Sunday morning, saxophonist Grace Kelly appeared, her band consisted of Marcus Finnie on drums, Marius Goldhammer on bass, Christof Lindner on guitar, Lutz Deterra on keys, plus special guest Brian Simpson on keyboards for a couple of songs. She brought things nicely up to speed with her rendition of the Michael Jackson classic "Billy Jean" and a funked up version of "Summertime", before she featured her voice to sing songs like "Trying to Figure It Out" from her latest CD and the beautiful, introspective "Touched By An Angel". She showed her affection with current pop music in the following segment of her show, doing an instrumental cover of Sia's "Chandlelier", then singing Coldplay's "Magic" which was not exactly my cup of tea. Anyway, she more than made up for it with the lively instrumental "Lemon's Make Lemonade" that had a nice Sadao Watanabe feeling, and the encore, a great version of "Georgia On My Mind", finishing an entertaining and varied show.

Guitarist Norman Brown needs no introduction, he has not only a string of solo albums, but also a few successful collaboration projects with BWB, West Coast Jam and others. With a brand new CD just out, he was ready to play. His band consisted of Marcus Finnie on drums, Marius Goldhammer on bass, Christof Lindner on guitar, Lutz Deterra on keys, plus Brian Simpson on keyboards. His enthusiastic high energy playing drew the crowd right in. He went through songs like "Better Days Ahead", "After The Storm", "For The Love Of You" and more, an especially enjoyable part of the show was when he paid tribute to his influences, playing some Jim Hendrix, followed by Wes Montgomery ("Bumpin' On Sunset") and George Benson ("This Masquerade"). He played a couple of songs from his new release Let It Go, "It Keeps Coming Back", a groovy track boasting his typical guitar style, and a solo cover of Michael Jackson's "Man In The Mirror" that was a nice change of pace. He finished his set with "That's The Way Love Goes" having people off their seats, an encore was requested and given with Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On", leaving a satisfied crowd.

Saturday night, saxophonist and flutist Nelson Rangell did his show, his band consisted of Heiko Braun on drums, Mark Jaimes on guitar, Orefo Orakwue on bass and Oli Silk on keyboards. He opened his show full steam with Stevie Wonder's "Another Star" playing with unbridled passion and flawless technique, before he did one of his own compositions, kicking things up again with EWF's "Can't Hide Love". Things slowed down with Earl Klugh's "Vonetta" beautifully played on the flute, and the awesome Hampton Hawes track "Sonora" that was perfectly whistled, plus a nice solo on the piccolo flute. Another highlight was Chick Corea's "Spain" played on the flute, with a great acoustic solo by Mark Jaimes. Later he played "Turning Night Into Day", one of his big hits during his stint with GRP Records. They finished the show with the Crusaders classic "Put It Where You Want It". This was a very fine show by a consummate artist.

Next was Canadian saxophonist Warren Hill, his band consisted of Heiko Braun on drums, Mark Jaimes on guitar, Orefo Orakwue on bass and Oli Silk on keyboards, he kicked off his show with the Beatles classic "Come Together", followed by a string of his own compositions, especially "Mambo 2000" raised the heat considerably and is always a joy to listen to, while the "Passion Theme" slowed things down nicely. Another highlight was his cover of Foreigner's "I Wanna Know What Love Is", soulfully sung by his daughter Olivia Rox who joined her dad as a surprise guest. After this one, she sung one of her own songs that soon will be released on her first CD. They kept on rocking with Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein" and Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog", before they closed the show with the inevitable "Play That Funky Music" having everybody getting off their seats. What a great show this was!

Friday night, keyboardist Brian Simpson was playing, he was supported by Marcus Finnie on drums, Marius Goldhammer on bass, Christof Lindner on guitar, Lutz Deterra on keys, plus Rene Junior on sax, a young player from the Czech Republic that contacted Brian Simpson three weeks before the show and was allowed to sit in. The band went through a string of Brian Simpson's hits, among them "Persuasion" and others, with lots of great solos by all involved, especially Rene Junior blended in well with his soulful, smooth tenor sax playing. During the last groovy song people got up to dance, a bunch of girls went onto the stage to dance along Brian, when an enthusiastic male fan joined in and stole the show with his expressive dancing, ending an entertaining set.

The 6th annual Smooth Jazz Festival Mallorca kicked off with the Smooth Jazz All-Stars, a show that unites most of the players of the festival on one stage. The event usually is held in the unfinished church Església Nova in Son Servera open air, but due to some unexpected cold and rainy weather, it took place at the festival's main venue, the 5-star Protur Biomar Gran Hotel & Spa, which was fine with me.

The show was hosted by keyboardist Brian Simpson, they opened the concert with all players on stage, before the individual players were featured in smaller settings, supported by the festival band consisting of keyboardist Lutz Deterra, bassist Marius Goldhammer, drummer Heiko Braun and guitarist Christof Lindner. The drum seat changed frequently, adding in Marcus Finnie and the legendary Harvey Mason, both playing several nice solos. We got an incredible variety of music, each of the players brought his own style to the table, particularly enjoyable were the young Grace Kelly with her energetic playing, funking up "Amazing Grace", and saxophonist and flutist Nelson Rangell delivering an awesome rendition of Hampton Hawes' "Sonora", whistling and piccolo flute included, with a great solo by Alex Bugnon. Violonist Ken Ford brought the house down with the EWF classic "Can't Hide Love", while Alex Bugnon scored with his own classic "107° In The Shade", recreating a great 70ies jazz-funk feeling. Jeff Kashiwa played some beautiful tenor, while Warren Hill took the Beatles' classic "Hey Jude" to the next level, with some audience participation. Guitarist Norman Brown delivered "On Broadway" in style, with a nod to George Benson. The show concluded with the funky Hancock classic "Chameleon", having all players on stage, bringing a great show to a rousing end.

This was a great festival start, lots of more great shows ahead!

The closing concert of the festival traditionally took place at the Scottish Rite Cathedral with Kirk Whalum's Gospel According To Jazz Celebration featuring Kevin Whalum, Doxa Gospel Ensemble, Lindsey Webster, Tamika Patton plus special guest Fred Hammond. The band consisted of Kevin Turner on guitar, Marcus Finnie on drums, Braylon Lacy on bass and musical director John Stoddart on keys and vocals. This event has become a festival favourite and always sells out. The band started out with "Do You Feel It" and an instrumental that gave each member some solo time, before the singers came out, first Kevin Whalum did "Somebody, Somewhere", before Lindsey Webster and Tamika Patton each did a great song, then it was time for the main guest Fred Hammond to take over with a string of his hits, plus some preaching in between songs. The night was concluded with the rousing "Love Is The Answer" joining all the artists for the finale, having everybody on their feet.

The Sunday morning bruch was held at the Crowne Plaza ballroom, the featured band was Four80East led by keyboardist Rob DeBoer and percussionist Tony Grace, they were supported by guitarist Matt Marshak and saxophonist Art Sherrod, Jr who have been playing with this band for years and blend well with their groovy style of music. The band was in fine form and went through several of their classics plus songs from the catalogs of Matt Marshak and Art Sherrod, Jr. which provided nice changes of pace. The show was well received.

At midnight, it was time for another one of Gerald Veasley's Midnight Jams, this time we got people like Bobby Lyle, Brian Bromberg, Matt Marshak, Art Sherrod, Tony Grace, Andy Snitzer, David P Stevens, Donald Robinson, Richard Waller, Michael Manson, Brian Simpson, Andrew Neu and Vincent Ingala among others, it was another memorable jam with lots of outstanding musical moments.

Berks Jazz Fest 2017: Marcus Miller

At 10pm, bassist Marcus Miller appeared at the Double Tree hotel ballroom with his band, it was his first appearance at the Berks Jazz Festival. The band consisted of Alex Han on sax, Marquis Hill on trumpet, Alex Bailey on drums and Brett Williams on keyboards. This band of master musicians and top improvisers provided a truly memorable show, they started out with two songs from the current release Afrodeezia with cool solos by all involved, but the true highlight came with "The Preacher's Kid", a song dedicated to this late father that had saxophonist Kirk Whalum guesting and featured Marcus Miller on the bass clarinet. Things were funked up with his cover of "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" with lots of slapping and plucking in his own inimitable style, while "Tutu" written for Miles Davis provided another highlight. This was a simply awesome show by a bunch of world class players.