Unique one-of-a-kind concerts highlight Berks Jazz Fest lineup

BerksJazzFest2006.jpgThe exclamation points punctuating the 16th annual FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest are several exceptional one-of-a-kind concerts featuring some of the top names in jazz ... special events produced to usher magic into souls.

The festival, presented by the Berks Arts Council, features the brightest constellation of stars in its history. And considering the staggering scale of its proud legacy, that's a galaxy of star power.

The Berks Jazz Fest runs March 17-26, 2006 at multiple venues throughout Berks County and is stocked with a lineup of artists deep and talented enough to merit considerable conversation. There's such a vibe throughout Berks during the festival it's as if everybody is celebrating birthdays at the same time and everybody is invited to the party.

Unique concerts being produced for Berks Jazz Fest include tributes to the music of Marvin Gaye and Motown; Brazilian legend Ivan Lins; and guitar great Wes Montgomery.

DianneReeves.jpgThe festival has a spectacular beginning with Grammy Award-winning vocalist Dianne Reeves and keyboard icon Joe Sample performing in a grand opening concert.

The 10-day lineup once again is an amazing palette, featuring a diversity of musical styles that includes contemporary jazz, traditional jazz, big band, blues, Latin jazz, swing jazz, and more. Such an effusive range and depth give the festival a singular appeal that is never dulled by time.

The Berks Jazz Fest's 16th Anniversary Concert undoubtedly will be cause for some serious jubilation among patrons. It spotlights the Music of Marvin Gaye & Motown. Gaye, the bestselling Motown artist of all time, utilized his soulful voice to help shape the Motown sound. The music of Gaye and Motown has had a profound impact on the soulful grooves and stylish vocals that define smooth jazz.

Producer/arranger/keyboardist Jason Miles is using his extraordinary talents to blend the exquisite talents of vocalist Bobby Caldwell, superstar guitarist Peter White, vocalist Kevin Mahogany, vocalist Guida DePalma, vocalist Mike Mattison of Derek Trucks Band fame, guitarist Nick Colionne, saxophonist Jay Beckenstein of Spyro Gyra fame, turntables master DJ Logic who is bringing jazz into the hip hop sphere, Brazilian pianist Cesar Camargo Mariano and Brazilian percussion master Bashiri Johnson.

JaneMonheit.jpgAnother enthralling special project being produced by Jason Miles for the festival is Ivan Lins & Friends, which features acclaimed Brazilian composer/pianist Ivan Lins himself, sensational vocalist Jane Monheit, renowned vocalist Brenda Russell, pianist/vocalist Eliane Elias, acclaimed saxophonist Nelson Rangell, Brazilian guitarist Homero Lubambo, guitarist Leonardo Avedo, percussionist Cyro Baptista, percussionist Vinny Colaiuta, David Letterman Band bassist Will Lee and top jazz trumpeter Tom Harrell.

The Tribute to Wes Montgomery promises to resonate with huge dollops of applause. It is being produced by Chuck Loeb, one of the best in the business. Marvelous guitarists joining Loeb are Pat Martino, Paul Jackson Jr., Larry Carlton, Russell Malone, Earl Klugh and Jimmy Bruno. A rhythm section of keyboardist Larry Goldings, drummer Vinny Colaiuta and bassist Will Lee will help rekindle the music of the jazz guitar great. Montgomery's fluid style and trademark use of octaves inspired many of today's most popular guitarists.

The fest's stellar lineup is populated with the jazz and blues elite, artists guaranteed to rattle the tectonic plates under the greater Reading area during the 10-day riff. And if you think that's mere hyperbole, well, you've never experienced the crackling energy the festival generates.

Providing the Berks Jazz Fest with plenty of musical substance, style and splendor are the likes of:

Dianne Reeves, one of the pre-eminent jazz vocalists in the world. She won a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance for each her last three recordings -- a Grammy first in any vocacategory. Reeves is heavily featured in this fall's movie with a big buzz, George Clooney's Good Night. And Good Luck. Clooney handpicked each song for the film's soundtrack, featuring Dianne on new renditions of such classics as "One For My Baby," "Straighten Up and Fly Right" and "Too Close for Comfort" as well as a new tune, "Who's Minding the Store." Reeves is noted for her powerful storytelling instinct, her breathtaking gift of improvisation and her unique blend of jazz and R&B stylings.

Joe Sample, the legendary pianist and composer who has been an integraand innovative part of jazz history.

Two esteemed composers/pianists in Ramsey Lewis, dubbed as the "the great performer", and David Benoit, who helped pioneer the contemporary jazz sound, performing with the Reading Pops Orchestra.

Charismatic trumpeter Rick Braun and sizzling saxophonist Richard Elliot performing together. These popular performers have captivated Berks Jazz Fest audiences over the years and teaming them up is sure to ignite a marvelous sound.

Culbertson_Tour.jpgDynamic multi-instrumentalist and fan favorite Brian Culbertson with special guest saxophonist Eric Darius. Culbertson, primarily a keyboardist, is a smooth jazz icon and he's notable for balancing a sense of cool seduction with one of the most energetic live shows in the genre. Darius is one of the hottest young stars in smooth jazz.

Legendary guitarist Chieli Minucci & Special EFX with special guest guitarist Ken Navarro.

Saxophonist Bob Mintzer of Yellowjackets fame.

The River City Brass Band, which masterfully combines the full richness of a symphony orchestra, the intimacy of a chamber ensemble and the swinging sound of a big band into an entertaining mix.

Eclectic guitarist Larry Carlton of Fourplay fame and the Blue Sapphire Band.

Guitarist Paul Jackson Jr., who excels as a solo artist, sideman and session player and is considered to be one of the funkiest, soulful and versatile guitarists in all of smooth jazz.

Renowned guitarist, composer, arranger, producer, educator and recording artist Chuck Loeb.

Superstar bassist and Berks Jazz Fest perennial Gerald Veasley, who has made Berks County his second home with his bass boot camp during the festival and the weekly Thursday jazz shows throughout the year at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel.

Internationally prominent and groundbreaking vocalist, composer and lyricist Kurt Elling, who will team up with Gerald Veasley.

KirkWhalum_live2.jpgSuperstar soulful saxophonists Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum, who share a mutual love for the music and legacy of Grover Washington Jr., teaming up and performing with one band.

The young faces of jazz: pianist prodigy Taylor Eigsti and precocious guitarist Julian Lage.

And the list of 2006 Berks Jazz Fest artists goes on with such luminaries as The Robert Cray Band that is ushering the blues idiom in the future; versatile saxophonist Najee, one of contemporary jazz's true pioneers; the legendary Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, featuring all-time great trombonist Buddy Morrow as conductor; Pieces of a Dream, one of the most popular and enduring recording and touring ensembles in contemporary jazz; guitarist/vocalist Steve Oliver; saxophonist Michael Paulo; superstar bassist Michael Manring; electric violinist Tracy Silverman; and Reading's own Grammy Award-winning guitarist David Cullen, a featured soloist in the 2006-2007 Windham Hill 30th Anniversary Winter Solstice Concerts.

JohnMayall.jpgAlso, dynamic guitarist Richard Smith's and talented keyboardist Freddie Ravel's Power Quartet; superstar urban smooth jazz saxophonist and trendsetter Kim Waters; jazz organ sensation Gene Ludwig's Trio featuring guitarist Dave Stryker and percussionist Vince Ector; dynamic jazz guitarist Carl Filipiak and his group in a special Jimi Hendrix tribute; jazz/blues pianist/vocalist Mose Allison, noted for his incredible stylistic diversity; blues guitarist Guy Davis; blues pianist/vocalist Marcia Ball, known as the bayou queen of the piano; blues guitarist Clarence Spady from nearby Scranton; blues and soul-drenched vocalist Deb Callahan and her band; the legendary Godfather of British blues John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, a group that served as a finishing school for such marquee blues rockers as guitarists Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor; the Mulgrew Miller Trio; Bona Fide featuring the smooth jazz vocals of Slim Man; and Jazz Goes to Church featuring accomplished pianist Cyrus Chestnut, marquee vocalist Kevin Mahogany and Kendrick Oliver & The New Life Jazz Orchestra.

Of course, the Berks All-Star Jam is a perennial must-see concert. This year's party features Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Chieli Minucci, Ken Navarro, keyboardist/vocalist Joe McBride, saxophonist Kenny Blake, drummer Steve Smith of Journey and Vital Information fame, and keyboardist Tom Coster of Santana and Vital Information acclaim, and more.

Plus, there's the Berks Jazz Fest Fantasy Camp Faculty Concert featuring Mulgrew Miller, Kurt Elling, Jimmy Bruno, Bob Mintzer, Steve Smith, trumpeter John Swana, bassist Christian McBride and more -- a must attraction for fans of more traditional jazz.

Little wonder that the Berks Jazz Fest regularly attracts 45,000-plus patrons from approximately 40 states, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, England and Europe ... jazz lovers who spend an estimated $5 million in Berks County during the festival.

Including a number of non-ticketed events, there likely will be over 130 concerts at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout the greater Reading area.

Yes, the Berks Jazz Fest figures to be a hyperkinetic 10 days guaranteed to raise eyebrows, waggle ears, generate sunbeam smiles, bob heads in rhythm and trigger hands to clap. Rapture, you know, does that to people.

Schedule of major ticketed events:

Friday, March 17 -- Dianne Reeves plus Joe Sample, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $45 and $38

Friday, March 17 -- The Inn of Blues: Mose Allison plus Guy Davis, Inn at Reading Ballroom, 8 p.m., $28

Friday, March 17 -- Pieces of a Dream, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $30

Saturday, March 18 -- Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $38

Saturday, March 18 -- The Inn of Blues: Marcia Ball plus Clarence Spady and Deb Callahan Band, Inn at Reading Ballroom, 7 p.m., $35

Saturday, March 18 -- Michael Manring, Tracy Silverman and David Cullen, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $12

Saturday, March 18 -- Ramsey Lewis & David Benoit with the Reading Pops Orchestra, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $45 and $38

Saturday, March 18 -- Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $38

Sunday, March 19 -- Jazz Goes to Church featuring Cyrus Chestnut, Kevin Mahogany and Kendrick Oliver & The New Life Jazz Orchestra, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $35

Sunday, March 19 -- 16th Anniversary Concert: The Music of Marvin Gaye & Motown featuring Jason Miles, Bobby Caldwell, Peter White, Kevin Mahogany, Guida DePalma, Mike Mattison, Nick Colionne, Jay Beckenstein, Gerald Albright, DJ Logic, Cesar Camargo Mariano, Bashiri Johnson and more, 7 p.m., $45 and $38

Monday, March 20 -- The Young Faces of Jazz: Taylor Eigsti and Julian Lage, Albright College Wachovia Theatre, 7:30 p.m., $15

Tuesday, March 21 -- Mulgrew Miller Trio, Albright College Wachovia Theatre, 7:30 p.m., $20

Wednesday, March 22 -- Berks Jazz Fest Fantasy Camp Faculty Concert: Mulgrew Miller, Kurt Elling, Christian McBride, Jimmy Bruno, Bob Mintzer, John Swana and Steve Smith, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom 7:30 p.m., $25

Thursday, March 23 -- Gene Ludwig Trio featuring Dave Stryker and Vince Ector, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $10

Thursday, March 23 -- Chieli Minucci & Special EFX featuring Ken Navarro and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $30

Thursday, March 23 -- Berks All-Star Jazz Jam featuring Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Chieli Minucci, Ken Navarro, Joe McBride, Kenny Blake, Steve Smith, Tom Coster and more, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $30

Friday, March 24 -- Gerald Veasley with special guest Kurt Elling, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $35

Friday, March 24 -- An Evening With Rick Braun & Richard Elliot, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $45 and $38

Friday, March 24 -- River City Brass Band, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $25 and $20

Friday, March 24 -- Jimi Hendrix Tribute: The Carl Filipiak Group, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 9 p.m., $15

Friday, March 24 -- Najee, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $30

Saturday, March 25 -- Larry Carlton & The Blue Sapphire Band plus Richard Smith & Freddie Ravel Power Quartet featuring special guest Kim Waters, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 1 p.m., $35

Saturday, March 25 -- Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $25

Saturday, March 25 -- Triad featuring Steve Oliver, Michael Paulo and Gerald Veasley, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., $35

Saturday, March 25 -- Ivan Lins & Friends featuring Ivan Lins, Jason Miles, Jane Monheit, Brenda Russell, Eliane Elias, Nelson Rangell, Homero Lubambo, Leonardo Avedo, Cyro Baptista, Vinny Colaiuta, Will Lee, Tom Harrell and more, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7 p.m., $45 and $38

Saturday, March 25 -- The Robert Cray Band, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $40 and $35

Saturday, March 25 -- John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $35

Saturday, March 25 -- Brian Culbertson with special guest Eric Darius, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $35

Sunday, March 26 -- WJJZ Smooth Jazz Sunday Brunch: Paul Jackson Jr., Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., $35

Sunday, March 26 -- Bona Fide featuring Slim Man, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel. 3 p.m., $20

Sunday, March 26 -- Tribute to Wes Montgomery: Chuck Loeb, Pat Martino, Paul Jackson Jr., Larry Carlton, Russell Malone, Earl Klugh and Jimmy Bruno plus a rhythm section of keyboardist Larry Goldings, drummer Vinny Colaiuta and bassist Will Lee, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $40 and $35