March 31, 2012

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Round Midnight Jam

At midnight, another issue of the Round Midnight Jam with Gerald Veasley & Friends was due at the Jazz Base. This is my festival favorite, because you never know what you'll get. Gerald Veasley was hosting the event inviting several artists who were present and willing to play. We got lengthy jams with plenty of solos, on drums were Richard Waller III, Curtis Harmon and Chris Miskell, on sax we got Elan Trotman, Andrew Neu, Gerald Albright, on bass were Gerald Veasley, Brian Bromberg and Scott Ambush, on keys was Tim Gant, on guitar were Nick Colionne, David P. Stevens and Dean Brown, plus a host of others. This was another great jam, there will be one more this Saturday night.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:52 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Mindi Abair with David Pack and Jeff Golub

Fridat at 10pm, saxophonist Mindi Abair appeared with vocalist/guitarist David Pack and guitarist Jeff Golub at the Crowne Plaza ballroom. Among the players were longtime band members Jay Gore on guitar and Jamie Tate on drums, they kicked off the show with the Ambrosia song "You're The Only Woman" that featured David Pack, then things got bluesy with Jeff Golub, before Mindi Abair did one of her songs. David Pack did "How Much I Feel", then it was again a Mindi Abair song and slow blues instrumental that had Jeff Golub play his heart out. For one track, surprise guest David Benoit was added to the band. They wrapped up the show with the inevitable "Biggest Part Of Me" featuring David Pack, his voice still has the sparkle, and Mindi Abair's signature song "Lucy", that brought a varied concert that went from pop to blues to smooth jazz to an end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:33 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Boney James

Friday evening was kicked off by Boney James at the Scottish Rite Cathedral who apparently did his 10th show at this festival, the house was packed and Boney did what he always does - deliver a solid show of urban grooves and smooth saxophone playing, supported by a top notch band. Among the players was bassist Dwayne "Smitty" Smith and keyboardist Mark Stephens, who really impressed me with his star-studded latest CD The Dream Of The Peaceful Warrior. The crowd connected quickly and there was this inexplicable feeling of mutual bond that Boney creates, every song was warmly received, he did a walk into the audience and played standing on one of the seats to the cheering crowd. For other, more romantic tracks, he selected a woman from the audience who had the privilege to hold his hand while he played or just was serenaded with his playing. Among the songs played was "All Night Long", Stevie Wonder's "Creepin'", Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" plus a host of songs from his vast catalog, they wrapped up the concert with "Grazing In The Grass". With a Boney show, you'll know what you get, and they delivered once again.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 2:52 PM

March 30, 2012

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.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:27 PM

March 29, 2012

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Chuck Loeb & Friends

Wednesday night, we got the fun-filled BeBop Sessions II led by guitarist Chuck Loeb at the Jazz Base in a nice club setting, which allowed being close to the players and experience the music more intimately. The band consisted of drummer Lionel Cordew, pianist Matt King, bassist Brian Bromberg, violinist Karen Briggs, trumpet player Rick Braun and saxophonist Gerald Albright. They set out to give us a night of straight ahead jazz with lots of improvisations, off the beaten path of smooth jazz. First track played was Charlie Parker's "Now Is The Time" that served as a vehicle for lengthy solos by Gerald Albright and the amazing Karen Briggs who knows no limitations on the violin. Next was Dizzy Gillespie's "Night In Tunisia" that gave Rick Braun some solo space, followed by Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite", before they finished the first set with Thelonius Monk's "Round Midnight" that featured Gerald Albright.

After the intermission, the show continued with Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee" that had Karen Briggs and Chuck Loeb play fast in union and again allowed Karen Briggs to show her considerable jazz chops. They had the audience help along with finger snapping and whistling to "My Little Suede Shoes", before Brian Bromberg was featured on his 300 years old acoustic bass on Miles Davis' "All Blues". Things were slowed down with the vocal "Body And Soul" featuring Rick Braun singing. They wrapped up the show with the Sonny Rollins composition "Sonnymoon For Two", that gave each one some solo space and brought a great to concert to an end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:12 PM

March 28, 2012

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Rick Braun & Reading Pops Orchestra

Sunday evening, there was a special concert at the Miller Center for the Arts featuring Rick Braun with the Reading Pops Orchestra in an evening tagged Rick Braun Sings With Strings. The orchestra led by conductor William Rapp opened the evening with a piece by Franz Lehár, before Rick Braun and band entered the stage. We got Philippe Saisse on piano, who also arranged the music, Mark McLean on drums, Ben Butler on guitar and David Finck on acoustic bass. Rick Braun opened the show on the flugelhorn, before starting to sing the first of many romantic songs that originated in the first half of the 20th century by writers like Leonard Bernstein and others, which were featured in musicals and films and have become part of the great American songbook. Among the songs done was "Time After Time", I Didn't Know What Time It Was", "Once Upon A Summertime", "Say It" and others. This kind of music fits the voice of Rick Braun very well, and his flugelhorn blended perfectly with the orchestra. At the end he went back to his smooth jazz roots and did "Grazing In The Grass", which was a crowd pleaser. It was a privilege to witness this show with a full orchestra on stage and a world class band performing those classic songs.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:38 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Chieli Minucci & Special EFX with Bernie Williams

Chieli Minucci & Special EFX with special guest Bernie Williams on guitar performed next, the band consisted of Lionel Cordew on drums, Jerry Brooks on bass, Jay Rowe on keyboards and Richie Cannata on sax. The two guitarists kicked off the show with an extended version of "Little Wing" alternating and feeding off of each other, building the song nicely, followed by a funky instrumental that had the band groove along with some fiery sax solos by Richie Cannata. Bernie Williams and Chieli Minucci are like-minded musicians who blend very well together, they played "Cause We've Ended As Lovers" beautifully leading the song to great climax, which had the crowd cheering. Next they played the title track from Bernie Williams' CD Movin' Forward, followed by "Ritmo De Otono" from the same album, featuring some heartfelt sax playing by Richie Cannata. Later they did "In Memory Of Elizabeth", a song Chieli Minucci always wanted to perform live, followed by "Kickin' It Hard", a classic Special EFX tune. As an encore, they brought violinist Karen Briggs to the stage to play "Cruise Control" with the band, bringing a truly enjoyable concert to an end. The inclusion of Bernie Williams brought variety, the music was a bit more relaxed, and saxophonist Richie Cannata proved to be an excellent addition to the band.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:47 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Karen Briggs

Sunday afternoon, there was another double bill, started by violinist Karen Briggs and her band. She opened the show with "Little Sunflower" with elements of Curtis Mayfield's "Pusherman" interspersed and an extended keyboard solo by Eli Staples, which made for a cool start. Things got jazzier with her swinging rendition of "On Green Dolphin Street", followed by a funked-up version of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" that was nicely grooving and veered off into rock territory with a guitar solo by Dan Leonhard. Next was the afro tinged "Rootsy" from her current CD Soulchestral Groove that featured bassist Cheikh Ndoye who hails from Senegal. Then she brought her surprise guest, harmonica player Frédéric Yonnet to the stage who blew us away with his expressive and groovy playing, doing a song from his current, still in the works project Reed My Lips. Don't say that the Berks Jazz Fest isn't good for new discoveries! I will follow the career of this artist from now on and get his album when it is finished. Then they played one song from the solo release of bassist Cheikh Ndoye (which has some great guest players on it), before Frédéric Yonnet joined the band for the final track, "Beautiful Attitude". This was a great concert that was stylistically varied and covered everything from jazz to funk to rock to afro, and - most notably - introduced Frédéric Yonnet to the Berks Jazz Fest crowd.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 2:12 PM

Bass master Brian Bromberg swings live on the energetic “Compared To That”

Virtuoso ensemble, ten-piece horn section and a full orchestra string section help propel the eclectic mix of jazz due June 5th

Grammy nominated bass maestro Brian Bromberg continues to blaze his own audacious path through the jazz kingdom on Compared To That, which will be released June 5th by Artistry Music/Mack Avenue Records. For his 20th solo collection of kinetic and combustible jazz of various forms, Bromberg produced, composed eight new songs, and herded a ten-piece horn section, a full orchestra string section and a prodigious collective of prominent musicians. The first track to go to radio is his swinging take on the snappy Chicago hit, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”

It’s been a while since Bromberg recorded an album that swings, so he primarily maintains a fast cadence on Compared To That. Although the record leans towards straight ahead acoustic jazz, Bromberg refuses to color between the lines. His visionary, multihued jazz palette swirls hard-charging swing, contemporary sheen, deep-fried funk, and touchingly beautiful balladry. Throughout the album, Bromberg’s basswork is like a master’s class with the astute musician playing acoustic, electric and piccolo (both acoustic and steel string) basses. With his piccolo basses tuned to sound like guitar, all of the lead melodies and solos throughout the collection that sound like guitar are actually piccolo bass. An accomplished cadre lent their talents to the two days of live tracking including Alex Acuna, Gannin Arnold, Charlie Bisharat, Randy Brecker, Vinnie Colaiuta, George Duke, Bela Fleck, Mitch Forman, Larry Goldings, Jeff Lorber, Gary Meek and Tom Zink. Bromberg’s tongue-in-cheek humor was deftly deployed when it came to titling his original compositions - “Rory Lowery, Private Eye,” “If Ray Brown Was A Cowboy?,” “A Little New Old School” and “I’m Just Sayin’” are a few examples – and his flair for choosing unexpected songs to cover shines brightly on an imaginative, toe-tapping rendition of the Rick James signature hit “Give It To Me Baby.”

“One thing I feel that makes Compared To That a unique project is that it is a live jazz recording that also has a ten-piece horn section on many tracks, a full orchestra string section on two cuts, and the production of a much bigger project. Essentially, it really was a two-day live jazz recording session along with 3-1/2 months of the kind of production used on big pop records. I truly blended the best of both worlds: live acoustic jazz with the audiophile of a major production,” explained Bromberg, who previewed the album at a Sunday brunch performance at the Berks Jazz Fest in Reading, Pennsylvania this past weekend (March 25). “I went more to my jazz roots on this CD with a lot of swing and walking bass. All in all, I think it is a fun listen for a true jazz CD and I am very proud of it.”

On July 3rd, Bromberg will release a couple more inspired recording projects: Bromberg Plays Hendrix, a tribute to iconic guitarist Jimi Hendrix previously released in Japan that was made without any guitars, again playing the piccolo bass to the tune of a guitar, and In The Spirit of Jobim, which pays homage to Antonio Carlos Jobim on a collection of tunes made famous by the fabled Brazilian and original songs penned by the bassist emulating Jobim’s style.

A native of Tucson, Arizona who recorded and mixed Compared To That while comfortably ensconced in his suburban Los Angeles home studio, Bromberg is respected as a musician with integrity who is gifted with a unique ability to make music at a scholarly level accessible and digestible to the mainstream masses. He landed his breakthrough professional gig at age 18 when tapped to tour for nearly a year playing in legendary jazz saxophonist Stan Getz’s band. Bromberg released his solo debut, A New Day, in 1986. To date, he has scored handfuls of top 10 hits and a pair of #1 singles as a soloist and as a writer and producer for other artists. Recognized as an innovator, he has played acoustic and electric bass on recordings and performances with a luminous encyclopedic list of musicians that spans the spectrum of jazz and popular music ranging from Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughn, Herbie Hancock, Dave Grusin and Nancy Wilson to Sting, Elvis Costello, and Steven Tyler, and from Michael Buble, Josh Groban, Dianna Krall, Andrea Bocelli and David Foster to George Benson, Bob James, Lee Ritenour, Kenny G, Chris Botti, Boney James and Dave Koz. He also played on many major motion picture soundtracks such as “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” “The Preacher’s Wife,” “Fat Albert” and “Hope Floats.” Additional information is available at

The songs contained on Bromberg’s Compared To That are:

“Compared To That”
“Rory Lowery, Private Eye”
“If Ray Brown Was A Cowboy?”
“A Little New Old School”
“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”
“I’m Just Sayin’”
“The Eclipse”
“Give It To Me Baby”

Posted by Peter Böhi at 2:35 AM

March 27, 2012

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Brian Bromberg

Sunday morning, we had the Sunday Jazz Brunch at the Inn at Reading with a concert by bassist Brian Bromberg, which served at the same time as CD release party for his new CD Compared To That, due for release June 5th. After a nice brunch, Brian Bromberg and band entered the stage to play at a time which was a bit uncommon for them, but nevertheless they delivered. The band consisted of Philippe Saisse on keyboards, Chris Farr on tenor saxophone, Mark McLean on drums, plus the five piece Berks Jazz Fest horns led by saxophonist Mike Anderson, who also sponsored the concert with his Anderson Group.They kicked off the show with the title track from the new CD which featured great horn work. Brian Bromberg played mostly his vintage acoustic bass, which didn't keep him from getting funky on their rendition of Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon", followed by "I'm Just Sayin'" from the new CD which has a great walking bass line and is pure straight ahead jazz, but with a groove. For the track "A Little New Old School", he switched to his electric bass to funk things up. Next was "If Ray Brown Was A Cowboy" in a trio setting on acoustic bass, dedicated to his friend, the late Ray Brown, before the band re-assembled for "Rory Lowery, Private Eye", a jazzy uptempo track. To finish the show, he grabbed his bass that is tuned to the register of a guitar to play the lead melody, substituting his own bass part from the iPod, they played the Chicago chestnut "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is" (which is going to be the first single from the new record), before they finished the show with another track from the new CD, a jazzed-up cover of Rick James' "Give It To Me Baby". This was a truly great concert by a consummate artist.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 9:16 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: WMFZ Jazz Stars

The WMFZ Jazz Stars performed late Saturday night at the Crowne Plaza ballroom, the show was broadcasted live by the local TV station Channel 69 WMFZ-TV, which has become an annual tradition. The backing band consisted of guitarist Robert "Wah Wah" Le Grand, drummer Frank "The Third" Richardson and bassist John Dillard. The first featured player was bassist Gerald Veasley who kicked off the proceedings with "Do I Do", interspersed with several funk bass quotes that had the audience sing along, bringing things up to speed. Peter White did his famous rendition of the Isleys classic "Who's That Lady", supported by saxophonist Elan Trotman, later segueing into "Papa Was A Rolling Stone", providing a wicked solo on the distorted acoustic guitar. Keyboardist Brian Simpson stepped into the spotlight with his keytar strapped around his neck, playing "South Beach". Saxophonist Walter Beasley slowed things down with a subtle rendition of Isaac Hayes' "Ellie's Theme" from the Shaft soundtrack. Guitarist Nick Colionne was greeted by the cheering crowd looking awesome in his red suit and white hat, the man knows how to dress! He gave us "Keepin' It Cool", one of his signature tracks. Gerald Veasley played the slow burning "Forever" with the bass as the lead instrument which was just great, before Brian Simpson got the next turn with the romantic "Let's Get Close". Peter White kept things mellow with "Our Dance" from his brand new release Here We Go, complete with a soulful sax solo by Elan Trotman. Nick Colionne turned up the heat again with the vocal "Hard Line" and a fiery instrumental, before Walter Beasley pleased the crowd with his rendition of the Grover Washington, Jr. classic "Mr. Magic", supported by special guest Kim Waters on sax and Gerald Veasley on bass who had an extended solo. The energy level was kept high by Peter White doing his funky "Bueno Funk", along with Elan Trotman on sax. They wrapped up the show with all involved with "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)", giving each artist ample solo space. This was a great fun concert by several of our favorite players.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:46 PM

March 26, 2012

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: George Benson

Saturday evening, guitarist and singer extraordinaire George Benson was appearing at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center in front of a capacity crowd. He was backed by his longtime band members Michael O'Neill on guitar and Stanley Banks on bass, musical director David Garfield and Tom Hall on keys, plus Oscar Seaton Jr. on drums. George Benson, just having become 69 years old, is still going strong, both on guitar and vocals, delivering a professional and hit-packed show. He opened the concert with the instrumental "Breezin'" on the guitar, before focusing on his singing with tracks like "Love X Love", "Turn This Love Around", plus the jazzy "Moody's Mood" for good measure, then loosened things up with the instrumental "Affirmation", followed by "The Lady In My Life", his current hit single from the Guitar Man album, spicing things up with "Tequila" before flooring the crowd with "This Masquerade". He turned up the heat with "On Broadway", which was an early highlight. We were almost bombarded with hits, it is incredible how many great and familiar songs have been crafted by this man over his lengthy career. The crowd got on their feet with the closing song "Give Me The Night".

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:13 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: The Sax Pack

The Sax Pack are saxophonists Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole and Kim Waters, the three sax players drew from their extensive catalogs and delivered another witty and powerful show, they not only have distinct personalities, but also playing styles, which provided for a very entertaining concert. In between songs, they were pulling each others legs and were having a good time. They kicked off the show together, then alternated playing material from their respective solo releases. Kim Waters, who's parents were in attendance, played the upbeat "In The House", then Steve Cole slowed things down again with a soulful song, then Jeff Kashiwa played the funky "Bump" from his upcoming CD. Next was "Falling For You", a radio hit written by Kashiwa and played by all three saxophonists, followed by a slow romantic rendition of "You Are My Starship" that a had long spoken intro having all three adding their share of words. Kim Waters kicked things up a notch, then Steve Cole played his heartfelt rendition of Sarah MacLachlan's "Angel", followed by Jeff Kashiwa's signature "Hyde Park (The Ah, Oooh Song)" complete with audience participation on the vocal part. The three wrapped up the show together with a groovy disco song for the old school lovers. This was another entertaining show by three of our favorite sax players.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 2:26 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Mark Antoine

Saturday afternoon was opened by French acoustic guitarist Marc Antoine who was in fine form, after a one and half year hiatus due to health problems, he visibly was happy to be on stage again. The concert was relaxed and laid-back, giving plenty of room for the music to breathe. Marc Antoine played the whole gamut from funky to smooth to pretty, he made a little excursion to Brazil with a couple of tracks, one of them "Mas Que Nada". Keyboardist Ron Reinhardt - who usually is touring with Guitar & Saxes - was the featured soloist and had the opportunity to show more of his abilities during this set. Frank "The Third" Richardson was on drums, he actually played on the following two shows that day as well. This concert by this world class guitarist was musical bliss.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 1:49 PM

March 24, 2012

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Round Midnight Jam

At midnight, the Round Midnight Jam led by bassist Gerald Veasley held in the club setting of his Jazz Base is my favorite part of the festival, because its offers the players at the festival an opportunity to jam and play in a loose setting, often showing sides of their musical personality that may surprise you. Gerald Veasley was leading the proceedings, calling various players to the stage, who quickly connected and in the spirit of exploration and improvisation would see where the music would lead them. Some of the players I can remember from last night were saxophonists Kim Waters, Andrew Neu, Elan Trotman, bassist Brian Bromberg, keyboardists Ron Reinhardt and Bill Heller, trumpet player Cindy Bradley, guitarists Gerey Johnson and Drew Davidsen, plus a host of others, providing the ultimate musical entertainment.

There will be more Round Midnight Jams this Saturday, March 24 and next weekend, Friday, March 30 and Saturday, March 31.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:29 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Jazz In Pink!

At 10pm, the all-female Jazz In Pink! band led by keyboardist Gail Jhonson was playing in the Crown Plaza ballroom. This loose aggregation of bi-coastal players who only do a handful of gigs each year set out to prove that women can play too, and so they did. During the concert that lasted over two hours, several great female players entered the stage, all nicely clad in pink, each playing a couple of songs from their catalog, providing an entertaining and varied show. The opening track featured Gail Johnson on keys, next was saxophonist Paula Atherton who did a heartfelt sax track, followed by the vocal "There Ain't Nothing". Next was songstress Lynn Fidmont, doing "Free", then flautist Althea Rene kicked it up a notch with two great flute tracks, he energy and playing was just great. Things slowed down a bit with electric harpist Mariea Antoinette, before trumpet player Cindy Bradley got back to business, she is truly outstanding and one of the emerging instrumentalists of smooth jazz. Things went through the roof when violinist Karen Briggs entered the stage, the energy, technique, scope and virtuosity of this woman is simply breathtaking, she did a cover of Minnie Ripertons "Loving You" which was the highlight of the whole show for me. After that, the last song reunited all the players on the band, bringing a fun show to a rousing end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:01 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Jeff Golub

This year's Boscov's Berks Jazz Festival was kicked off by guitarist Jeff Golub at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Crowne Plaza hotel, an intimate club setting which was just perfect for this concert. As you may be aware, one year ago Jeff Golub lost his eyesight almost completely - just being able to discern shapes and having limited peripheral vision - so he had to be led on stage and performed the concert sitting on a bar stool, wearing sun glasses. Fortunately, his playing has not been afflicted by this condition, he opened the show with "Dangerous Curves", before he played a number of blues tracks from his current CD The Three Kings, among them were "Three Kings", "I'll Play The Blues For You" and "Help The Poor" (featuring the soulful singing of drummer Josh Dion). His band consisted of keyboardist and vocalist Henry Butler, who collaborated on the "Three Kings" CD with him and - ironically - is blind as well since birth, plus drummer Josh Dion, bassist Ron Jenkins, and the three piece Berks Jazz Fest horns, who did a great job as always, providing not only top-notch brass, but credible solos as well. At the end of the show, Golub went back to his jazz-funk repertoire, wrapping up the show with "Pick Up The Pieces" plus an encore. The show was well received, and I am glad to report that Jeff Golub manages to stay on top of his game despite the burden of his near-total vision loss.

Jeff Golub will appear two more times at this year's Berks Jazz Fest. On Thursday, March 29, he will be part of the Berks All-Star Jazz Jam, and on Friday, March 30, he will be one of the special guests of saxophonist Mindi Abair (along with David Pack).

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:33 PM

March 23, 2012

2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest Springs Into Action March-April

By Val Vaccaro

From George Benson to Chick Corea, this March through April, the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest celebrates its 22nd anniversary with another great year of smooth jazz, contemporary jazz, traditional jazz, blues, and more. The 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest has an impressive diversity of music and a wide spectrum of special arts and entertainment events– which reflect the mission of the Berks Arts Council – the nonprofit organization that presents the festival.

The jazz festival runs its usual 10 days from Friday, March 23rd to Sunday, April 1st in Reading, Pennsylvania which is located about an hour outside of Philadelphia, and is just a few hours travelling distance from New York City.

The Berks Jazz Fest is once again sponsored this year by Boscov’s - “The country’s (America’s) largest, family-owned department store” chain.

According to General Manager John Ernesto’s Blog, the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest’s “schedule …features some of the biggest names in the music business -- from jazz to R&B to blues to pop.”

For the complete 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest concert schedule, please see

Since the inception of Berks Jazz Fest inception back in 1991, John Ernesto has been doing an extraordinary job as General Manager, and with talent booking and coordination, as well as marketing. John Ernesto also happens to be Marketing Manager for the Reading Eagle newspaper, which keeps the local community and visitors informed about the Fest in print and online. The Reading Eagle publishes an excellent Berks Jazz Fest festival guide newspaper supplement distributed each year at all of the festival venues and local hotels.

Kick-off for the 2012 Berks Jazz Fest on Friday March 23rd

On Friday, March 23rd, at 7pm and 10pm there will be two exciting shows with the Jeff Golub Band featuring vocalist and pianist Henry Butler with special guests the Berks Horns (Mike Anderson on tenor and bari saxophones, Rob Diener on trumpet, and John Loos on trombone) at Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base club in the Crowne Plaza Reading hotel. According to saxophonist Mike Anderson, who also often works on the Berks Horns’ music chart arrangements, “The Jeff Golub show is going to be a blast!!!”

Following up on guitarist Jeff Golub’s 2009 Blues for You CD, the show should feature music in part from Golub’s 2011 blues CD The Three Kings (a tribute to B.B., Albert and Freddie). The Three Kings CD appeared on Billboard magazine’s 2011 Top Blues Albums chart.

Jeff Golub’s CD The Three Kings includes great interpretations of iconic blues songs such as “Let the Good Times Roll,” “Everyday I Have the Blues,” “The Thrill is Gone” (an instrumental version on Billboard’s 2011 and 2012 Smooth Jazz Songs charts) and “Help the Poor.”

The Three Kings CD also has two terrific original tunes which are unmistakably identifiable as the buoyant, emphatic musical style of Jeff Golub’s great guitar style and improvisations. One of the original songs composed by Jeff Golub is called “In Plain Sight” (a poignant reminder of Golub’s unexpected loss of eyesight during the time he was recording this CD with vocalist/pianist Henry Butler who by coincidence or providence has been blind since he was a few months old). The other original tune with Golub’s signature sound is called “Stumbling’ Home” which is co-composed by Golub and Butler with vocalist Josh Dion and bassist Andy Hess.

Guitarist Jeff Golub plays these two Berks concerts, then travels to Ohio (his birthplace) to do a show, and then returns back to Berks Jazz Fest to perform on Thursday, March 29th at the Berks All Star Jazz Jam, and again on Friday, March 30th as a special guest with David Pack at saxophonist Mindi Abair’s show.

Manhattan Transfer 40th Anniversary Concert

Also, there is a special opening night concert at 7:30pm with the legendary vocal jazz group The Manhattan Transfer performing their 40th Anniversary Concert at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center.

JaZZ in P!nk all-star female jazz band

Later that first evening, the 10pm concert at the Crowne Plaza Reading hotel promises to be a memorable Berks Jazz Fest highlight with JaZz in P!nk – an all-star female jazz band featuring pianist and music director Gail Jhonson (music director for Norman Brown), trumpeter Cindy Bradley, saxophonist Paula Atherton, violinist Karen Briggs (who performed shows with Yanni), flutist Althea Rene, vocalist Lynne Fiddmont (vocalist with artists like Stevie Wonder), harpist Mariea Antoinnette, drummer Danielle “Pockett” Brown, guitarist Darlene Moreno, bassist Robin Bramlett, and keyboardist Sundra Manning.

Other shows

There is also a 9pm concert with the Dance Hall Docs featuring Brent Carter which plays the music of Tower of Power, and the first of four “Round Midnight Jams” – this one with Gerald Veasley & Friends.

Smooth jazz, Contemporary jazz, Fusion and more.

In addition, there will be some terrific shows with many popular and legendary smooth and contemporary jazz artists including George Benson, Boney James, Marc Antoine, and The Sax Pack. See separate article on The Sax Pack show.

There should also be entertaining shows by Chieli Minucci & Special EFX, Mindi Abair with special guests Jeff Golub and David Pack, as well as concerts by Spyro Gyra, Nick Colionne, Will Downing and Gerald Albright, Bernie Williams, two shows with the Dean Brown Group featuring Dean Brown, Dennis Chambers, Schuyler Deale, and Gerry Etkins, as well as shows with The Royal Scam (tribute to Steeley Dan), The Groovemasters featuring Bennie Sims, Cliff Starkey, David Cullen, Curt Harmon and Alisa B. Anderson, and a concert with Incognito featuring Maysa.

On Sunday, March 25 at 7:00 p.m. Banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck & the Original Flecktones including harmonica virtuoso/pianist Howard Levy will perform a concert at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center. This year at the 2012 Grammy’s, Béla Fleck and Howard Levy won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition for "Life in Eleven," a song from Bela Fleck & The Flecktones CD Rocket Science, (making it Fleck’s fifteenth Grammy award).

Also, on Sunday and Monday, March 25-26, there will be two Reading Eagle
Community Concerts
- (free tickets have already been distributed for the shows) with the U.S. Air Force Rhythm in Blue Jazz Ensemble with special guest Gerald Veasley (on Sunday) and special guest Brian Bromberg on Monday, along with the opening act Berks High School All-Star Jazz Band.

Traditional jazz, blues and other diverse music shows

For traditional jazz fans, there are a number of great shows scheduled with the Pat Martino Trio and special guests, BeBop Sessions II with Chuck Loeb & Friends including Rick Braun, Brian Bromberg, Lionel Cordew, Karen Briggs, Andy Snitzer, Geral Albright, and Matt King, the Greg Hatza ORGANization, Anat Cohen Quartet, Eldar, and a special show - Doc Mulligan & Friends 85th Birthday Concert featuring Tom Strohman, Mike Een, Chris Heslop, Rick Gacda, Chuck Dressler, Mel Linger, Steve Meashey, Lew Leabman, Suzie Ernesto, and Deanna Reuben.

Some soulful blues shows at the Fest include: Joe Krown Trio featuring Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Russell Batiste Jr., the Debbie Davies Band, Tommy Castro's Lengendary Rhythm & Blues Revue featuring Magic Dick, Joe Louis Walker and Deanna Bogart, as well as Clarence Spady (with the Berks Horns) and Lavay Smith & her Red Hot Skillet Lickers.

For Tommy Castro’s show, the Berks Jazz Fest is donating $10 from each ticket sold to the annual Kiss-A-Pig (and help a Kid) Campaign, sponsored by Crowne Plaza Reading hotel general manager Craig Poole to raise money for the Olivets Boys and Girls Club of Reading and Berks County.

Special concerts and events

For over past two decades, thanks to the Fest’s General Manager John Ernesto who also books the talent, the Berks Jazz Fest has become known for special concerts with unique combinations of music artists and themed events. According to John Ernesto, “Every year we always try to present new, interesting and exciting projects to the fans of the festival to keep it fresh.”

WFMZ Jazz Stars

On Saturday, March 24th at 10pm, there will be a special live TV Broadcast with the WFMZ Jazz Stars featuring Peter White, Gerald Veasley, Walter Beasley, Nick Colionne, Brian Simpson, and Elan Trotman at the Crowne Plaza Reading hotel.

Jason Miles’ Global Noize “Prayer for the Planet” Tour

Also on Saturday March 24th at 7pm and 10pm, there will be two shows produced by music director and keyboardist Jason Miles called Prayer for the Planet Tour with the group Global Noize featuring Jason Miles, DJ Logic, Falu, Jay Rodriguez, Amanda Ruzza, plus special guests Will Calhoun, Mino Cinelu, and Maurice Brown.

Four ‘Round Midnight Jams’ at Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base

For late-night fans who enjoy the improvisation and unexpected - due to fan popularity for the first time - there will be four “Round Midnight Jams” during both weekends of the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest on Friday (March 23 and 30) and Saturday (March 24 and March 31) at Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base at the Crowne Plaza Reading hotel.

The jams will be hosted by the talented and amiable bassist Gerald Veasley. Also for the first time - instead of selling all of the tickets at the door - each jam will have 120 tickets available in advance, and 40 tickets available for purchase the same day of the jam. According to John Ernesto, General Manager of the Berks Jazz Fest, "Having fans wait in line for a long period of time - only to be turned away because the Jazz Base was at capacity - was not fan friendly. With the two additional midnight jams and the advance ticket opportunity, we feel it is a better process for our fans."

Brian Bromberg & Friends plus the Berks Horns Sunday Jazz Brunch

On Sunday, March 25th, at the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest, there will be a wonderful show Brian Bromberg & Friends (including a buffet brunch) at the Inn at Reading ballroom to introduce the release of Bromberg’s new CD Compared to That.

The music on the new Compared to That CD will be similar to Brian Bromberg’s enjoyable, fun-loving, popular Downright Upright CD (2007) which featured classic 60’s soul-jazz tunes such as “Canteloupe Island” (Herbie Hancock), “Cold Duck Time” (Eddie Harris and Les McCann) and “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” (Joe Zawinul).

The 2012 Berks Jazz Fest show will include the brilliant bass playing of Brian Bromberg, with songwriter, producer, and keyboardist extraordinaire Philippe Saisse, and drummer Mark Mclean plus the Berks Horns - Mike Anderson on alto saxophone, Rob Diener on trumpet, and John Loos on trombone - with special guests Chris Farr and Mike Eben on tenor saxophones (with Chris Farr doing the lead work), and Bob Stoyko also on trumpet.

Bassist Brian Bromberg has produced a special EP which will be available at the Fest this year.

A taste of Broadway with the jazz-themed play “Side Man”

In collaboration with the 2012 Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest, Shoestring Productions and Building 24 Kitchen and Bar in Wyomissing are presenting a Broadway-style play “Side Man” from March 16th through March 25th.

“Side Man” is a poignant play written by Warren Leight, directed by Kirk Lawrence, with Ken Blekicki as music consultant. The story is about a jazz musician trumpeter named Gene Glimmer, his alcoholic wife Terry, and the upheaval of their family over three decades as told through the eyes of their only son Clifford Glimmer. "Side Man" features Dallas Mugno as Clifford, Richard Bradbury as Gene, and Tama McConnell as Terry. The rest of the ensemble cast includes Michael Harbach, Daniel Smith, and Kathy Newville.

Building 24 Kitchen and Bar is a restaurant and club located in a renovated turn-of-the-century factory in Wyomissing, next to The Works. The production is rated PG-13 with strong language and adult situations. Play-goers can enjoy dinner at Building 24 or The Works before or after the show while listening to the Ken Blekicki Quintet.

Jazz Art Exhibition at GoggleWorks Center for the Arts

Also, through March 27th, during the day visitors can visit the Berks Arts Council presents: Celebrate Jazz: 7th Annual “Art of Jazz” Exhibition known as the Frank Scott Memorial Art Show at the Schmidt Gallery in the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts.

Rick Braun Sings With Strings

For the past few years at the Berks Jazz Fest, trumpeter Rick Braun has begun a journey from jazz instrumentalist to also jazz vocalist (Braun did a number of shows in tribute to Chet Baker, and also sang songs from the Great American Songbook with the Reading Pops orchestra in 2011).

Following up on Braun’s successful 2011 show, on Sunday, March 25th there will be a special concert: Sunday with the Pops "Rick Braun Sings With Strings" (which also happens to be the title of Braun’s CD (released in August 2011).

The show will present Rick Braun on vocals, trumpet, and flügelhorn performing music from his CD with the Reading Pops Orchestra, conducted by Willis M. Rapp. The CD Rick Braun Sings With Strings was produced and arranged by keyboardist Philippe Saisse and includes pretty, romantic American classic jazz songs by renowned composers. Some of the songs may be lesser-known, but all of the tunes blend well with the CD’s theme. There are classics like “Time after Time” and “The Things We Did Last Summer” by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, “I Didn't Know What Time It Was” by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rogers, and eight other tunes by other noted composers like Leonard Bernstein and Frank Henry Loesser.

Pat Martino Day

On Tuesday, March 27th at 7pm, Pat Martino Day will be a special 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest event at the Miller Center for the Arts - a celebration in honor of the legendary Philadelphia-based guitarist. The event will include a screening of the documentary Martino Unstrung: A Brain Mystery, which tells the miraculous story of Martino’s recovery after complete memory loss from a brain aneurysm in the 1970s to his journey re-learning to play the guitar and moving onto a new phase of life.

After showing the film, there will be a special performance of the Pat Martino Trio (with some special guest artists).

Pat Martino will also be there to meet fans do a book signing for his new autobiography, co-authored with jazz journalist Bill Milkowski entitled: Here & Now! The Autobiography of Pat Martino.

Video trailer for Martino Unstrung: A Brain Mystery.
Video of George Benson paying tribute to Pat Martino.
Video of Pat Martino performing "Four On Six" at the 2007 Berks Jazz Fest.

Berks All-Star Jazz Jam

On Thursday, March 29th is the much-looked forward to annual Berks All-Star Jazz Jam featuring Rick Braun, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Gerald Albright Mindi Abair, Jeff Golub, David Benoit, Brian Culbertson, Nick Colionne, Dean Brown, Brian Bromberg, Lionel Cordew, David Pack, Karen Briggs and Matt King.

Brazilian Carnavale

Also, on Friday March 30th, for the Fest’s first time, Minas will perform a special "Brazilian Carnavale" show at the Reverb nightclub. The Philadelphia-based six-piece band will play traditional Latin samba music (considered to be Brazil's national musical style), accompanied by dancers dressed in colorful Carnival costumes which should be provide a delightful experience.

Chuck Loeb & Plain ‘n’ Simple show

In addition, on Saturday, March 31st, will be a special show Chuck Loeb & Plain ‘n’ Simple featuring Pat Bianchi, Lionel Cordew, Andy Snitzer, Carmen Cuesta, Lizzy Loeb and special guest Rick Braun.

Four-show finale at the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest

To top off the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest finale on Sunday, April 1st, there will be four shows. There is a jazz brunch with Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo. Also, there is a smooth jazz afternoon concert with RnR’s Rick Braun and Richard Elliot.

In addition, there are also two evening concerts at 7pm. One is a solo concert with jazz legend Chick Corea at the Miller Center for the Arts. This year, 12 time Grammy award winner, legendary pianist Chick Corea won two new Grammys: one for Best Improvised Jazz Solo for "500 Miles High" a song from the CD Forever - Corea, Clarke & White and also Best Jazz Instrumental Album for Forever - Corea, Clarke & White.

At 7pm, there is also festival finale show one with popular smooth jazz keyboardist Brian Culbertson at the Scottish Rite Cathedral.


New Berks Jazz Fest online music channel

Recently, the 2012 Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest introduced its own Berks Jazz Fest Music Channel of streaming music which can be heard on the website and on smart phones of jazz music fans.

Here are links to listen online to music of artists performing at the 2012 festival, and to download the free mobile phone apps from the iTunes App Store or for the Android market:

Also, the 2012 Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest has a partnership with Michael Tozzi's to bring the music of the Berks Jazz Fest to fans.

Diane Dayton’s podcasts & Cool Cast interviews with Berks Jazz Fest artists

Jazz media personality Diane Dayton also continues to present her “Cool Cast” interviews which are on podcasts and video. Listen to podcast interviews with Berks Jazz Fest artists.

Diane Dayton also has posted videos of interviews she has done with artists who have performed at past Berks Jazz Fests (from 2008-2011) on her You Tube channel.

About the Berks Jazz Fest

For over two decades, jazz fans from all over the U.S. and around the world visit the Berks Jazz Fest in Reading, PA to enjoy the great music, the warm community-feeling, the outlet shopping, and other cultural experiences.

Each year, about 40,000 visitors over 10 days attend the Berks Jazz Fest from the U.S., Canada, Europe, and around the globe. The festival has about 400 volunteers who help the festival run smoothly and has great venues from small nightclubs to hotel ballrooms, traditional concert theaters, and more.

There are over a 100 events including more than 40 ticketed shows and 60 non-ticketed events (free shows, some at local venues including restaurants which may have a cover charge). Often, fans attend “meet and greets” to have CDs signed by their favorite musicians and by newly discovered talent.

Tickets & Hotel Information

For a full list of ticketed events see:

For artist information, check the artists’ individual artist websites, and also see the following link:

Tickets for the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest, which range in price from $15 to $55 each, can be purchased in three ways:
1) Visit, 2) call Ticketmaster at 1-215-336-2000 or toll-free in the U.S. at: 1-800-653-8000 or 1-800-745-3000, or 3) in person at the Sovereign Center Box Office located at 136 N. Sixth Street in Reading, PA.

For information on tickets, seating charts, directions, hotels, or how to become a sponsor, check the following links:

Educational Activities

There are also a number of educational activities associated with the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest, sponsored by the Berks Arts Council.

From March 16-18, 2012, a week before the Fest, there is the 11th annual Gerald Veasley Bass Boot Camp weekend at the Crowne Plaza Reading with workshops for bass players of all ages. The Bass Boot Camp with over 9 faculty including Veasley, has had over 800 students participate in the last decade.

You can see an interview that Gerald Veasley did with Diane Dalton during the 2010 Berks Jazz Fest about Gerald Veasley’s Bass Boot Camp in the U.S. and Canada, and on the Capital Jazz Cruise, as well as his Electric Mingus Project.

Recently before this year’s 2012, Diane Dalton interviewed Gerald Veasley for a podcast about his upcoming performances at the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest – including hosting the four weekend midnight jam sessions at his club Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base, and in the WFMZ Jazz Stars and the Berks All Star Jazz Jam shows! Dalton also spoke with Veasley about his latest new business venture

This year, there are special concerts related to Gerald Veasley’s Bass Boot Camp. On Friday, March 16 at 8 pm is a show "The Art of Strings," featuring bassist Gerald Veasley, violinist Jonathan Blake and guitarist Jimmy Bruno (tickets are $20 at the door). On Saturday, March 17th at 8 pm is a concert "The Music of Jaco Pastorius," featuring Gerald Veasley, Victor Bailey and other bass players.

From March 16-31st, there is a schedule of educational activities during the 2012 Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest – from Berks Jazz Fest Jams with Jazz educators and students , to Berks Jazz Fest for Kids shows, to performances by the Berks High School All-Star Jazz Band, to a Get JazzED IV workshop program at Reading Senior High School.

Berks Jazz Fest merchandise

Berks Jazz Fest typically uses two logos. The Festival’s official pink neon logo, used since 1991, appears on all of the Fest’s advertising and website and was originally designed by Mike Anderson, a founding partner in The Anderson Group (a strategic marketing communications firm).

The second logo for the Berks Jazz Fest changes every year and appears on the Fest’s variety of attractive merchandise souvenirs (tee-shirts, caps, etc.) sold to enthusiastic music fans.

This year’s 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest merchandise logo is designed once again by Pennsylvania-based contemporary pop artist Todd Walk. The multicolored, whimsical pastel designs created by Todd Walk delight music and art fans alike and have been sold across the U.S. for the past 20 years.

Todd Walk has designed many previous Berks Jazz Fest merchandise logos, including the 2011 four quadrant multi instrumental logo, the 2010 Four Guitars, and others such as the 2004 Three Saxophones.

The chic-looking 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest logo designed by Todd Walk is based on a photo by Andrew Lepley of a tenor saxophone resting on a black piano bench next to part of a black grand piano. Andrew Lepley is Berk’s Jazz Fest’s official photographer.

After Todd Walk created the original pastel, Lisa Johnson, Art Director for the Berks Jazz Fest (and the Reading Eagle newspaper), took Walk’s work and developed different versions to meet the Lasting Image production company’s specifications for screen printing and embroidery to produce the great selection of attractive merchandise available for sale at the Fest.

Outlet and Local Shopping in the Berks Jazz Fest area

In addition to the Festival’s logo merchandise, visitors can also shop between the shows in the venue lobbies for other products such as attractive crafts (e.g. from jewelry to lamp shades), often with musical and jazz themes.

Also, within a ten or fifteen minutes drive from most of the festival’s venues, visitors will find the VF (Vanity Fair) Outlet stores which carry designer and brand name from clothing to household goods .

There is also shopping on Penn Avenue in the city of Reading, as well as a variety of restaurants and hotels.

Berks Jazz Fest Management

Over the years, the Berks Jazz Fest management team working with the Berks Arts Council has been very stable with valuable experience, which is a great strength in producing the Festival.

According to an article in the Reading Eagle newspaper, John Ernesto, General Manager of the Fest said that “Berks Jazz Fest has a $7 million to $10 million impact on the community. This festival is a partnership with the business community, the hotel community and the volunteer community. We couldn't exist without that."

The 2012 Berks Jazz Fest management staff include:

Berks Arts Council (BAC) board President: Craig Rosenfeld; Festival Chairperson: Ted Bassano; BAC staff including Bob Coleman, Karen Haver and Gary Spencer, and; Festival General Manager John Ernesto; Talent Coordination/Booking John Ernesto and Gary Spencer; Production Manager Gary Spencer; Sponsorship development committee chair: Craig Rosenfeld; Marketing: John Ernesto, Lisa Johnson; Publicity Director Dana L. Hoffman; Ticketing: SMG; Transportation Manager: Chuck Koch; Youth/Educational Activities: Chris Heslop, Shannon Sunday, Doug Matz, Andrea Stover, Rick Dietrich, Charlie DiCarne, Dustin Shirk, Dan Long, Mike Eben, and Carl Zeplin.

The mission of the Berks Arts Council is “to encourage and promote all the arts, to develop an appreciation of the arts and to enrich and enhance the quality of life through education, presentation and collaborations with other arts organizations.

The Berks Arts Council receives funding from a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Berks Arts Council is located at GoggleWorks Center for the Arts, 201 Washington Street, Suite 523 Reading, PA 19603 Phone: 610-898-1930; Fax: 610-898-1932.

For more information about the Berks Jazz Fest, please visit:
To learn more about the Berks Arts Council, see

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:07 PM

March 22, 2012

Brian Bromberg & Friends plus the Berks Horns – CD release show for Compared to That at the 2012 Berks Jazz Fest

By Val Vaccaro

On Sunday, March 25th, at the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest, there will be a wonderful show Brian Bromberg & Friends (including a buffet brunch) at the Inn at Reading ballroom to introduce the release of Bromberg’s new CD Compared to That. Brian Bromberg has to be one of the most brilliant and refreshing jazz musicians today, with a reputation for successfully building bridges between smooth, contemporary, and traditional jazz.

The title to Brian Bromberg’s new CD Compared to That is perhaps a clever homage to the funky soul-jazz protest song “Compared to What” composed by Gene McDaniels which became a popular hit in 1969 by the legendary jazz pianist and vocalist Les McCann with saxophonist Eddie Harris and trumpeter Benny Bailey.

For the new CD Compared to That, Brian Bromberg wrote on his website: “This CD is the equivalent of throwing my CD’s Downright Upright, It Is What It Is, and a big handful of straight ahead jazz into a blender! (There are a) lot of up tempo hi energy tunes featuring a ten piece horn section… (with) George Duke, Jeff Lorber, Vinnie Colaiuta, Randy Brecker, Mitch Forman etc… It is primarily acoustic bass and acoustic straight ahead jazz and I must admit is tons of fun (to record)!

Brian Bromberg’s enjoyable, fun-loving, popular Downright Upright CD (2007) featured classic 60’s funky, soul-jazz standards such as “Canteloupe Island” (Herbie Hancock), “Cold Duck Time” (Eddie Harris and Les McCann) and “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” (Joe Zawinul). Bromberg’s 2009 CD It Is What It Is (which was on the 2009 Billboard Top Jazz Albums chart) received rave reviews for his extraordinary playing and production, and included surprising cover tunes such as the B52’s “Love Shack” and the “Sanford and Son Theme” (from the TV show), as well as a multitude of great original songs composed by Bromberg.

The 2012 Berks Jazz Fest show will include the resplendent bass playing of Brian Bromberg, with songwriter, producer, and keyboardist extraordinaire Philippe Saisse, and drummer Mark Mclean plus the Berks Horns - Mike Anderson on alto saxophone, Rob Diener on trumpet, and John Loos on trombone - with special guests Chris Farr and Mike Eben on tenor saxophones (with Chris Farr doing the lead work), and Bob Stoyko also on trumpet.

Jazz fans who haven’t yet seen a show with the Grammy-nominated bassist Brian Bromberg will be delighted and impressed to hear one of the most talented and diverse bass players around (upright acoustic and electric) with his incredible technique and unique song interpretations. Bromberg also is one of only a handful of guitar and bass players who have mastered a special tapping technique (associated with guitarist Stanley Jordan), which produces sounds like two or three basses playing at once during powerfully improvised solos. Also, as a testament to his talent, in 2011, Bromberg had the opportunity to fulfill a long-time dream of designing a line of signature basses - for Carvin Guitars in San Diego.

Before starting his own solo recording career in 1986, Brian Bromberg worked with many notable jazz musicians including Stan Getz, Horace Silver, Monty Alexander, Dizzy Gillespie, Richie Cole, Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, and Freddie Hubbard. Since then, Bromberg has also collaborated with many well-known contemporary and smooth jazz artists such as Jeff Lorber, Kirk Whalum, Rick Braun, Randy Brecker, Eric Marienthal, Gerald Albright, George Duke and Patrice Rushen, among others.

Also, multi-talented bassist Brian Bromberg plans to bring his amazing interpretive style to two new diverse CDs to be released in the U.S. (they were originally released in Japan a few years ago). One new Brian Bromberg CD is a tribute to Brazilian jazz guitarist Antonio Carlos Jobim called In the Spirit of Jobim recorded with a full orchestra, which features half Jobim compositions, and half original songs written by Bromberg in the style of Brazilian jazz. The other CD Bromberg plays Hendrix is a tribute to rock legend guitarist Jimi Hendrix. Bromberg’s Jobim tribute CD should be beautiful; his Hendrix tribute CD should be a blast!

Bassist Brian Bromberg also has produced a special EP which will be available at the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest.

For concert tickets at the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest, see

For more information on Brian Bromberg and other artists in the show such as Philippe Saisse, please visit and

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:56 PM

March 21, 2012

Wedding Bells To Ring For Two Smooth Jazz Musicians

Joined by more than music, virtuosic guitarist and producer, Emmanuel “U-Nam” Abiteboul and saxophonist and vocalist, Shannon Kennedy are set to wed this April at Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula, CA. The pair began their collaboration as musicians when U-Nam invited Kennedy to join his band.

Shannon Unam smaller.jpg

Born and raised in Paris / France, U-Nam began playing the guitar at age 12, and studied for three years at the Paris-based CIM – the first European school for jazz – between 1986 and 1989. At age 19 he turned professional, becoming a fixture at Paris studio sessions. Well known throughout Europe and the US as a musical trendsetter and innovative player in Instrumental Music, Soul, and R&B, U-Nam has more than earned his reputation as a virtuosic guitarist and producer.

Since his move to the US from Paris, France in 2007, U-Nam, has worked with a number of international artists including Barry White, Kool & the Gang, Honeyz, Louis Fonsi, and MC-Solaar, earning him several Gold and Multi-Platinum records. In 2007, he established himself as a prominent solo artist with the release his sophomore album, “Back from the 80s” which included the #1 hit “Street Life”. “Street Life” stayed in the top three on the US Billboard Charts for three months and the top ten charts for an entire year.

U-Nam has three album releases as a solo artist. “The Past Builds the Future” (2005) was #2 on Solar Radio UK (the largest soul radio station in the UK). The album had significant radio airplay in Europe and made it into the Top 47 on the US charts. “Back from the 80s” (2007) was the number one album of the year on Jazz FM, Steve Quirk’s Fusion Flavours, as well as a #1 on the US Billboard Charts. His latest release “Unanimity” (2009) has reached the Top 30 on the US Billboard charts with his hit single “Shine On”.

Shannon Kennedy is recognized as an extraordinarily multifaceted artist, composer, producer, performer, recording artist and music instructor. By maintaining diversity as a performer and composer, she has developed an exciting and constantly evolving career in contemporary music.

Kennedy has recently been stepping out as a compelling lead vocalist with singles including No One To Catch Me (2010) and Falling Slowly (2010). She will also be performing as a vocalist with K.A.S.E. 87, an energetic, youthful and electrifying new group performing and recording a fusion of hip hop, contemporary jazz and electro.

Kennedy has been performing professionally since 2005 and has recorded and performed with artists like Peter White, 10,000 Maniacs, Craig Chaquico (Jefferson Starship), Greg Adams (Tower of Power), Kirk Whalum, Chieli Minucci, Nick Colionne and U-Nam.

As a solo artist, Kennedy has released four full albums and several singles including "Angel Eyes" (2005), "Steppin Up" (2007), "Never My Love" (2007), and "Almost that Time of Year" (2009). She is currently working on her debut vocal album.

The smooth jazz community wishes the pair best wishes on the union.

To find out more about the artists and their music:

Posted by JazzGypsy at 11:08 PM

March 17, 2012

The Sax Pack at the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest

Photo by Bazpix of The Sax Pack from the 2007 Berks Jazz Fest

By Val Vaccaro

On Saturday, March 24th at 2pm at the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest there should be a high-spirited concert with The Sax Pack featuring saxophonists Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters, and Steve Cole in the Crowne Plaza Reading hotel ballroom.

If you haven’t yet seen these three super-talented saxophonists together in concert, it should be a special treat. For the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest show, The Sax Pack will be supported by great musicians including keyboardist Bill Heller (a fellow member with Jeff Kashiwa in The Rippingtons), guitarist Gerey Johnson, bassist John Dillard, and drummer Frank “Third” Richardson.

As you may already suspect, the jazz music group’s name The Sax Pack seems inspired in part by the 1960’s Rat Pack with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford, and friends – i.e. having a cool attitude, debonair dress code, musical talent, and comedy-infused performances. The Sax Pack presents a fun, upbeat show mixing their personalities and brands of humor along the way, while their music touches hearts and inspires fans to get up from their seats to enjoy the musical celebration. Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters, and Steve Cole have a great musical and verbal rapport together.

The Sax Pack plays smooth jazz and cover tunes with influences of classic funk and R&B music.

The audience will get to hear original and cover songs from their 2008 debut CD The Sax Pack, such as “Fallin’ For You,” “The World is A Ghetto,” “You Are My Starship,” and “Tequila” as well as smooth jazz originals from their 2009 sophomore CD The Pack is Back. The Sax Pack’s musical performances are sometimes deliberately melodramatic, but that is part of the tongue-in-cheek charm of it all.

The show may also include some new music from an upcoming group CD, as well as some signature songs from the saxophonists’ individual releases such as Jeff Kashiwa’s 2009 CDs Back in the Day and The Very Best of Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole’s 2011 CD Moonlight (jazz and pop standards recorded with an acoustic rhythm section and full orchestra), or Kim Waters’ 2011 CD This Heart of Mine (smooth jazz infused with soul and R&B).

Also, Jeff Kashiwa has an exciting new CD in the works tentatively titled Up! to be released this summer which features musical guests including guitarists Russ Freeman and Chuck Loeb, and keyboardists David Benoit and Tom Schuman (a member of Spyro Gyra). Jeff Kashiwa is also touring as a long-time member of the Grammy-nominated contemporary jazz group Russ Freeman and The Rippingtons (which is celebrating their 25th anniversary).

For concert tickets to The Sax Pack and other shows at the 2012 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest, see

For more information on the artists, please visit,,,, and

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:28 PM

March 16, 2012

Reinhold Schwarzwald - Sunset

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a personal perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul.

I recently became aware of the music of saxophonist and producer Reinhold Schwarzwald through the release of the radio single ‘Sunset’. Lifted from the album of the same name it is an outstanding example of the best that contemporary jazz has to offer and one of many great tunes in a collection crammed full of them. In fact the CD provides a superb showcase for Schwarzwald’s ultra smooth talents and is embellished by a stellar line-up of backing musicians that include guitarist Doc Powell and the stupendous flautist Valerie King.

Born of an Austrian father and Hungarian mother, Schwarzwald relocated to LA in 1999 and since then has been building a reputation as a writer, performer and educator. His music has been extensively featured on both radio and television but it is as a solo artist that a future in smooth jazz now beckons. Sunset is full of warm melodies and intoxicating rhythms that are typified by the zesty ‘Downtown’ which finds Schwarzwald on sax at his excellent best. The Latin intensity of ‘Seven Islands In Four Days’ is also a song that really fizzes while, elsewhere, soulful vocalist Fred White lends a considerable hand to the impressively heartfelt ‘All Your Love’. Later, when Schwarzwald reprises the number as an instrumental, the result is entirely magical.

In fact Sunset is a recording of delightful contrasts and although Schwartzwald ups the tempo for the high octane yet attractively rhythmic ‘Heartbeat Of The City’ he notches it down again for the mellow Brazilian sway of ‘Malheiros’. Another track that starts out in reflective mode is ‘Rain In Paris’ which nevertheless quickly evolves into something altogether more edgy. Just as intense is the fabulous, reggae infused ‘Heartbeat of The City’ and fitted neatly between eight original compositions is a smoother than smooth rendition of the Eric Clapton hit ‘Change The World’.

One of three songs produced by the genre defining recording artist Patrice Rushen, it paves the way to the appropriately named ‘Feel Good’ which, as well as doing everything the title suggests, has what it takes to make an impact on radio. However, it is when Rushen’s production skills are again called upon that Schwartzwald really strikes gold. The tasty title cut comes complete with a seriously infectious hook yet just as good is the gorgeous ‘Saxdance’. Opening with a rhythm reminiscent of what Quincy Jones used to routinely do for Michael Jackson, and developing into a wonderfully commercial smooth jazz tune, this one is sure to do well.

Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please e-mail me on

Posted by Denis Poole at 4:56 PM

March 8, 2012

What We're Listening To ** February 2012

P E T E R * B O E H I

Billy Cobham Band - Live In Leverkusen (2011)
This is a live recording by the great drummer Billy Cobham with his new young band, done in Leverkusen (Germany) in November 2010 and it kicks ass! At age 67, Billy Cobham is still on top of his game and his drumming is just superb propelling the music to new heights, the band is top-notch, delivering an outstanding concert full of classic fusion and jazz-funk. One of my all-time favorite drummers!

Kevin Kooyumjian - Monterey Groove! (2012)
This is one of my favorite keyboardists on the planet, his unbridled energy is just infecting, he is mostly playing on San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf on the street, but his abilities as a musician are unquestioned. His albums are groovy, uplifting and catchy, when he starts a solo, he takes it to one level after another, just incredible. A talent deserving wider recognition!

Jeff Lorber Fusion - Galaxy (2012)
Jeff Lorber gets down to business and revisits his Jeff Lorber Fusion days with this all-star band (with players like Dave Weckl and Eric Marienthal), playing some energetic and tight songs, in parts revisiting his early catalog and giving it a new twist. Very recommended!

Nathaniel Kearney, Jr. - Back To Bassics (2011)
Nathaniel Kearny, Jr. is the current bass player of keyboardist Brian Culbertson, several band members help out with this great jazz-funk album full of bass-heavy tracks (most notably the opener "Shake"), some mellower tracks round it up nicely. For the bass lovers out there!

Tom Browne - Browne Sugar (1979)
My nod to the past goes to this classic album by trumpet player Tom Browne, done on the GRP label with the house band (Buddy Williams, Marcus Miller etc.) and produced by Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen, this record provides the right balance between groove and jazziness. A true classic!

J E F F * D A N I E L S

Paul Whitley, Versatility (Pablo Productions) (2011)

Al Turner, Sunny Days (Al Turner) (2011)

John Tropea, Live At Mikell's, New York (Stp Records) (1981)

Najee, The Smooth Side Of Soul (Shanachie) (2012)

The Loudhorns, One For Maynard (Loud Conversation Pieces) (2009)

D E N I S * P O O L E

‘Our Dance’ by smooth jazz superstar Peter White from his soon to be released CD Here We Go. With a melody that tugs unashamedly at the heartstrings this captivating cut includes an injection of sax from Kirk Whalum, which, much like the entire album, is pure gold.

‘Valentines Night’, by guitarist Patrick Yandall, from his great new album Acoustic Dreamscape. Tender, understated and beautifully performed this superb tune is the perfect backdrop for spending time with the one you love.

‘Merry Go Round’ by Chris Standring from the CD Electric Wonderland. Standring can always be relied upon to do something different and right out of left field comes this enchanting number. With a string section replicating to perfection the easy paced fun of the fair, and a splendid piano solo from Mitchel Forman, this one is a delight

‘Magnetic’, the advance radio single from Darren Rahn’s Trippin 'N' Rhythm debut recording Speechless. This easy grooving track with a seriously addictive urban swagger is sure to dominate the airwaves for some considerable time.

‘Message In A Bottle’, the first single from Ken Navarro’s excellent new collection The Test Of Time. Not due out until March 20, this set of twelve timeless tunes has already been described as “solo guitar like you never imagined it.” With no overdubs whatsoever and melodies, bass lines, harmonies and percussion all played simultaneously on just one guitar this is a very special piece of work and typical of it is Navarro’s fine rendition of this seminal hit by the Police.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:53 PM

March 4, 2012

Najee - The Smooth Side Of Soul

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a personal perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul.

Well known for his classy virtuosity, sax and flute player Najee has been one of the most influential figures in contemporary jazz for the past twenty-five years. He enjoyed his first big break in 1983 when, with his brother Fareed, he toured with Chaka Khan. This in turn brought him to the attention of producer Charles Huggins and it was through Huggins that Najee cut his debut recording for EMI, Najees Theme, in 1986. The album went platinum and two years later this success was repeated with the follow up Day By Day. Since then Najee has added eight more releases plus one ‘best of’ compilation and has garnered four ‘gold discs’ along the way. Now he is back with his latest offering, The Smooth Side Of Soul.

Variously produced by Chris ‘Big Dog’ Davis, Darren Rahn and Jeff Lorber plus guest input from Phil Perry, James K Lloyd and Mel Brown this is an album that delivers exactly what the title suggests it might. In doing so it provides several numbers that can best be described as ‘radio ready’ while still including plenty of the sophisticated grooves for which Najee has become famous.

Talking of radio, the hugely attractive ‘One Night In Soho’ is a fine example of highly commercial, mid tempo contemporary jazz that Najee nevertheless injects with a quota of his trademark edgy sound. Indeed, among the current crop of contemporary jazz saxophonists, Najee is arguably the most comfortable when stepping over to the straight-ahead side of the tracks and although not quite going there with ‘Dis N Dat’ he takes it as an opportunity to show off his jazzy prowess. Later Najee goes one step further with ‘Sound For Sore Ears’ where he partners with Lloyd to recreate the familiar Jimmy Heath tune that can be found on the 1972 long-player ‘The Gap Sealer’.

Najee switches to flute for the enticingly mellow ‘You Tube’ while elsewhere ‘In The Clouds’ proves to be another deliciously turned down cut that finds Najee at his sublime best on sax. In keeping with this tranquil theme the introspective ‘Mari’ serves as another tremendous vehicle for Najee’s intoxicating flute yet all three are in delightful contrast to the swaggering ‘Fu Fu She She’ where his playing is very much on the funky side.

Jeff Lorber’s contribution to ‘First Kiss’ is notable for the way in which he reigns in his typical fusion flavored disposition in favor of something altogether smoother and another track which is right up there with the collection’s best is ‘Perfect Nights’. With Najee hitting a melodic, easy grooving stride, this one is very hard to beat yet in terms of personal favorites it is the shimmering ‘Just To Fall In Love’ that steals the honors. Here Najee’s playing on flute is wonderful and complemented in no small measure by the outstanding vocals of Phil Perry.

Out now on the Shanachie label, The Smooth Side Of Soul is well worth closer attention.

Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please e-mail me on

Posted by Denis Poole at 5:54 PM

March 2, 2012


Saturday, June 16, 2012, 3:00 P.M. --11:00 P.M.
Sunday, June 17, 2012, 3:00 P.M. -- 10:30 P.M.

Hollywood Bowl
Los Angeles, California

The Annual Playboy Jazz Festival (PJF) is one of the most highly anticipated events of the season, whether you’ve only been once of 33 times! The all-star line up on stage is equally matched by the festivities in the 19,000 seat venue nestled gracefully in the Hollywood Hills.

The eclectic mix of music, including straight ahead & contemporary jazz, blues, Latin, R&B, and beyond, draws a diverse audience of couples, foursomes, and even large groups of 20 or more. Tables in the VIP, garden, and box seats are adorned by festival goers with linens, floral displays, candles and dinnerware. Hours before and during the concert are filled with happy people passing containers with every type of food imaginable, along with Champagne, wine, beer, and other beverages. No one is a stranger, as everyone quickly bonds with the people sitting around them…sharing small talk, laughs, food and more.

I’ve always believed that an event reflects the spirit of its producer and this is certainly true in this instance. The PBJ is the embodiment of Hugh Hefner’s vision to promote great music without regard to artificial boundaries of race, class and genre of music. You can always count on seeing an array of internationally known, A-list artists as well as some up and coming break-out groups and musicians. This year is no different.

June 16, 2012, 3:00 P.M. - 11:00 P.M.
(Artist line-up, subject to change)

-THE LAUSD / BEYOND THE BELL ALL CITY JAZZ BAND under the direction of Tony White and J.B. Dyas

Sunday, June 17, 2012, 3:00 P.M. - 10:30 P.M.
(Artist line-up, subject to change)

-CALABASAS HIGH SCHOOL JAZZ A BAND under the direction of Joshua Barroll

BILL COSBY, Master of Ceremonies


Single day tickets will be available through Ticketmaster starting February 16th. Patrons can purchase tickets online at, over the phone by calling (213) 365-3500 or (714) 740-7878, at any Ticketmaster outlet or by downloading a ticket order form available at There is also a link to the Ticketmaster website on the Playboy Jazz Festival website.
Tickets may also be purchased at the Hollywood Bowl Box Office beginning May 5th.

Park & Ride: For further information on Park & Ride and shuttle lots, please call (323) 850-2000.

On-site Parking is extremely limited. For information, call (323) 850-2000.

Posted by JazzGypsy at 4:46 AM