The FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest and Heads Up International have been associated throughout the festival's run. Riding in tandem has produced a remarkable journey, one that reaches its zenith this year.���
The 17th annual Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 16-25 and features the best in contemporary jazz, traditional jazz, big band and blues at more than 130 events at venues, large and small, throughout Reading and Berks County.
An incredible day and night during that magical 10-day riff transpires on Saturday, March 17, with both An Afternoon and An Evening of Heads Up featuring Pieces of a Dream, Bobby Lyle, Marion Meadows, Alexander Zonjic, Gerald Veasley and Doc Powell. There will be two shows that Saturday at 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. at the Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom. Tickets are $38 and $33.
Doc Powell, a gifted guitarist, is the latest addition to this star-studded concert, rearranging his schedule to add even more juice to a high-energy endeavor. Powell also will be performing in the festival�s special tribute concert to Luther Vandross on Sunday, March 18, at 7 p.m. at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center.
Heads Up label president Dave Love is excited about showcasing a number of his high-profile artists in one spectacular Saturday setting at the Sheraton. "These are artists who rarely perform together in any other context, which promises an eclectic and exciting afternoon and evening of jazz," Love said. "The Berks Jazz Fest has provided the Heads Up label with the creative platform -- and the programming latitude -- to experiment with various styles and shades of the rich and multi-dimensional jazz spectrum."
And what Heads Up artists Love has to work with at the Berks Jazz Fest.
Doc Powell, a member of Luther Vandross' touring and recording band for many years, recently released his third CD project on Heads Up. Over the years he has traversed from one genre to another without losing a beat. He has contributed to over 125 recordings with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Teddy Pendergrass. He also has performed with such jazz greats as Lonnie Liston-Smith, Bob James, Grover Washington Jr. and Stanley Clark and with such gospel superstars as Shirley Caesar, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, Ce Ce Winans, Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin and Kirk Franklin.����
Pieces of a Dream is one of the most popular and enduring recording and touring ensembles in contemporary jazz. Its 15th and most recent album is 2006's Pillow Talk.
Pianist Bobby Lyle is a versatile songwriter, producer, arranger, musical director, music publisher, bandleader, sideman and tops all of that off by being a world-class performer. Lyle made jazz history with 2004's Straight and Smooth, the first CD ever to chart on Billboard's Jazz and Contemporary Jazz charts at the same time. He made his Heads Up debut in 2006 with Hands On.
Flutist Alexander Zonjic performs in over 100 shows a year and still finds the time to be a part owner of a Detroit nightclub and host of a popular five-day-a-week morning show on Detroit's Smooth Jazz V98.7. His latest Heads Up CD is 2004's star-studded Seldom Blues.
Saxophonist Marion Meadows has one of smooth jazz's hottest solo careers and also has been a celebrated sideman with Brook Benton, Eartha Kitt, Phyllis Hyman, The Temptations, Michael Bolton and Will Downing. His latest Heads Up work is 2006's Dressed To Chill.�
Gerald Veasley, one of contemporary's jazz's most prolific and versatile bassists, founded Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel. He launched his career with the late, legendary Grover Washington Jr. and has recorded for Heads Up since 1992's Look Ahead. He recorded At The Jazz Base! at the club in November 2004.
Among the other headliners at this year's festival are Boney James; David Sanborn; Guitars & Saxes featuring Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, Jeff Golub and Tim Bowman; Dave Brubeck; Nelson Rangell; Philippe Saisse; Joyce Cooling; Pat Martino; Mindi Abair; Chuck Loeb; Ann Hampton Callaway; Denis DiBlasio Quintet; Gerald Veasley�s Electric Mingus Project with John Blake Jr.; Kevin Mahogany; David Liebman; the Sax Pack featuring Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters and Steve Cole; Warren Hill; Nick Colionne;� Gordon Goodwin�s Big Phat Band; and the Berks All-Star Jazz Jam.
Two very special ensemble concerts being produced for the festival by music director and keyboardist Jason Miles are:
Celebrating the Life and Music of Luther Vandross, the late, multi-talented singer/songwriter, will be Jason Miles, Doc Powell, co-music director Nat Adderley Jr., Dionne Warwick, Kirk Whalum, Walter Beasley, James "D Train" Williams, Cissy Houston, Lisa Fischer; Paulette McWilliams, Buddy Williams, Tinker Barfield and Cindy Mizell.
The world premiere Soul Summit concert, with a rousing tribute finale to the late James Brown, features Jason Miles along with Susan Tedeschi, Maysa Leak, Richard Elliot, Mike Mattison, Karl Denson, Barry Danielian, Steve Ferrone, Bob Babbitt, Reggie Young, Sherrod Barnes, David Mann and turntablist DJ Logic.
Another major ensemble event is the 17th Anniversary Concert, Rick Braun & Friends, featuring Richard Elliot, Jonathan Butler, Jackiem Joyner and Rayford Griffin.
Blues headliners include the Keb' Mo' Band, Bettye LaVette, Frank Bey & The Swing City Blues Band, Smokin' Joe Kubek, Bnois King, Billy Price and Deanna Bogart.
Indeed, the FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest has something special for everybody.
More infos at the Berks Jazz Fest site.