Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Miles of Motown

Berks2006_Horns.jpgFans come from miles away to see the talented group of artists who descend upon Reading each year during the Berks Jazz Festival. And sometimes they come not only FROM miles away, but TO SEE Miles -- Jason Miles, that is, leader extraordinnaire of musicians who enjoy rallying around themes of musical memories honoring musical icons of the past. Last year it was Miles to Miles, a tribute to Miles Davis. This year, a tribute to the best of Motown and Marvin Gaye, and what a great line-up players Miles brought together for this endeavor.

Headliners in the show were guitarists Nick Colionne, Peter White, saxophone players Jay Beckenstein and Candy Dulfer, singers Bobby Caldwell, Guide De Palma, Kevin Mahogany, rising talent Dominick Farinacci on trumpet, and Brazililan keyboardist Cesar Camargo Mariano. Added to this group were backup singers Mike Mattison (who sang out front for great renditions of "Please Don't Leave Me" and "Heavy Love Affair") and Emily Bindiger. Miles, of course, was on keyboard, and his house band for the night included Sherrod Barnes on guitar, Jonathan Maron on bass guitar, drummer Gene Lake, and Bashiri Johnson as percussionist.

Berks2006_NickColionne.jpgThroughout the night were various combinations of artists and as the night went on, we learned that quite a few of the songs had been immediately claimed by the artists as 'the one' they wanted to make their own. And it happened for them each time. With each song being sung or performed by someone with such a passion for that particular song, there were explosions of melody and improvisational journeys.

The evening began with a few numbers featuring Miles and his band, then settled into the chosen set of songs of Motown. Dominick Farinacci gave us a taste of his talent, then was joined by Kevin Mahogany and Peter White on "Never Can Say Goodbye," followed by Kevin and Nick Colionne on "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." By this time the audience could feel the high-energy evening this promised to be. Peter White returned later to play "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" and "You Keep Me Hanging On," and the audience couldn't help but sing along, watching his infectious enjoyment of these songs. Nick Colionne came back to play "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," and the crowd warmed so much to his straight from the heart, soulful playing.

Berks2006_WhiteColionne.jpgJay Beckenstein of Spyro Gyra joined Brazilian keyboard player Mariano as Guide De Palma sang "Too Busy Thinkin' 'Bout My Baby" and "I Want You." These were great moments of the night, too, lots of movement and energy on stage and lots of fun interaction between the players. Jay Beckenstein was later joined by Candy Dulfer for "Mercy, Mercy Me," a truly awesome performance by both of them. Dulfer played a few other numbers herself; her talent and years of playing were quite evident, and she seemed to thoroughly enjoy being part of this tribute and the Berks Jazz Fest.

Bobby Caldwell made "Distant Lover" and "Til You Come Back" his own and it was a pleasure to see him up there, he's such a steady and capable entertainer. He had a dynamic performance with Palma on "Ain't That Peculiar" which really sent the crowd into yet another frenzy of excitement!

The show closed with "What's Goin' On?" and even after nearly three hours, both those on stage and in the audience seemed refreshed and renewed by this trip down memory lane.

Let's hope Jason Miles keeps on with his tradition of providing us with opportunities to look back and remember.

Happy Jazzin'

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

Photo Credits: Michael Packard