Straight AAs for Acoustic Alchemy on Opening Night at the Berks Jazz Fest!

Concert review by Beverly J. Packard

Friday, March 12 quickly became the most important date on my calendar for 2004. As jazz fans know, it's the start of the ten day Berks Jazz Fest, an event attended by people from locations near and very far away! It's become an international event, and what better band to schedule as part of opening night than Acoustic Alchemy who come to us from the UK!

Having only recently become familiar with their music, I soon realized that it was worth acquiring every CD and to become familiar with as much of their music as I could before the show. The CDs themselves were mesmerizing, so by Friday night at 10:30, I was on the edge of my seat eagerly awaiting the start of the show.

AA-Berks-2.jpgMy expectations and hopes for a truly great show were completely satisfied! The band played with sheer joy and enthusiasm and the audience responded in kind. In fact, I don't know when I saw a happier group of musicians who had a better time than did the members of this band tonight on opening night of the Berks Jazz Fest.

Their sound was really tight, each one's concentration and command of his own part was impeccable, and it is amazing to me how interesting it is to watch two guitarists play! (Not to mention watching the keyboard player, who was never still and totally absorbed in his playing; the bass player, who never sat down and seemed that he could play endlessly; the drummer, with his awesome talent and ready smile; and the sax player, Eddie, wow, I'll get to him in a minute.)

There was an easy and interesting transition from song to song. Anecdotes, humor and serious sharing of the evening with all of us was evident. Something I noticed all during their performance is that the ending to each song is done very distinctly, it's always crisp; the timing of some of those endings was truly unique.

The ready smiles were the thing I noticed most in addition to the music. And I was able to figure out where the smiles were coming from. Greg C is simply quite exhilarated to play his guitar and to be there. He has a handsome, boyish quality and it seems that he has found his love and it is music, and though you can tell he works very hard it all appears so effortless! Miles may look only one tad more serious, but that's because he's pondering the jokes he's going to tell over the course of the evening! He is an extremely witty guy! I had no idea that was coming, but he had the audience in stitches many times.

You'd have to hear Miles use the rest of the band members as his 'fodder' for jokes to realize the affectionate bond that must exist between these men. They are having as good a time as we are! The bass player did admit to me later that they never know what Miles is going to say next! Another talent of Miles� is that he has an amazing ability to sing his guitar part, too! I'm still wondering how he did that!

AA-Berks-5.jpgThe bass player, the keyboard player and the drummer were all highlighted in a number of songs and they rose to the occasion every time. Which brings me back to Eddie. I met him in the bar before the show, and he's a friendly, soft spoken guy with yes, another 'ready smile.' He seems pretty low key, but put that saxophone in his hands and wow, he's a dynamo of energy! What a burst of talent he showed us. He and Miles together are very entertaining!

Of course those of you who have seen them know all of this, but for me, it was all new, and it was very, very enjoyable for me this evening to see them live, to hear this wonderful talent! What a way to start the Jazz Fest! They opened with "The Last Flamenco" which was simply AAmazing and continued to include The "Beautiful Game", "Wish You Were Here", "Urban Cowboy", and "No Messin'" and "Milo" from their newest CD, Radio Contact. "Flamenco Loco" was the encore, and that led to totally fun and awesome twists and turns of their musicality and showmanship before they finally had to say their goodbye.

It was an experience just to see them line up, arms entwined, taking their two perfectly timed bows to the wild clapping and cheering of an appreciative audience. In fact, a good word for this band is just that: perfection.

I hope this gives you a flavor for the night, it was truly awesome. They played nearly two hours. And just as talented as they are musically, that's how friendly they are to their fans. The evening was a nice experience all the way around. A big �thank you� to the band members, which include: Greg Carmichael, nylon string guitar; Miles Gilderdale, steel string and electric guitar; Frank Felix, bass guitar; Tony White, keyboards; and Greg Grainger, drums.

Reviewed by:
Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
March 13, 2004