Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Bill Evans' Soulgrass

Berks08_Soulgrass.jpgWednesday evening the pace of the festival started to pick up again with the performance of saxophone great Bill Evans and his Soulgrass project trying to fuse jazz and bluegrass. The concert was held at the ballroom of the Abraham Lincoln hotel. His band consisted of Joel Rosenblatt on drums, Christian Howes on violin, Sam Bush on mandolin, Ryan Cavanaugh on banjo and a bass player whose name I didn't catch. Bill Evans seems to have a lot of fun with this music which leaned heavily on the bluegrass side, the jazz elements were just scattered across the music but unfortunately were not too prevalent. For the most part, I felt like being at a country & western concert, desperately seeking the jazz element. At least we got a few nice solos by all involved and the level of artistry nevertheless had to be recognized, I enjoyed in particular Sam Bush's distorted solos on the electric mandolin and Christian Howes plucking his amplified electric violin like a rock guitar. But the artist I came to see in the first place, Bill Evans, was just in a happy hillbilly mood which couldn't quench my thirst for jazz.