Confessions of a Columnist

Anyone visiting here at smoothvibes can see that my focus is different from that of my esteemed co-writers on this site. I say esteemed with utmost sincerity because I am truly in awe of the musical knowledge, grasp of terminology and the ability to pull so much good information together in such interesting ways as they demonstrate here time and again. It�s quite a learning experience for me to be here and simply read what they have written. In a sense I�m the grateful little sister tagging along!

My emphasis, far from grading music or giving the history of the origin of a CD, is on the person of the performer. I suppose this column could be called �The Concert Experience.� I�m interested in things like audience connection and using word pictures to capture the artist for the readers. I have a genuine liking and enthusiasm for this music, so you will rarely hear me bringing up the negatives, though I suppose they exist, as in every facet of life.

In contemporary jazz, there is so much about which to write, so much that can be said. One of the things I�ve noticed within the community of jazz artists is how they flow into and out of each others� CDs. As I have gotten to know many artists (if not by face and by sound, then at least by name), I enjoy the huge system of support they have for each other. They may record one or more numbers on a CD together and they may perform a limited tour of concerts together. Artists who experience major success often 'paid their dues' over the years on the CDs and in the concerts of other influential artists/bands. One of my favorite things to do when acquiring a new CD is to see �who� played on each song. Sometimes there are many artists on just one CD, and it's challenging to figure out my �known artists� on the CD, take some educated guesses about the rest of the artists, then check it out on the liner notes.

One gets to know the distinctive, signature sounds of individual artists such as Warren Hill, Paul Taylor, Richard Elliot, Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole, and Dave Koz on the saxophone. As for guitar, I�ve got the differences down between Jeff Golub, Russ Freeman, Chieli Minucci, Marc Antoine, Earl Klugh, Peter White (usually), with Steve Oliver, Doc Powell, and Brian Tarquin not far behind. On keyboard, I can spot Brian Culbertson, David Benoit and Pieces of a Dream player James Lloyd . And the differences I mention are not tied to recognizing a song the artist plays, but rather,it's the style of playing that I�m often able to place. I feel so �with it� when I�m right! And I�m certain I�m not alone in this little game I play!

By the way, can some of you pick out the style of Gil Parris on guitar? Or Amedeo Bianchi on saxophone? Or Tom Grant on piano? These are three artists you should get to know if you haven�t already done so! Watch for my interviews with each of them in the Jazz Personality column. Next up in Berks Jazz Vibes is a piece on that favorite of all my favorite artists; I�ll keep you guessing as to who that could be. Following that will be a summary of the star-studded line-up of the 15th Annual Berks Jazz Fest, coming up March 11, 2005!

And now, to imitate my musical brothers here, I'll list what�s in my CD player this week:

John McLaughlin and his Mahavishnu Orchestra
Eric Byak�s Journey of the Heart (so glad he decided to record one of his own!)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra plays T-Square
Quintana and Speer Shades of Shadow
Crusaders' Scratch (can�t say enough about that rendition of Carole King�s �So Far Away,� oh my!)

BeverlyPackard.jpgHappy Jazzin�

Beverly Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania