Berks Jazz Fest 2011: All-Star Jazz Jam

Thursday night, our favorite, the Berks All-Star Jazz Jam, took place at the Crowne Plaza Ballroom, this year the concert was featuring Chuck Loeb, Rick Braun, Gerald Veasley, Brian Bromberg, Gerald Albright, Euge Groove, Andrew Neu, Ada Rovatti, Randy Brecker, Chieli Minucci, Philippe Saisse, Selina Albright, Karen Briggs, Lionel Cordew, Frank Vignola and Larry Braggs. As you can imagine, the stage was crammed at times with all performers joined together. Chuck Loeb, aided by Rick Braun, led through the show. They started out with all the players covering "Night Train", originally done by Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery, although after a brief argument with Rick Braun, who preferred the funky James Brown version, they agreed to do the track both swinging and funky. This song gave several of the players some solo space, especially Karen Briggs' enthusiastic solo on the violin had the crowd cheer along. Next was the Crusaders' classic "Put It Where You Want It" that featured Chuck Loeb, Euge Groove and Gerald Veasley. Then they did their rendition of Miles' "So What" where Randy Brecker and Gerald Albright could shine. Then "Footprints" by Wayne Shorter that highlighted Ada Rovatti and Rick Braun was delivered with some great solos by all involved, Brian Bromberg did a funky solo on the electric bass. Frank Vignola on guitar and Karren Briggs on violin were the featured players on next song, they delivered a heartfelt version of "Summertime" which was a highlight of the show, notable was a great acoustic bass solo by Brian Bromberg. They finished the first set with a funky rendition of "The Chicken".

After the intermission, the band played the Stanley Turrentine classic "Sugar" featuring Rick Braun on trumpet and Andrew Neu on saxophone. Then "Canteloupe Island" was covered, it featured Euge Groove on sax and Brian Bromberg on bass - who did this track on his Downright Upright CD - and Chieli Minucci on the electric guitar. Breaking things down a little bit, all the guitar players were summoned onto the stage to perform an unplugged version of "Sweet Georgia Brown", along with Karen Briggs on the violin, which provided a nice change of pace. Keeping things slow, Selina Albright sang "Nature Boy", only accompanied by her father Gerald Albright on sax and Philippe Saisse on keyboards. This heartfelt rendition of this classic song was another highlight of the show. The evening was wrapped up with the funky TOP classic "What Is Hip" that reunited all the players and had TOP singer Larry Braggs join the band, this was an uplifting finale of a memorable evening.