By Val Vaccaro
From George Benson to Chick Corea, this March through April, the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest celebrates its 22nd anniversary with another great year of smooth jazz, contemporary jazz, traditional jazz, blues, and more. The 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest has an impressive diversity of music and a wide spectrum of special arts and entertainment events– which reflect the mission of the Berks Arts Council – the nonprofit organization that presents the festival.
The jazz festival runs its usual 10 days from Friday, March 23rd to Sunday, April 1st in Reading, Pennsylvania which is located about an hour outside of Philadelphia, and is just a few hours travelling distance from New York City.
The Berks Jazz Fest is once again sponsored this year by Boscov’s - “The country’s (America’s) largest, family-owned department store” chain.
According to General Manager John Ernesto’s Blog, the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest’s “schedule …features some of the biggest names in the music business -- from jazz to R&B to blues to pop.”
For the complete 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest concert schedule, please see http://www.berksjazzfest.com/ticketedevents.htm.
Since the inception of Berks Jazz Fest inception back in 1991, John Ernesto has been doing an extraordinary job as General Manager, and with talent booking and coordination, as well as marketing. John Ernesto also happens to be Marketing Manager for the Reading Eagle newspaper, which keeps the local community and visitors informed about the Fest in print and online. The Reading Eagle publishes an excellent Berks Jazz Fest festival guide newspaper supplement distributed each year at all of the festival venues and local hotels.
Kick-off for the 2012 Berks Jazz Fest on Friday March 23rd
On Friday, March 23rd, at 7pm and 10pm there will be two exciting shows with the Jeff Golub Band featuring vocalist and pianist Henry Butler with special guests the Berks Horns (Mike Anderson on tenor and bari saxophones, Rob Diener on trumpet, and John Loos on trombone) at Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base club in the Crowne Plaza Reading hotel. According to saxophonist Mike Anderson, who also often works on the Berks Horns’ music chart arrangements, “The Jeff Golub show is going to be a blast!!!”
Following up on guitarist Jeff Golub’s 2009 Blues for You CD, the show should feature music in part from Golub’s 2011 blues CD The Three Kings (a tribute to B.B., Albert and Freddie). The Three Kings CD appeared on Billboard magazine’s 2011 Top Blues Albums chart.
Jeff Golub’s CD The Three Kings includes great interpretations of iconic blues songs such as “Let the Good Times Roll,” “Everyday I Have the Blues,” “The Thrill is Gone” (an instrumental version on Billboard’s 2011 and 2012 Smooth Jazz Songs charts) and “Help the Poor.”
The Three Kings CD also has two terrific original tunes which are unmistakably identifiable as the buoyant, emphatic musical style of Jeff Golub’s great guitar style and improvisations. One of the original songs composed by Jeff Golub is called “In Plain Sight” (a poignant reminder of Golub’s unexpected loss of eyesight during the time he was recording this CD with vocalist/pianist Henry Butler who by coincidence or providence has been blind since he was a few months old). The other original tune with Golub’s signature sound is called “Stumbling’ Home” which is co-composed by Golub and Butler with vocalist Josh Dion and bassist Andy Hess.
Guitarist Jeff Golub plays these two Berks concerts, then travels to Ohio (his birthplace) to do a show, and then returns back to Berks Jazz Fest to perform on Thursday, March 29th at the Berks All Star Jazz Jam, and again on Friday, March 30th as a special guest with David Pack at saxophonist Mindi Abair’s show.
Manhattan Transfer 40th Anniversary Concert
Also, there is a special opening night concert at 7:30pm with the legendary vocal jazz group The Manhattan Transfer performing their 40th Anniversary Concert at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center.
JaZZ in P!nk all-star female jazz band
Later that first evening, the 10pm concert at the Crowne Plaza Reading hotel promises to be a memorable Berks Jazz Fest highlight with JaZz in P!nk – an all-star female jazz band featuring pianist and music director Gail Jhonson (music director for Norman Brown), trumpeter Cindy Bradley, saxophonist Paula Atherton, violinist Karen Briggs (who performed shows with Yanni), flutist Althea Rene, vocalist Lynne Fiddmont (vocalist with artists like Stevie Wonder), harpist Mariea Antoinnette, drummer Danielle “Pockett” Brown, guitarist Darlene Moreno, bassist Robin Bramlett, and keyboardist Sundra Manning.
There is also a 9pm concert with the Dance Hall Docs featuring Brent Carter which plays the music of Tower of Power, and the first of four “Round Midnight Jams” – this one with Gerald Veasley & Friends.
Smooth jazz, Contemporary jazz, Fusion and more.
In addition, there will be some terrific shows with many popular and legendary smooth and contemporary jazz artists including George Benson, Boney James, Marc Antoine, and The Sax Pack. See separate article on The Sax Pack show.
There should also be entertaining shows by Chieli Minucci & Special EFX, Mindi Abair with special guests Jeff Golub and David Pack, as well as concerts by Spyro Gyra, Nick Colionne, Will Downing and Gerald Albright, Bernie Williams, two shows with the Dean Brown Group featuring Dean Brown, Dennis Chambers, Schuyler Deale, and Gerry Etkins, as well as shows with The Royal Scam (tribute to Steeley Dan), The Groovemasters featuring Bennie Sims, Cliff Starkey, David Cullen, Curt Harmon and Alisa B. Anderson, and a concert with Incognito featuring Maysa.
On Sunday, March 25 at 7:00 p.m. Banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck & the Original Flecktones including harmonica virtuoso/pianist Howard Levy will perform a concert at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center. This year at the 2012 Grammy’s, Béla Fleck and Howard Levy won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition for "Life in Eleven," a song from Bela Fleck & The Flecktones CD Rocket Science, (making it Fleck’s fifteenth Grammy award).
Also, on Sunday and Monday, March 25-26, there will be two Reading Eagle
Community Concerts - (free tickets have already been distributed for the shows) with the U.S. Air Force Rhythm in Blue Jazz Ensemble with special guest Gerald Veasley (on Sunday) and special guest Brian Bromberg on Monday, along with the opening act Berks High School All-Star Jazz Band.
Traditional jazz, blues and other diverse music shows
For traditional jazz fans, there are a number of great shows scheduled with the Pat Martino Trio and special guests, BeBop Sessions II with Chuck Loeb & Friends including Rick Braun, Brian Bromberg, Lionel Cordew, Karen Briggs, Andy Snitzer, Geral Albright, and Matt King, the Greg Hatza ORGANization, Anat Cohen Quartet, Eldar, and a special show - Doc Mulligan & Friends 85th Birthday Concert featuring Tom Strohman, Mike Een, Chris Heslop, Rick Gacda, Chuck Dressler, Mel Linger, Steve Meashey, Lew Leabman, Suzie Ernesto, and Deanna Reuben.
Some soulful blues shows at the Fest include: Joe Krown Trio featuring Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Russell Batiste Jr., the Debbie Davies Band, Tommy Castro's Lengendary Rhythm & Blues Revue featuring Magic Dick, Joe Louis Walker and Deanna Bogart, as well as Clarence Spady (with the Berks Horns) and Lavay Smith & her Red Hot Skillet Lickers.
For Tommy Castro’s show, the Berks Jazz Fest is donating $10 from each ticket sold to the annual Kiss-A-Pig (and help a Kid) Campaign, sponsored by Crowne Plaza Reading hotel general manager Craig Poole to raise money for the Olivets Boys and Girls Club of Reading and Berks County.
Special concerts and events
For over past two decades, thanks to the Fest’s General Manager John Ernesto who also books the talent, the Berks Jazz Fest has become known for special concerts with unique combinations of music artists and themed events. According to John Ernesto, “Every year we always try to present new, interesting and exciting projects to the fans of the festival to keep it fresh.”
WFMZ Jazz Stars
On Saturday, March 24th at 10pm, there will be a special live TV Broadcast with the WFMZ Jazz Stars featuring Peter White, Gerald Veasley, Walter Beasley, Nick Colionne, Brian Simpson, and Elan Trotman at the Crowne Plaza Reading hotel.
Jason Miles’ Global Noize “Prayer for the Planet” Tour
Also on Saturday March 24th at 7pm and 10pm, there will be two shows produced by music director and keyboardist Jason Miles called Prayer for the Planet Tour with the group Global Noize featuring Jason Miles, DJ Logic, Falu, Jay Rodriguez, Amanda Ruzza, plus special guests Will Calhoun, Mino Cinelu, and Maurice Brown.
Four ‘Round Midnight Jams’ at Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base
For late-night fans who enjoy the improvisation and unexpected - due to fan popularity for the first time - there will be four “Round Midnight Jams” during both weekends of the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest on Friday (March 23 and 30) and Saturday (March 24 and March 31) at Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base at the Crowne Plaza Reading hotel.
The jams will be hosted by the talented and amiable bassist Gerald Veasley. Also for the first time - instead of selling all of the tickets at the door - each jam will have 120 tickets available in advance, and 40 tickets available for purchase the same day of the jam. According to John Ernesto, General Manager of the Berks Jazz Fest, "Having fans wait in line for a long period of time - only to be turned away because the Jazz Base was at capacity - was not fan friendly. With the two additional midnight jams and the advance ticket opportunity, we feel it is a better process for our fans."
Brian Bromberg & Friends plus the Berks Horns Sunday Jazz Brunch
On Sunday, March 25th, at the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest, there will be a wonderful show Brian Bromberg & Friends (including a buffet brunch) at the Inn at Reading ballroom to introduce the release of Bromberg’s new CD Compared to That.
The music on the new Compared to That CD will be similar to Brian Bromberg’s enjoyable, fun-loving, popular Downright Upright CD (2007) which featured classic 60’s soul-jazz tunes such as “Canteloupe Island” (Herbie Hancock), “Cold Duck Time” (Eddie Harris and Les McCann) and “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” (Joe Zawinul).
The 2012 Berks Jazz Fest show will include the brilliant bass playing of Brian Bromberg, with songwriter, producer, and keyboardist extraordinaire Philippe Saisse, and drummer Mark Mclean plus the Berks Horns - Mike Anderson on alto saxophone, Rob Diener on trumpet, and John Loos on trombone - with special guests Chris Farr and Mike Eben on tenor saxophones (with Chris Farr doing the lead work), and Bob Stoyko also on trumpet.
Bassist Brian Bromberg has produced a special EP which will be available at the Fest this year.
A taste of Broadway with the jazz-themed play “Side Man”
In collaboration with the 2012 Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest, Shoestring Productions and Building 24 Kitchen and Bar in Wyomissing are presenting a Broadway-style play “Side Man” from March 16th through March 25th.
“Side Man” is a poignant play written by Warren Leight, directed by Kirk Lawrence, with Ken Blekicki as music consultant. The story is about a jazz musician trumpeter named Gene Glimmer, his alcoholic wife Terry, and the upheaval of their family over three decades as told through the eyes of their only son Clifford Glimmer. "Side Man" features Dallas Mugno as Clifford, Richard Bradbury as Gene, and Tama McConnell as Terry. The rest of the ensemble cast includes Michael Harbach, Daniel Smith, and Kathy Newville.
Building 24 Kitchen and Bar is a restaurant and club located in a renovated turn-of-the-century factory in Wyomissing, next to The Works. The production is rated PG-13 with strong language and adult situations. Play-goers can enjoy dinner at Building 24 or The Works before or after the show while listening to the Ken Blekicki Quintet.
Jazz Art Exhibition at GoggleWorks Center for the Arts
Also, through March 27th, during the day visitors can visit the Berks Arts Council presents: Celebrate Jazz: 7th Annual “Art of Jazz” Exhibition known as the Frank Scott Memorial Art Show at the Schmidt Gallery in the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts.
Rick Braun Sings With Strings
For the past few years at the Berks Jazz Fest, trumpeter Rick Braun has begun a journey from jazz instrumentalist to also jazz vocalist (Braun did a number of shows in tribute to Chet Baker, and also sang songs from the Great American Songbook with the Reading Pops orchestra in 2011).
Following up on Braun’s successful 2011 show, on Sunday, March 25th there will be a special concert: Sunday with the Pops "Rick Braun Sings With Strings" (which also happens to be the title of Braun’s CD (released in August 2011).
The show will present Rick Braun on vocals, trumpet, and flügelhorn performing music from his CD with the Reading Pops Orchestra, conducted by Willis M. Rapp. The CD Rick Braun Sings With Strings was produced and arranged by keyboardist Philippe Saisse and includes pretty, romantic American classic jazz songs by renowned composers. Some of the songs may be lesser-known, but all of the tunes blend well with the CD’s theme. There are classics like “Time after Time” and “The Things We Did Last Summer” by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, “I Didn't Know What Time It Was” by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rogers, and eight other tunes by other noted composers like Leonard Bernstein and Frank Henry Loesser.
Pat Martino Day
On Tuesday, March 27th at 7pm, Pat Martino Day will be a special 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest event at the Miller Center for the Arts - a celebration in honor of the legendary Philadelphia-based guitarist. The event will include a screening of the documentary Martino Unstrung: A Brain Mystery, which tells the miraculous story of Martino’s recovery after complete memory loss from a brain aneurysm in the 1970s to his journey re-learning to play the guitar and moving onto a new phase of life.
After showing the film, there will be a special performance of the Pat Martino Trio (with some special guest artists).
Pat Martino will also be there to meet fans do a book signing for his new autobiography, co-authored with jazz journalist Bill Milkowski entitled: Here & Now! The Autobiography of Pat Martino.
Berks All-Star Jazz Jam
On Thursday, March 29th is the much-looked forward to annual Berks All-Star Jazz Jam featuring Rick Braun, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Gerald Albright Mindi Abair, Jeff Golub, David Benoit, Brian Culbertson, Nick Colionne, Dean Brown, Brian Bromberg, Lionel Cordew, David Pack, Karen Briggs and Matt King.
Also, on Friday March 30th, for the Fest’s first time, Minas will perform a special "Brazilian Carnavale" show at the Reverb nightclub. The Philadelphia-based six-piece band will play traditional Latin samba music (considered to be Brazil's national musical style), accompanied by dancers dressed in colorful Carnival costumes which should be provide a delightful experience.
Chuck Loeb & Plain ‘n’ Simple show
In addition, on Saturday, March 31st, will be a special show Chuck Loeb & Plain ‘n’ Simple featuring Pat Bianchi, Lionel Cordew, Andy Snitzer, Carmen Cuesta, Lizzy Loeb and special guest Rick Braun.
Four-show finale at the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest
To top off the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest finale on Sunday, April 1st, there will be four shows. There is a jazz brunch with Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo. Also, there is a smooth jazz afternoon concert with RnR’s Rick Braun and Richard Elliot.
In addition, there are also two evening concerts at 7pm. One is a solo concert with jazz legend Chick Corea at the Miller Center for the Arts. This year, 12 time Grammy award winner, legendary pianist Chick Corea won two new Grammys: one for Best Improvised Jazz Solo for "500 Miles High" a song from the CD Forever - Corea, Clarke & White and also Best Jazz Instrumental Album for Forever - Corea, Clarke & White.
At 7pm, there is also festival finale show one with popular smooth jazz keyboardist Brian Culbertson at the Scottish Rite Cathedral.
New Berks Jazz Fest online music channel
Recently, the 2012 Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest introduced its own Berks Jazz Fest Music Channel of streaming music which can be heard on the website and on smart phones of jazz music fans.
Here are links to listen online to music of artists performing at the 2012 festival, and to download the free mobile phone apps from the iTunes App Store or for the Android market:
Also, the 2012 Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest has a partnership with Michael Tozzi's ijazzglobal.com to bring the music of the Berks Jazz Fest to fans.
Diane Dayton’s podcasts & Cool Cast interviews with Berks Jazz Fest artists
Jazz media personality Diane Dayton also continues to present her “Cool Cast” interviews which are on podcasts and video. Listen to podcast interviews with Berks Jazz Fest artists.
Diane Dayton also has posted videos of interviews she has done with artists who have performed at past Berks Jazz Fests (from 2008-2011) on her You Tube channel.
About the Berks Jazz Fest
For over two decades, jazz fans from all over the U.S. and around the world visit the Berks Jazz Fest in Reading, PA to enjoy the great music, the warm community-feeling, the outlet shopping, and other cultural experiences.
Each year, about 40,000 visitors over 10 days attend the Berks Jazz Fest from the U.S., Canada, Europe, and around the globe. The festival has about 400 volunteers who help the festival run smoothly and has great venues from small nightclubs to hotel ballrooms, traditional concert theaters, and more.
There are over a 100 events including more than 40 ticketed shows and 60 non-ticketed events (free shows, some at local venues including restaurants which may have a cover charge). Often, fans attend “meet and greets” to have CDs signed by their favorite musicians and by newly discovered talent.
Tickets & Hotel Information
For a full list of ticketed events see: http://www.berksjazzfest.com/ticketedevents.htm
For artist information, check the artists’ individual artist websites, and also see the following link: http://www.berksjazzfest.com/artistsprofiles2012.htm
Tickets for the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest, which range in price from $15 to $55 each, can be purchased in three ways:
1) Visit www.ticketmaster.com, 2) call Ticketmaster at 1-215-336-2000 or toll-free in the U.S. at: 1-800-653-8000 or 1-800-745-3000, or 3) in person at the Sovereign Center Box Office located at 136 N. Sixth Street in Reading, PA.
For information on tickets, seating charts, directions, hotels, or how to become a sponsor, check the following links:
There are also a number of educational activities associated with the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest, sponsored by the Berks Arts Council.
From March 16-18, 2012, a week before the Fest, there is the 11th annual Gerald Veasley Bass Boot Camp weekend at the Crowne Plaza Reading with workshops for bass players of all ages. The Bass Boot Camp with over 9 faculty including Veasley, has had over 800 students participate in the last decade.
You can see an interview that Gerald Veasley did with Diane Dalton during the 2010 Berks Jazz Fest about Gerald Veasley’s Bass Boot Camp in the U.S. and Canada, and on the Capital Jazz Cruise, as well as his Electric Mingus Project.
Recently before this year’s 2012, Diane Dalton interviewed Gerald Veasley for a podcast about his upcoming performances at the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest – including hosting the four weekend midnight jam sessions at his club Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base, and in the WFMZ Jazz Stars and the Berks All Star Jazz Jam shows! Dalton also spoke with Veasley about his latest new business venture www.fanwavemedia.com.
This year, there are special concerts related to Gerald Veasley’s Bass Boot Camp. On Friday, March 16 at 8 pm is a show "The Art of Strings," featuring bassist Gerald Veasley, violinist Jonathan Blake and guitarist Jimmy Bruno (tickets are $20 at the door). On Saturday, March 17th at 8 pm is a concert "The Music of Jaco Pastorius," featuring Gerald Veasley, Victor Bailey and other bass players.
From March 16-31st, there is a schedule of educational activities during the 2012 Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest – from Berks Jazz Fest Jams with Jazz educators and students , to Berks Jazz Fest for Kids shows, to performances by the Berks High School All-Star Jazz Band, to a Get JazzED IV workshop program at Reading Senior High School.
Berks Jazz Fest merchandise
Berks Jazz Fest typically uses two logos. The Festival’s official pink neon logo, used since 1991, appears on all of the Fest’s advertising and website and was originally designed by Mike Anderson, a founding partner in The Anderson Group (a strategic marketing communications firm).
The second logo for the Berks Jazz Fest changes every year and appears on the Fest’s variety of attractive merchandise souvenirs (tee-shirts, caps, etc.) sold to enthusiastic music fans.
This year’s 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest merchandise logo is designed once again by Pennsylvania-based contemporary pop artist Todd Walk. The multicolored, whimsical pastel designs created by Todd Walk delight music and art fans alike and have been sold across the U.S. for the past 20 years.
Todd Walk has designed many previous Berks Jazz Fest merchandise logos, including the 2011 four quadrant multi instrumental logo, the 2010 Four Guitars, and others such as the 2004 Three Saxophones.
The chic-looking 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest logo designed by Todd Walk is based on a photo by Andrew Lepley of a tenor saxophone resting on a black piano bench next to part of a black grand piano. Andrew Lepley is Berk’s Jazz Fest’s official photographer.
After Todd Walk created the original pastel, Lisa Johnson, Art Director for the Berks Jazz Fest (and the Reading Eagle newspaper), took Walk’s work and developed different versions to meet the Lasting Image production company’s specifications for screen printing and embroidery to produce the great selection of attractive merchandise available for sale at the Fest.
Outlet and Local Shopping in the Berks Jazz Fest area
In addition to the Festival’s logo merchandise, visitors can also shop between the shows in the venue lobbies for other products such as attractive crafts (e.g. from jewelry to lamp shades), often with musical and jazz themes.
Also, within a ten or fifteen minutes drive from most of the festival’s venues, visitors will find the VF (Vanity Fair) Outlet stores which carry designer and brand name from clothing to household goods .
There is also shopping on Penn Avenue in the city of Reading, as well as a variety of restaurants and hotels.
Berks Jazz Fest Management
Over the years, the Berks Jazz Fest management team working with the Berks Arts Council has been very stable with valuable experience, which is a great strength in producing the Festival.
According to an article in the Reading Eagle newspaper, John Ernesto, General Manager of the Fest said that “Berks Jazz Fest has a $7 million to $10 million impact on the community. This festival is a partnership with the business community, the hotel community and the volunteer community. We couldn't exist without that."
The 2012 Berks Jazz Fest management staff include:
Berks Arts Council (BAC) board President: Craig Rosenfeld; Festival Chairperson: Ted Bassano; BAC staff including Bob Coleman, Karen Haver and Gary Spencer, and; Festival General Manager John Ernesto; Talent Coordination/Booking John Ernesto and Gary Spencer; Production Manager Gary Spencer; Sponsorship development committee chair: Craig Rosenfeld; Marketing: John Ernesto, Lisa Johnson; Publicity Director Dana L. Hoffman; Ticketing: SMG; Transportation Manager: Chuck Koch; Youth/Educational Activities: Chris Heslop, Shannon Sunday, Doug Matz, Andrea Stover, Rick Dietrich, Charlie DiCarne, Dustin Shirk, Dan Long, Mike Eben, and Carl Zeplin.
The mission of the Berks Arts Council is “to encourage and promote all the arts, to develop an appreciation of the arts and to enrich and enhance the quality of life through education, presentation and collaborations with other arts organizations.”
The Berks Arts Council receives funding from a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Berks Arts Council is located at GoggleWorks Center for the Arts, 201 Washington Street, Suite 523 Reading, PA 19603 Phone: 610-898-1930; Fax: 610-898-1932.