Parker, Gerald Albright, Everette Harp, Bernie Williams, Elan Trotman,  Eric Marienthal, Nick Colionne, Kevin Whalum, JJ Sansaverino, Jay Rowe, Selina Albright, Nestor Torres, Chris "Big Dog" Davis, Rayford Griffin, and Paul Bollenback


Rick Braun at the 2017 Berks Jazz Fest [photo by BazPix]

On Friday April 13ththere will be a number of great shows.The Heart & Soul Of Sax will feature Kirk Whalum and Everette Harp with special guests Maceo Parker, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and The Berks Horns: saxophonist Mike Anderson, trumpeter Rob Diener, and trombonist John Loos at the Scottish Rite Cathedral.            

Kirk Whalum  [photo by BazPix]

Everette Harp[photo by Bazpix]

The Berks Horns: 
John Loos, Rob Diener, Mike Anderson [photo by BazPix]


Another special concert on Friday April 13thwill include Gerald Albright with Kenny Lattimore and Selina Albright at the DoubleTreeby Hilton Reading.    

Selina Albright  [photo by BazPix]
Gerald Albright [photo by BazPix]

On Sunday, April 15th at 10am there will be a Sunday Brunch and entertaining concert with Steve Cole featuring Nick Colionne, Kevin Whalum, Jay Rowe, JJ Sansaverino, David Dyson and Carl Anderson at The Inn at Reading.


Steve Cole[photo by BazPix]

Nick Colionne [photo by BazPix]     

Jay Rowe [photo by BazPix]

JJ Sansaverino [photo by BazPix]

On Saturday April 14th at 9:30am registration opens for the 10:30am Berks Jazz Fest Auction at the DoubleTree by Hilton to win prizes for jazz concert vacations on cruises and at hotel resorts. There are also some free Get JazzED local music education concerts and events presented by the Berks Arts Council and the Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest with funding by the Reading Musical Foundation

Also on Sunday, April 15th from 1:30pm to 3:30 pm is the annual Frank Scott Memorial Art Show's "The Art of Jazz Awards Ceremonyat the Schmidt Gallery in the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts (the show runs March 28 to April 27, 2018).

By Val Vaccaro      

Paul Jackson Jr., Rick Braun, and Gerald Veasley at the 2017 Berks Jazz Fest   [photo by BazPix]

The world-renowned Berks Jazz Fest celebrates its 28th anniversary from Friday, April 6 to Sunday, April 15, 2018 in the friendly, historic town of Reading, Pennsylvania (just a few hours' drive from New York City). Billed as "Spring Break for Jazz Lovers," the 2018 Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest offers a great range of over 50 concerts and special events featuring top music legends, popular acts, and talented newcomers in smooth jazz, contemporary jazz, jazz standards, bebop, blues, funk, Latin jazz and more.

The Berks Jazz Fest is run by General Manager John Ernesto, presented by the Berks Arts Council, and is sponsored once again by the Boscov's department store chain. The Fest is supported by the community including sponsor companies, media, venues, hotels, restaurants, educational institutions, and hundreds of volunteers.  

Key ticketed concerts featuring great artists performing at the 2018 Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest include:   Brian Culbertson, Rick Braun with guest Dave Koz; Kirk Whalum, Boney James, Gerald VeasleyNick ColionneBrian Bromberg, Gerald Albright, Everett Harp, Eric Marienthal, Jeff Lorber; Maceo Parker;  The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman plus Grace Kelly; Pieces of a Dream with special guests Kim Waters, Nick Colionne and Eric Roberson; Incognito featuring Maysa; Fourplay  with Bob James, Nathan East, Harvey Mason, and Kirk Whalum; Steve Cole, Jay Rowe, Selina Albright, Bernie Williams, Kevin Whalum, Kim Waters, Special EFX All-Stars with Cheili Minucci, Eric Marienthal, Lao Tizer, Karen Briggs, and Gerald Veasley; David Benoit and Marc Antoine; EPK featuring Euge Groove, Peter White, and Keiko Matsui; Jazz Funk Soul with Jeff Lorber, Everette Harp, and Paul Jackson Jr.; Ana Popovic plus Vanessa Collier; Nestor Torres, Andy Snitzer, Elan Trotman, The Berks Horns with Mike Anderson, Rob Diener, and John Loos; Dave Stryker, Bob Mintzer Organ Quintet; Victor Wooten Trio; Greg Hatza Organization; Melissa Aldana Quartet; Lisa Fischer & Grand Baton; John Pizzarelli, and many others.

Jazz Covers to Popular Songs You Need to Hear Now

By British Solomon (Free Jazz Lessions)

With the likes of Postmodern Jukebox, jazz covers of popular songs are becoming more mainstream, often with a clear 1920s-style influence. However, jazz covers have a much longer history and are much more diverse than that. Everything from upbeat New-Orleans brass bands to mellow, bluesy piano has been used as inspiration in these jazz covers. Whether you like a tune you can dance to or something for relaxing, there's a jazz cover to suit your style.

Richard Cheese, "Darth Vader's Imperial March"
The Imperial March, composed by John Williams, may be one of the most memorable songs from the Star Wars franchise, but it's usually not considered a toe-tapper. Richard Cheese's version, which features an upbeat piano, manages to make it just that. It's almost impossible not to imagine Darth Vader dancing to this one, accompanied by some Storm Troopers.

Brad Mehldau, "Blackbird"
Less toe-tapping and more haunting is jazz pianist Brad Mehldau's re-imagining of The Beatles' classic Blackbird. The arrangement for piano, drums, and bass captures the emotion of the original, while spinning it into something new- a contemporary jazz piece.

Christian McBride Trio, "Car Wash"
Rose Royce's "Car Wash" is an iconic success from the 1970s disco era, reaching number one in the Billboard Pop and R&B charts in the United States. The Christian McBride keep to the dance-able core of the original in their cover for drums, double bass, and piano, though perhaps with a bit more swing.

Eclectic Colour Orchestra, "Uptown Funk"
Mark Ronson's "Uptown Funk" is a song with a plenty of groove to start with, spending 14 consecutive weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. It won two Grammy awards, including Song of the Year and is one of the best-selling singles of all time. By replacing the horn and vocals with strings, arranger and musical director Raul Patino puts his own flare on the song. The crescendo of strings especially, brings a new and exciting tension.

6iJazz, "Hey Ya!"
This cover mellows out Outkast's hectic dance tune "Hey Ya!" into something downright bluesy. The Icelandic group 6iJazz allows the trumpet and saxophone to take the lead in this one, resulting in a song that you'd be more inclined to sway to with a cocktail in hand than jump up and down to. In fact, it's a relaxing listen.

The Swamp Donkeys, Game of Thrones Theme Song
While the fictional land of Westeros is far from New Orleans, this cover makes it seem like the two were always meant to collide. The original, composed by Ramin Djawadi for the HBO show in 2011, gets a new an entirely new feel from the first strum of the banjo. Once the sousaphone, sax, and clarinet join in, you'll probably find it hard to resist dancing along.

The Andy Lim Trio, "Killing in the Name"
This one is a little different from the others on the list. The vocals are almost unchanged from Rage Against the Machine's original, carrying the same intensity. The real change is in the smooth jazz now backing those vocals, which really works far better than it should. Somehow, the Andy Lim Trio has managed to balance the intensely passionate vocals perfectly with the calm, flowing piano

Musica Nuda, "Roxanne"
The Police's "Roxanne", which was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008, is stripped down in this cover by Italian duo Petra Magoni and Ferruccio Spinetti. The duo performs with Petra on vocals and Ferruccio on double bass, unaccompanied by drums or piano, allowing both the chance to shine. This chilling cover of "Roxanne" is just one in a number of pop songs that they interpret in their unique style.

Postmodern Jukebox ft. Kate Davis, "All About that Bass"
Meghan Trainor's "All about that Bass" is an upbeat and catchy tune in its own right, having spent eight weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States when it was released in 2014. Postmodern Jukebox's cover wonderfully plays with the word bass, using it to refer to the upright bass. Played by the Kate Davis, who also provides the vocals, the bass itself becomes the center of this jazzy version, making this both an excellent cover and an excellent pun.

Robert Glasper Experiment, "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
Nirvana won two MTV music video awards with "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and it is still thought of as one of the greatest rock songs in history by some. Robert Glasper Experiment's cover on the piano, guitar, and drums, keeps to the spirit of the original, even while differing stylistically. There is a sense of a bit of chaos, a bit of apathy, and an overall sense of discomfort. That's not a bad thing, though. Instead, it helps the listener understand the intent behind the music.

Capital Jazz SuperCruise 2017

This year's 11th annual Capital Jazz SuperCruise took place on the Norwegian Breakaway, sailing from NYC to Bermuda and back, from September 24 until October 1st, 2017. After last year's problems caused by having moved to a much larger vessel, my expectations were not too high, still I expected most problems to have been worked out in the meantime. It was interesting to note that a large number of guests were first timers with the SuperCruise, so these people just enjoyed what they got, while for me it was the 8th SuperCruise, being able to compare.

They returned to a simple system with all the major shows in the main theater being held four times, assigning people to particular shows, thus making sure that everybody had a chance to see those shows, no reservations needed. The rest of the shows that took place at various venues across the ship were on a first come first served basis, which forced people to stand in line without a guarantee to get a seat, which occasionally caused some grief and anger. I was unable to see the shows of Dave Hollister and violinist Damien Escobar due to the large demand, the limited number of shows, and my refusal to stand in line for hours. Things got a little better over the course of the week.

In the main theater, notable concerts were the Luther Re-Lives Tribute Show featuring William Wardlaw who eerily looked and sounded like Luther and was warmly received, the Robert Glasper Experiment, Chrisette Michele, India.Arie, Will Downing, Gladys Knight, plus a great Motown Tribute Show featuring a host a guest performers.

In smaller venues we heard performers like Earl Klugh, Jeffrey Osborne, Mindi Abair (with Randy Jacobs on guitar), Vivian Green, Kirk Franklin, Eric Roberson, Jonathan Butler and Daley. A special highlight for me were the midnight shows at the Atrium with people like saxophonist Mike Phillips, soul group The Hamiltones, Greg Adams & East Bay Soul, RC & The Gritz, saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin & Soul Squad and violinist Chelsey Green & The Green Project. This was the place to discover new talent and listen to music off the beaten path.

But my absolute favorite were the jam sessions that took place in the main theater past midnight, hosted by Robert Glasper or Eric Roberson, emphasizing either Jazz or Soul/R&B. There we heard people like Julie Dexter, Nao Yoshioka, Tracy Hamlin, Art Sherrod Jr. Jeff Bradshaw, plus tons of players that happened to be on the ship, taking the opportunity to have fun and stretch out a little bit.

One more highlight was the concert by Liner Notes, a band of singers and musicians providing a show that connected the dots between Jazz, R&B and Hip Hop, with short narrated parts, delivering an entertaining and enlightening show.

Apart from the music, people were flocking in droves to comedians like Michael Colyar, Tommy Davidson & Kevin Lee and Mark Curry & Earthquake.

There was an abundance of other things going on, with DJs Tra'Nicole, Nabs, Kemit, Francis Jaye and others, dance classes, "name that tune" games, poetry, card games, movie screenings (with special guest Pam Grier on the boat), Hip-Hop with Slick Rick, a Go-Go party with Rare Essence, several Q&A sessions, a costume party, and more. There was almost always something to do.

My final verdict still is rather positive, despite a few shortcomings, like the need to stand in line for hours and the inability to see a couple of shows. On the positive side, the music on the ship was first rate throughout, I discovered some new talent, the music is programmed with an open mind, aimed at the true music aficionado, with a desire to promote the culture of black music in all its various forms. I came off the ship satisfied and full of great memories.

The SuperCruise will continue with its 12th edition in January 2019 on the Royal Caribbean cruise line, sailing from January 17-25, 2019, which hopefully will allow it to regain its former glory. For me, this has been the last SuperCruise for a while because I cannot make it during the new time slot. I will miss my many music friends I have met over the years, but our paths will cross again one day.

By Val Vaccaro [Artist photos by Barry Chapman - BazPix Photography]

On Wednesday, July 26th, the 2017 Smooth Jazz New York Cruise series featured BWB -
the jazz supergroup composed of three amazing, popular musicians - trumpeter Rick Braun, saxophonist Kirk Whalum, and guitarist Norman Brown. BWB brought their own special brand of joyful smooth jazz instrumental music, vocals, dance moves, and witty humor to create an exciting, fun, party-like atmosphere, and celebration of music and friendship to an appreciative smooth jazz audience. The talented, tight, and bright sounding BWB supporting band members included John Stoddart on keyboards, Braylon Lacy on bass, and Jay Williams on drums.

This BWB show was part of the 20th anniversary season of the great annual summer Smooth Jazz New York cruise concert series presented by Bill Zafiros of Marquee Concerts (which produced the CD 101.9 Smooth Cruises for 12 years before the missed station went off the air in 2008 after twenty years) along with Rich Engel's Live at Nite music company. 

By Ricky Richardson

Long Beach - Rainbow Promotions, LLC. Celebrated three memorable decades of jazz, Latin Jazz, Smooth Jazz, fusion, funk, R&B, and Soul with 20,000 music aficionados, Friday, August 11-Sunday, August 13, 2017.

This highly anticipated event was held at the Rainbow Lagoon, a gorgeous, well maintain, manicured grassy knoll. This venue offered the ultimate ambiance for a jazz festival.

The Long Beach Jazz Festival featured some of the music industries top notched artists, performing in front of a huge receptive audience. The festival also included a vast array of food, art, and much more.

The festival kicked off with a welcome from Mistress of Ceremony Pat Prescott, Radio Personality, 94.7 The Wave. The 30th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival started promptly at 6:00PM.

The hustle and bustle of the hectic work week has subsided, now it is time for some real fun. The festival got into gear with a dance inducing performance by the group called Jazz Funk Soul with Jeff Lorber - keyboards/piano, Everette Harp - saxophones, and Paul Jackson Jr., on guitar. Rounding out the group was Ron Jenkins on bass and Gordon Campbell on drums. All of these musicians are leaders in their own right, and have collaborated with a who's who in the music industry. Their set featured tunes from each others catalog as well as some new materials. They opened with "Speed of Light," and never slowed down throughout their set that also featured the tunes "Hacienda," "Connections," "Serious Business," "Going Through Changes" a tune written by George Duke and Everette Harp. This tune resonated with the crowd as we can relate in our own way. Their set continued with "You'll Known, When You Know," and concluded with "Monday Speaks." The group paused in remembrance of Chuck Loeb and former member of the band who transitioned several weeks ago, and to remember George Duke, who Everette Harp collaborated and performed with before.

Al Williams, founder of the Long Beach Jazz Festival along with his daughter Kimberly Benoit - President of Rainbow Promotions LLC. Came onstage to welcome the crowd and thank them for their continued support as the festival celebrates another milestone.

Rev. Leon Wood, Pastor of St. Marks Baptist Church in Long Beach officially got the festival grounded and onto a great start with a powerful Opening Prayer, with the crowd responding Amen! In unison.

The Hospitality Area was hosted by MDC Concierge-Chef Milton Guinses, Million Dollar Connections. Their motto is "Million Dollar Service at Quality Prices You can Afford." The artists, volunteers and media were well taken care of this weekend in the Hospitality Area backstage. Each evening Chef Milton Guinses delighted our taste buds with a special meal. Friday evening treats were Fried Catfish, Red Snapper and Garlic Fries. Saturday's awesome meal was Buffalo honey mustard chicken wings, jerk BBQ wings, turkey spinach meatballs with cheese and marinara sauce with rice. Are we getting hungry yet? Sunday's grand finale was Slow smoked BBQ Chicken, BBQ rib tips, fried cabbage and baked beans. You can find Chef Milton Guinses on all Social Media platforms. Are you can reach him directly if you need a great chef to cater your next special event. (323)-375-6812.

It only got better and better as the evening progressed. Rachelle Ferrell is an amazing vocalist with an incredible range. She showcased her powerful vocal range during her time in the spotlight, performing some of her classic hits from the past and some recent tunes while playing a beautiful Steinway and Sons piano and a Yamaha Motif ES8 Keyboard. She was aided superbly by Damian Farmer on bass, Eric Brown on drums and Billy Odom on guitar. Rachelle Ferrell set list were "I Can't Explain," "I forgive You," and "Run to Me" just to name a few.

Marcus Miller the phenomenal bass player, arranger, and composer put his exclamation mark to close out the first night of the Long Beach Jazz Festival. Marcus Miller surprise guest were actress Dawnn Lewis celebrating her birthday. Sensational singer Randy Crawford singing "Street Life."

The momentum continued to build up on day two with additional crowd pleasing performances. Jazz in Pink is an extremely talented group of all female musicians. This all star ensemble projects talents, beauty, power and femininity as they embrace the stage. The beautiful ladies of the band are Gail Denise Jhonson - keyboards/piano, Lynn Fiddmont - vocals/percussions, Zuri Appleby - bass, Tomoka Nomura-Jarvis - sax/flute, Dee Simone drums and Darlene Moreno - guitar. They took the crowd and I on a joyous musical journey with the tunes "Uptown Philly," "Kat Girl," "Do Something Else," "Our Love," "Free," "Herbie Hancock Medley," and a rousing version of "Knee Deep Nation." The band received a long, thunderous standing ovation at the end of their set.

Before the crowd and I could relax, an explosive ensemble took the festival by storm. This set entitled "30 Years of Long Beach Jazz" featured a stellar group of musicians, Ndugu Chancler - drums, Bobby Lyle - piano/keyboards, Craig T. Cooper - guitar, Alphonso Johnson - bass, and Bridgette Bryant on vocals. They hit all of the right notes that had the crowd grooving throughout their set that featured the tunes "The Genie," "I Love Your Smile," "The Sweetest Taboo," "How Do You Do" (That Thang You Do), and "So High."

Saxophonist Eric Darius riled the crowd up with cool, smooth sounds. At one time, he roamed through the crowd to serenade several lucky women in the VIP section. Eric Darius set list consisted of the tunes "Let's Go," "Happy," "Going All Out," "Forever Yours," "If I Don't Have You," and "Breakin' Thru."

As if that wasn't enough, Saturday's line-up also featured performances by Nathan East with his sons Jordan and Noah East as he performed "Life cycles," Eleven/Eight," Over the Rainbow, and "Higher Ground."

Will Downing Balladeer/Crooner wowed the crowd on the tunes I Can't Help Myself," "Million Ways to Love a Women," "You Know How to Hold Me," "You Got the Best of My Love," and "Love Roller Coaster." do you get the feeling that love was in the air as Will Downing work his way into and melted the hearts of the women. The evening closed with an excellent set by Boney James.

Jazz patrons who ventured out to the marketplace, wasn't too far from the music. I visited the Jazz, Health & Wellness Pavilion which nourished the mind, body and soul with inspirational words of wisdom by wellness experts and other speakers from treatment centers. Attendees walked away with useful information to help them grow a little more in mind, body and spirit. People were treated to healthy food samplings by Celebrity Chef Ewanda as she prepared a quick, nutritious broccoli salad. This demonstration was followed by a panel discussion entitled Your Food is Your Medicine with Arisa Molineaux as moderator. The panel consisted of Jamie Relei Ferguson (Food Guide and Founder of Be Well Bites), Subriana Pierce (Business Leader, distributor of PhURE Water-electrolyte enhanced premium, cleans, safe, PH9.5 alkaline water), Celebrity Chef Ewanda (Ladies Touch Catering-a full service company offering catering, event planning, private chef services and drop-off meals in Los Angeles and surrounding cities) and Dr. Safa Maiwand (Renowned Dentist). They discussed ways for people to eat healthy, the easy access of fresh fruits and vegetables and foods to afford to maintain and healthy body and teeth. Additional Health and Wellness panels were Eat.Love.Pray (A New Way to Stay Healthy with Dr. Joseph Bryant, Jr., Pren'tis Knight and Charles Wright. Events on Sunday, Celebrity Chef Das prepared a quick, easy, refreshing Summer dish (shrimp lettuce wrap) these recipes can be found in his latest cookbook entitled Now Look Who's Cooking-Culinary Lifestyle Guide). Chef Das was task with preparing a cuisine for former First Lady Michelle Obama luncheon. Chef Das also was a former personal chef for entertainment mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs. The afternoon featured another panel Secrets to Living Well was well attended. On the panel were Charlie Jordon Brookins, Pren'tis Knight and musician/author Charles Wright. Pren'tis Knight-Founder and Creator of ZTEK, an innovative Personal Care line of Skin and surface Products infused with pure silver. The vendors participating in the Jazz, Health & Wellness Pavilion were American Heart Association, City of Hope, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, Let Us, Inc., Meeting Seniors Needs Hotline, Inc., Phure Water Cooking Demo, Susan G. Komen, USC School of Pharmacy, Z-Tek Life, New Image Dental, Nature's Bridge Holistic. Lifeline Training.

Music aficionados rounded third base and heading for home plate as the first two days of entertainment knocked it out of the park. On deck for the final day of the Long Beach Jazz Festival were Al Williams Jazz Society playing a couple of tunes that had the crowd tapping their feet to the beat. This was an engaging and entertaining set by the founder of the Long Beach Jazz Festival. Les McCann was the special guest performer during their set. He delighted the crowd with the tune "Compared to What," and slow it down with "With These Hands." It is always a treat for the crowd when Barbara Morrison is on the line-up. She had the crowd up and dancing while she performed some classic jazz tunes. She sang "Things Ain't What They Used to Be," "My One and Only Love" and got to crowd to party with her on "Rio De Janeiro Blues."

Spyro Gyra served up an eclectic gumbo of sounds from their previous CD's plus several selections of current tunes to the delight of the attentive, captive crowd. These are the tunes that the crowd danced to "Secret Agent Man," "Morning Dance," "De La Luz," "Tempted," "Lionel's Den," "Stolen Moments," "Rules by Venus," and "Breakfast at Igor's."

Bob James followed in a similar vein, with his tight band. Bob James dazzled as his fingers danced across the 88's on piano and keyboards. He thrilled the crowd with "Nordis," and sparked the crowd with "Westchester Lady" to name a few. Bob James Band were Bob James - piano/keyboards, Perry Hugh - guitar, Michael Palizotto - bass and Billy Kilson on drums.

Saxophonist Najee and a splendid set by Ramsey Lewis and Urban Nights contributed tremendously to the success of the festival.

Conguero Poncho Sanchez returned once again to close out the festival. This is a great testament to his musicianship and popularity with the crowd, who know that he will always put on an outstanding show. The people grooved as the music moved them that had the crowd dancing, salsa, cha cha, cha and whatever dance moves that pleases them.

What We're Listening To ** July 2017

Jason Miles - Kind Of New 2: Paris Is Blue (2017)
Veteran of the scene, keyboardist and producer Jason Miles comes up with another Kind Of New project, picking up where the seminal Miles Davis album Kind Of Blue left off. While the first Kind Of New album revolved around jazz trumpet player Ingrid Jensen, this new album is a varied all-star affair and is much more groovy and accessible than its predecessor. It oscillates between jazz, funk and world giving the various soloists plenty of space, like trumpet players Russell Gunn, Theo Croker, Patches Stewart, Jukka Eskola, saxophonist Jeff Coffin and guitarist Ricardo Silveira, all doing great solos throughout, with Ricky Kej providing the world element and Maya Azucena some great vocals. Unique, original and entertaining, Jason Miles delivers a batch of outstanding music once again. Very recommended!

Bunny Brunel & Friends - Bass Ball (2017)
Bass lovers watch out, this album is for you! Co-produced by Stanley Clarke, it features world class players like Billy Sheehan, Victor Wooten, Steve Bailey and Armand Sabal-Lecco, plus a string of top bass players from France who contribute to this veritable bass fest. Don't miss it!

Darry Williams - Here To Stay (2017)
Bass player Darryl Williams, who makes a living backing the industry's top stars, comes out with his own solo release, featuring guests like Euge Groove, Paul Brown, Jonathan Fritzen, Michael Lington, Jeff Lorber and Scott Wilkie, which results in pure smooth jazz bliss. Thumbs up!

Mark Whitfield - Live & Uncut (2017)
Guitar player Mark Whitfield delivers a raw live set in a trio setting, released on the audiophile Chesky Records, it was recorded with a single binaural microphone at the Rockwood Music Hall in NYC recreating a perfect live experience, he is accompanied by Billy Drummond and Ben Allison. This is no-frills straight ahead jazz!

The Soulful Strings - String Fever (1969)
My nod to the past goes to The Soulful Strings, a project by producer Richard Evans who put the string section in the center of the action on these recordings, playing the hits of the day over funky grooves, augmented with jazzy solos. Stood the test of time!

What We're Listening To ** May 2017

Pieces Of A Dream - Just Funkin' Around (2017)
This band is in the business for already 40 years and still going strong, being on top of their game and enjoying every minute of it. On this release, the band is delivering a variety of fresh, catchy smooth jazz tracks featuring the sparkling piano of James Lloyd and the drums of co-leader Curtis Harmon, supported by a great cast featuring Tony Watson Jr. on sax and David Dyson on bass. "On The Move" is smoking. Quality stuff throughout!

Till Brönner - Till Brönner (2012)
This album by German trumpet player Till Brönner must be one of his very best - at least in my book! Many of his smooth and vocal drenched other albums don't appeal a lot to me, but this one being deeply rooted in the 70ies jazz-funk of CTI and Blue Note with plenty of great horn playing checks all the right boxes with me, check out his take on Freddie Hubbard's "Gibraltar" or Dave Grusin's "Three Days Of The Condor". Get the deluxe edition with three additional bonus tracks, among them a lengthy version of "Little Sunflower". He is supported by an excellent band. Thumbs up!

Mattias Roos - Movin' Up (2017)
Swedish keyboardist Mattias Roos is quite similar to artists like Brian Simpson with his smooth, melodic keyboard playing, the music is very radio friendly and easy on the ear, U-Nam and Elan Trotman guest. Nice!

Dave Weckl Band - Multiplicity (2005)
This is a great fusion album by drummer extraordinaire Dave Weckl, all original material, the band is excellent and features Gary Meek on sax and Steve Weingart on keys. For the discriminating listener!

Arakawa Band (feat. Hitoshi Okano) - Hard Boiled (1981)
My nod to the past goes to this LP from 1981 by the Arakawa Band with special guest Hitoshi Okano on trumpet, lots of groovy jazz-funk tracks. Well worth hunting down!

The second show on Monday morning was done by the German group Nighthawks led by bassist Dal Martino, co-leader Reiner Winterschladen was absent and replaced by a capable trumpet player from New York (sorry, didn't catch his name). The rest of the band consisted of regular members Jürgen Dahmen on keyboards, Thomas Alkier on drums and Jörg Lehnhardt on guitar. They went through several of their sweeping songs, with lots of nice solos, especially by guitarist Jörg Lehnhardt. Their unique brand of music is totally captivating and was well received by the crowd.

This show marked the end of the festival for me, I had to leave in the afternoon to catch my flight and be back home in time for work the next day. Unfortunately, I had to do without the evening shows of rising smooth jazz star guitarist Adam Hawley and veteran band Spyro Gyra who are currently touring Europe. Nevertheless, this year provided numerous memorable musical moments by many of the finest artists in the genre, this festival is getting better each year. Add the hospitality of the hotel, the unrestricted and friendly atmosphere of the event, the many music friends from all over Europe and the world, and you get one of the best smooth jazz festivals you can find anywhere.

Saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa opened the early set on Monday morning, supported by Marcus Finnie on drums, Marius Goldhammer on bass, Christof Lindner on guitar and Lutz Deterra on keys. He kicked off his show with the funky "Let It Ride", later showing his sensual side with "Quiet Goodbye" on the alto sax, one of the highlights was "The Asian Persuasion" played on the flute, with a middle part employing the EWI. He later introduced the EWI (electronic wind instrument) further, before he played "Around The World" on it. He raised the heat with "Three Day Weekend" and the funky "Hot Tin Roof" playing some mean tenor sax, winding up this great show. He came back for an encore, doing his biggest hit "Hyde Park (The 'Ah, Oooh' Song)" inviting Grace Kelly who happened to be in the audience onto the stage to join him for some awesome scatting, finishing a perfect show.