Berks Jazz Fest 2007: Joyce Cooling and Nelson Rangell & Philippe Saisse Acoustique Trio

Sunday afternoon we were ready to receive two full length concerts under the banner of Smooth Jazz 92.7 Fan Appreciation Concert featuring Joyce Cooling and Nelson Rangell & Philippe Saisse Acoustique Trio. The event took place at the Sheraton and was well attended.

Berks07_Cooling.jpgThe show was opened by the lovely Joyce Cooling and her band featuring her long time partner Jay Wagner on keys, along with longtime drummer Billy Johnson and a great bass player. Joyce Cooling looks back on a catalog spanning 7 CDs - a thing she admitted not to have expected at the beginning of her career - allowing her to draw from a lot of material. Among the songs they played was the catchy "Daddy-O", the nice "Savannah" and the heartfelt and very personal "Revolving Door" from her current CD for which she sat down on the edge of the stage. Having her brother suffering from mental illness she decided to make people aware of this problem, thus partnering with the National Alliance on Mental Illness and donating parts of the proceeds from her CD and merchandise sales to them, besides the title of her latest CD refers to this topic. The band was in fine form and Joyce played it hot and cool, showing considerable chops and sense for melody and groove. A little samba-style percussion interlude created quite some heat and added some spice, while the solo performance of Joyce just singing and playing her guitar to express her appreciation for the support of the audience for her music made a special impression. This was a solid set by a seasoned band that knows how to please a crowd.

Berks07_SaisseRangell.jpgAfter a short intermission the stage was ready for Nelson Rangell, backed by the great Philippe Saisse Acoustique Trio featuring David Finck on acoustic bass and Scooter Warner on drums. Obviously Nelson Rangell was called for the gig and asked Philippe Saisse to back him up, admittedly playing together for the first time. The pairing of Nelson Rangell and Philippe Saisse worked very well together, the trio providing the flexible backdrop for Nelson to play his flute and sax to great effect. Nelson Rangell is an incredible player constantly striving for perfection in all aspects of his art. Each time I hear him he blows me away with his chops and sound, truly a world class player. The selection of songs ranged from "Dolphin" featuring flawless flute playing by Nelson, the EWF classic "September", both from Philip Saisse's The Body And Soul Sessions, while Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing" and Hampton Hawes' "Sonora" were from Rangell's My American Songbook, Vol. 1. The latter song was a true highlight of the concert having Nelson Rangell whistling the song in the most subtle and intense way, adding some great piccolo flute playing in the end - pure magic! While Philippe Saisse was a bit more in the background, he delivered some great acoustic piano playing and anchored the top notch band, who also shone on their instruments delivering some outstanding solos on acoustic bass and drums respectively. I wonder what the future holds for these two artists who both seem to work very well together. This was a superlative concert by two underrated players.