The FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest offers one-of-a-kind shows to expand jazz lovers' horizons and touch their souls. Presented by the Berks Arts Council, the festival runs March 16-25 and features an abundance of great artists, more than 130 venues large and small, a schedule of staggering scale and amazing ensemble concerts. Featured here are just a few of the highlights you may not know about:
SOUL SUMMIT ENSEMBLE
This year brings another world-premiere show in Soul Summit on Saturday, March 24 at 7 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. This dazzling tribute to America's music has some of the hottest names in soul. The concert is being produced by music director and keyboardist Jason Miles, who is no stranger to producing unforgettable ensemble shows for the Berks Jazz Fest.
Along with Miles, Soul Summit features vocalist/guitarist Susan Tedeschi; vocal artist Maysa Leak; saxophonist Richard Elliot; Derek Trucks Band vocalist Mike Mattison; funky saxman Karl Denson; trumpeter Barry Danielian; drummer Steve Ferrone; bassist Bob Babbitt; guitarist Reggie Young; guitarist Sherrod Barnes; saxophonist David Mann; and turntablist DJ Logic.
The concert finale will be a rousing tribute to the late James Brown, the Godfather of Soul. "It's only fitting that we close the concert with the music of James Brown," said Miles. "With these incredible musicians all on stage at the same time, it's going to be one heckuva finale. We also will be paying tribute to the late Herbie Mann and his legendary Memphis Underground project."
Miles' shows at the Berks Jazz Fest are always special, from “Miles to Miles: In the Spirit of Miles Davis” to last year’s all-star shows “The Music of Marvin Gaye and Motown” and “The Music of Ivan Lins.”
Known as “The Time Keeper,” legendary drummer Steve Ferrone has worked with an incredibly diverse group of artists, from Chaka Khan and Tom Petty to AWB, Duran Duran, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, David Sanborn, Scritti Politti and Jaco Pastorius.
Bassist Bob Babbitt established his name in the annals of R&B as a member of the legendary Funk brothers who played on so many of the great Motown hits by such legends as Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and Smokey Robinson.
With appearances on such legendary hits as “Son Of A Preacher Man,” “Slip Away,” “Suspicious Minds” and “In The Ghetto,” Reggie Young is arguably the most recorded guitarist in the history of music.
DJ Logic is the turntable master who has successfully mixed the turntable culture of hip-hop with classic jazz and soul. In addition to three solo CDs, he has also played with John Mayer, John Popper, Medeski Martin and Wood and others.
One of the funkiest guitarists on the planet, Sherrod Barnes’ resume as player and producer boasts two eras of soul divas with Roberta Flack and Beyonce.
Guest artists who will also join Soul Summit include famed smooth jazz saxophonist Richard Elliot (once called “The James Brown of Contemporary Jazz” by Jazziz Magazine); Grammy-winning guitarist Susan Tedeschi; R&B singer Maysa Leak (a longtime member of the U.K. soul collective Incognito who has several solo recordings to her credit); and Mike Mattison, best known as a lead singer of The Derek Trucks Band. He also has his own band called Scrapomatic.
Trumpeter/producer-arranger Barry Danielian has more than 15 years experience as a versatile sideman. David Mann will lend his expertise on the saxophone to this collaborative concert. Saxman Karl Denson is the leader of Tiny Universe, a highly energized funk band. He played with Lenny Kravitz before launching his solo career in 1992.
The show promises to be a brilliant tribute to soul, an original American art form born in the Mississippi Delta.
Continue reading about other one of a kind highlights to the Berks Jazz Fest, including Gordon Goodwin & the Big Phat Band, The Rolling Stones Project, and David Sanborn.
GORDON GOODWIN & THE BIG PHAT BAND
The FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest has always been dedicated to jazz education as well as entertainment. Each year, the festival's education committee arranges clinics, workshops and performances with world-renowned jazz musicians for local jazz students.
This year, the committee is pleased to present Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, whose dynamic sound has refocused the national spotlight on big bands. Goodwin is a champion promoter of the big-band sound on high school and college campuses, and his high-energy fusion Phat Band isn't your mother's big band.
They will be joined by the Berks High School All-Star Band for the Music Educators of Berks County Night, Tuesday, March 20, at 7 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. Tickets are $18, and $10 for students with ID. In keeping with their philosophy on educational outreach, Goodwin and his band will host a workshop before the concert. The Berks Jazz Fest places a strong emphasis on educational outreach. There will be at least five other educational workshops conducted by various artists throughout the festival.
Goodwin and his 18-member Big Phat Band will propel the listener on a journey through a myriad of styles: Latin, blues, swing classical, hard-hitting jazz and even a homage to Looney Tunes. The group has two Grammy-nominated albums out and The Phat Pack currently hitting the charts.
Goodwin is a three-time Emmy Award winner, a five-time Grammy nominee and recent winner of a 48th annual Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement for his arrangement of "The Incredits" from Pixar's "The Incredibles."
Members of the Big Phat Band have distinguished themselves as recording artists and soloists in the jazz field, including Eric Marienthal, Wayne Bergeron (also a Grammy nominee), Andy Martin, Bob Summers, Luis Conte, Bernie Dresel and Grant Geissman.
The Phat Band is: saxes - Eric Marienthal, Sal Lozano, Brian Scanlon, Jeff Driskill, Jay Mason; trumpets - Wayne Bergeron, Dan Fornero, Bob Summers, Dan Savant; trombones - Andy Martin, Alex Iles, Charlie Morillas, Craig Ware; drums - Ray Brinker, Bernie Dressel; AC & EL Bass - Rick Shaw; guitar - Grant Geissman,Carl Verheyen; percussion - Luis Conte, Brad Dutz; leader - Gordon Goodwin.
THE ROLLING STONES PROJECT
The Rolling Stones are coming to the FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest. To be more precise, The Rolling Stones Project featuring Tim Ries, Mike Davis, Bernard Fowler and Ben Monder is coming to The Abraham Lincoln Ballroom in downtown Reading on Wednesday, March 2,1 at 7:30 p.m.
Ries, a veteran saxophonist who has been on several world tours with the Stones, and his band mates put a jazz touch to the Stones' classic rock songs. Ries is basking in an abundance of critical acclaim for his 2005 Concord Jazz CD debut The Rolling Stones Project. The 11-song collection not only salutes the Stones but also illustrates how fertile their songs are for jazz interpretations." I was shocked that this album came together the way it did, " Ries said. "To get all these performers and to put a jazz touch on the Stones’ songs, well, I've got to say that this project was a miracle.”
The CD featured guest spots by vocalists Sheryl Crow, Lisa Fischer, Norah Jones and Luciana Souza; jazz guitar icons Bill Frisell and John Scofield; keyboardist Larry Goldings; and Wayne Shorter's bass-drum team of John Patitucci and Brian Blade. There were also performances by Rolling Stones members Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ron Wood, who contributed the album cover art. Berks Jazz Fest fans will be fortunate enough to see this miracle of an album come to life at The Abraham Lincoln Ballroom when Ries takes center stage with three other jazz vets who made key contributions to the project -- trombonist Mike Davis, vocalist Bernard Fowler and guitarist Ben Monder -- to create a live experience called The Stones Meet Jazz.
Ries, who's also a composer, has extensive jazz roots. He has collaborated with such jazz artists as Phil Woods, Tom Harrell, Al Foster, John Patitucci, Dave Liebman, Danilo Perez, Maynard Ferguson and Red Garland. His other recording and performance credits include work with Donald Fagen, Paul Simon, Sheryl Crow, Lyle Lovett, Stevie Wonder, Incognito, Blood Sweat & Tears, Bob Belden and David Lee Roth.
Davis has also worked extensively with the Stones, in addition to performing and/or recording with Sheryl Crow, Keb’ Mo’, Lyle Lovett and The Bob Mintzer Big Band. Fowler also has been part of the Stones' experience, having done backing vocals on many of their recordings in addition to those by Herbie Hancock, Bonnie Raitt, Herb Alpert and George Clinton. Monder is one of most identifiable and sought-after stylists on the progressive jazz scene, an heir to the ethereal yet edgy approach of players such as John Abercrombie and Bill Frisell. Monder has been active as a sideman since 1984, working with Jack McDuff, Marc Johnson, David Binney, Paul Motian, Lee Konitz and Toots Thielmans.
David Sanborn, the six-time Grammy winning jazz/funk saxophonist, returns to the FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest for a third time, this time with The David Sanborn Group.
Sanborn’s sizzling funk-edged alto -- one of the most identifiable and often imitated sax timbres in contemporary music -- has influenced an entire generation of sax players, from Dave Koz to Euge Groove and Mindi Abair, and created a body of work that spans the genres of rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, pop and jazz
See the legendary saxman Friday, March 23, at 10:30 p.m., at the Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom. Tickets are $38 and $33.
Sanborn is experiencing something of a renaissance in the genre these days, thanks to the radio success of his 2003 Verve debut Time Again (his first release after a four-year hiatus) and 2005’s Closer, an ambitious disc featuring bassist Christian McBride, guitarist Russell Malone, Larry Goldings on electric piano and organ, vibist Mike Manieri and drummer Steve Gadd. He also reconnected with his smooth jazz audience via his participation on last fall’s Dave Koz And Friends At Sea cruise.
David Sanborn is both musician and artist - that rare breed of popular recording star as eager today as he was in his youth to continue pushing boundaries and to continue making music that challenges the mind as it rewards the heart and soul.
We hope to see you during this happy ten days known as the Berks Jazz Fest!
Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council