Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Berks All-Star Jazz Jam

Thursday night was the Berks All-Star Jazz Jam, led by guitarist Chuck Loeb and trumpet player Rick Braun, which is a favorite with the Berks Jazz Fest crowd for years, the concert consequently was sold out. We got an incredible amount of talent amassed on the stage of the Crowne Plaza ballroom, all the players gathered for the lengthy opening track, Stanley Turrrentine's "Sugar" that gave each one some solo space. Next to the two above mentioned hosting players, we got bassists Gerald Veasley and Brian Bromberg, drummer Lionel Cordew, keyboardists David Benoit and Matt King, saxophonists Mindi Abair, Andrew Neu and Gerald Albright, guitarists Nick Colionne, Dean Brown and Jeff Golub, violinist Karen Briggs plus singer/guitarist David Pack and Brian Culbertson on trombone. After the opening song, they broke up the lineup in smaller groups to feature the players more individually. Andrew Neu and Karen Briggs were featured on Freddie Hubbard's "Little Sunflower", before David Benoit and Dean Brown were the featured players on Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man", complete with a trademark bass solo by Brian Bromberg on his acoustic bass. Next was a slow burning version of "Summertime" that featured saxophonist Mindi Abair who really put her heart into it, plus Jeff Golub who added his share of slow blues guitar, this song was one of the highlights of the evening. Next was the Crusaders classic "Put It Where You Want It" with Jeff Golub taking care of the guitar part and Brian Culbertson adding some great trombone playing to it, another fun song that had the audience clap along. They finished the first set with a latin version of Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" that featured the great sax playing of Gerald Albright and a virtuoso piano solo by Matt King.

After the intermission, they continued with a great bluesy tune that featured Dean Brown extensively, he puts his heart and soul into every note he plays, he was a very welcome addition to the jam. Next was "Canteloupe Island" by Herbie Hancock, that featured Brian Culbertson on the trombone and Rick Braun on trumpet. Another highlight was Grover Washington, Jr.'s "Mr. Magic" that featured the three sax players Mindi Abair, Andrew Neu and Gerald Albright, taking this song to another level. Later during the show, things were slowed down with Rick Braun singing "Body And Soul", just accompanied by Chuck Loeb on guitar, before David Pack did the Beatles song "Get Back", eventually everybody was summoned to the stage to do "Let The Good Times Roll". This brought a great show to an end, they played for almost two and half hours, but time flew during this entertaining and varied show by an awesome bunch of world class players.