by Beverly J. Packard
Now that winter is fast approaching and thoughts are turning to the upcoming Berks Jazz Fest, I don't want to let this time go by without paying tribute to more of the great shows that occurred this past summer during the Berks Summer Jazz Series.
On July 28th, just when we thought the heat of summer was too much to bear, Reading was blessed with cooler weather. Along with cooler breezes, JAARED arrived at the Gerald Veasley Jazz Base. With his great blend of songs, he and his very tight band made a lasting impression.
Jaared is a high energy performer and each of his songs is marked with a very captivating beat. The length of time he can hold a note is surpassed only by the long route he can take to the end of a song. In fact, Jaared travels a longer route to the last note of a song than any artist I know, but what an interesting journey it is.
Songs included 'Happy Times,' an upbeat tune heavily influenced by David Sanborn, with great guitar and vocals. There was a stunning rendition of 'Maputo,' a song from Sanborn's Double Vision album with Bob James; this included quite a performance by Eli Staples, keyboard player who played with Ashanti and who is now Jaared's #1 choice for this instrument.
After a few songs, Jaared told us he was loving it so far at the Jazz Base and thanked us for indulging the band, who he said "has few guidelines or chords written down, so that we never know what we're going to do." The crowd didn't mind that at all and gladly followed wherever the band's improvisational style carried them. Jaared was so appreciative of Reading's efforts to help him put on a successful concert that he also took a moment to present flowers to one of the Stage Right crew members who's been especially helpful.
'Ibiza' was a wonderful song with awesome solos, and during a portion of it, Jaared was down on his knees, Richard Elliot style. From there he played a song from his new CD, entitled 'Love Taken Over,' and then launched into all-time Hall and Oates' favorite 'Sarah Smile.' To my surprise, he sang this one, and I was impressed with his talent as a vocalist.
The second set included 'Search Light,' featuring a great drum solo by Raice McLeod, who is from New Zealand and has played with Olivia Newton John, followed by 'Moonbeams.' Bass guitarist Doc Samba led the band into 'Chicken' and a great time of jamming. Stan Cooper, sought-after guitarist who has played with everyone you can think of, demonstrated his tremendous talent. The rendition of 'Superstar,' a personal favorite of mine, was mesmerizing, and a great lead-in to 'I'll Be There,' which Jaared turned into a lullaby while traveling to all corners of the club. What a crowd pleaser he is.
The band ended the night with a heart-warming rendition of the Star Spangled Banner followed by 'Hang Time' from Jaared's latest CD of the same title. It was an energetic ending to an energizing night.
I thought he put together an excellent blend of songs for the show. Not only the combination of uptempo and reflective, but the blend of original and cover tunes was very satisfying. I love to hear artists play their own compositions and I also enjoy hearing what they do with familiar favorites of mine. Contemporary nostalgia at its best!
Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Photo Credits: Michael C. Packard