Berks Jazz Fest 2011: Joey De Francesco

This year's Berks Jazz Fest started for me Friday evening at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base in the Crowne Plaza hotel, the intimate jazz club hosting smaller concerts, with the first set by organist Joey De Francesco (he had a second one at 10pm). This well known Hammond B3 player was accompanied by his longtime band members Byron Landham on drums and the excellent Paul Bollenback on guitar who took us on a trip through the vast repertoire of the leader. As Joey De Francesco stated, the band doesn't have a set list, they know each other well enough to go through any song the leader feels playing without any rehearsals, so the whole concert is spontaneous and the result of the interaction between the artists and the audience, which I found a great concept. Apart from some classics, they played two songs from his latest release Never Can Say Goodbye: The Music of Michael Jackson ("Never Can Say Goodbye" and the title track), before they finished the show with a blues track. Each song involved longer improvisational parts and allowed each member of the band to shine, especially guitarist Paul Bollenback provided many inspired solos. This nice concert was a good start to the festivities.