Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Berks All-Star Jazz Jam

Thursday night, another long time audience favorite took place with the star-studded Berks All-Star Jazz Jam, which took place at the Crowne Plaza Ballroom, the event was sold out. This show is unique to the Berks Jazz Fest with its concept of bringing together many different artists to do their renditions of a selection of well known songs, taken care of by guitarist Chuck Loeb who usually is responsible for the program and leads through the evening. With each one on stage, they kicked off the show with a shuffling blues number, giving each player a short solo spot. Players on stage were Jeff Lorber on keyboards, Chuck Loeb, Norman Brown, Peter White and Marc Antoine on guitar, Eric Marienthal, Andrew Neu and Gerald Albright on saxophones, Rick Braun on trumpet, Gerald Veasley and Brian Bromberg on bass, Dave Samuels on vibes and Lionel Cordew on drums. After this first mass attack on your eardrums, the following songs are done by smaller combinations of players, featuring different artists during each song. Next was a version of "On Broadway" that owed a lot to George Benson, it featured all the guitar players and gave each one some solo time to shine, followed by Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" featuring Peter White and Rick Braun, who always amazes me with his flawless trumpet playing, plus some nice sax playing by Gerald Albright, during the song, singer Bobby Caldwell joined in and brought the song to the next level. Then they did Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island", which was covered by Brian Bromberg on his Downright Upright album and featured the bassist, vibraphonist Dave Samuels played some great vibes during this one, while Gerald Albright and Rick Braun added some cool solos as well. Singer Bobby Caldwell came back to do Joe Zawinul's "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy", followed by a subdued and jazzy version of "Bye, Bye, Blackbird" having drummer Lionel Cordew moving to the front of the stage just with a snare drum and brushes, showing his jazz sensibilities, and while the man was on stage, he had to do his signature song "What I Won't Do For Love", which concluded the first half of the show.

After the intermission, they went into part two of the show with Chuck Loeb on wah wah guitar leading into a funky version of Miles Davis' "So What" with plenty of horns courtesy of Rick Braun and Gerald Albright, then Eric Marienthal and Marc Antoine joined the stage again to do Chick Corea's "Spain", both players were smoking with their great solos. Then things slowed down with Peter White and Marc Antoine doing a duet, the song "Cafe Mystique" they recorded in the nineties, but hadn't done ever since, which provided a memorable moment of the concert. Norman Brown came back to do the Crusaders classic "Put It Where You Want It", followed by the introspective "My Funny Valentine" featuring Rick Braun on vocals and trumpet. Next was Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" featuring Andrew Neu on sax and Dave Samuels on vibes, before things were funked up again with "The Chicken", which concluded the show. The audience demanded an encore which was given with everybody on stage doing Stanley Turrentine's "Sugar", Rick Braun even bringing his valve trombone for this one, which ended a show that lasted three hours (intermission included) and featured some of the very best players of the business in a loose, fun setting that left the capacity crowed satisfied.