Berks Jazz Fest 2007: Celebrating the Life & Music of Luther Vandross

Berks07_LutherTribute1.jpgSunday evening it was time for one of the true highlights of the festival: the star-studded Celebrating the Life & Music of Luther Vandross, put together by Jason Miles realizing another "once in history" event summoning artists who have played and worked for years with the late Luther Vandross, resulting in an evening which really deserved naming himself to be a Luther tribute. Present in the audience was Luther's mother, a fact which made it even more special and personal. The band consisted of long-time members of Luther's band, among them the long time musical director and keyboard player Nat Adderley, Jr, drummer Buddy Williams, bass player Tinker Barfield, percussionist Steve Kroon, guitarist Doc Powell and last but not least Jason Miles on keyboards, who worked with Luther for many years as well. The band played two instrumentals, one featuring the smooth guitar playing of Doc Powell, before the saxophonist Walter Beasley came to the stage to give us his renditions of "So Amazing" and "Creepin'". Then it was James "D Train" Williams who has a similar voice like Luther singing a heartfelt version of"You Turn Me On", followed by Sharon Bryant singing the touching "Dance With My Father", followed by Doc Powell again, you could feel the bond all of them had with Luther. Several of the artists shared some insightful stories about their time with Luther shedding some light on him as a person. One of the highlights of the concert was the appearance of saxophonist extraordinaire Kirk Whalum who played "Give Me The Reason" to great effect. Later he adressed the problem of diabetes and stroke - the cause of Luther's untimely death - and asked to support the Power To End Stroke campaign. Next highlight was the appearance of living legend Dionne Warwick who sang "What The World Needs Now", �Anyone Who Had a Heart� and the Luther classic "A House Is Not A Home", resulting in a very memorable performance by a true icon of American culture. Next was Cissy Houston, being in the 70ies also, giving us her takes of �Bridge Over Troubled Water� and "Amazing Grace" accompanied by the gospel-drenched piano of Nat Adderley, Jr. Later Jason Miles got the chance to shine on his hammond organ before the concert was concluded with a reunion of all artists involved for the rousing finale of a truly memorable evening.