Berks Jazz Fest 2011: Chuck Loeb & Friends

Wednesday evening, I attended a show at the packed Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Crowne Plaza hotel tagged The Bebop Sessions, it was led by guitarist Chuck Loeb and featured Rick Braun, Randy Brecker, Brian Bromberg, Gerald Albright, Ada Rovatti and Philippe Saisse. There was not a smooth jazz track in sight, instead this band of world class players provided a program of straight ahead material with lots of excellent solos. It was quite a treat to experience those artists in the intimate setting of a club teaming up for a fun evening of jazz.

The first track featured each member of the band, later the band was broken up a bit to allow for various combinations of soloists. Guitarist Chuck Loeb coordinated the efforts and directed the players, while Brian Bromberg stuck the whole evening to his acoustic bass, which was the appropriate choice for this musical material, but this didn't hinder him to provide some outstanding solos. He seemed to feel very comfortable and anchored the band in a sovereign manner, together with drummer Lionel Cordew - who usually plays with Chieli Minucci & Special EFX - doing an outstanding job. All players seemed to have a lot of fun, a relaxed atmosphere permeated the show, I enjoyed to hear my favorite saxophonist Gerald Albright to stretch out a little more, while Ada Rovatti on tenor sax was firmly rooted in the bebop tradition and must have felt very comfortable in this setting. Randy Brecker showed his impeccable technique and hardly missed a note, while fellow trumpet player Rick Braun proved to be a skilled straight ahead player on trumpet and flugelhorn as well. At the end of the show, he sang a heartfelt version of "Body & Soul", complete with a solo on the muted trumpet. Philippe Saisse alternated on keyboards and grand piano and provided some great solos as well. The material covered included "Groovin' High" and "Night In Tunisia" by Dizzy Gillespie, "Joy Spring" by Clifford Brown, "52nd Street Theme" plus a few Charlie Parker tracks (among them "My Little Suede Shoes"). The concert had an intermission and lasted well over two overs, it was of the kind you only can experience at the Berks Jazz Festival.