Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Marcus Johnson / Kirk & Kevin Whalum

Saturday afternoon at 2pm, there was the double bill of Marcus Johnson, followed by Kirk Whalum with special guest, brother Kevin on vocals.

Marcus Johnson is a gifted keyboard player and successful entrepreneur, he not only has a string of solo albums under his belt, but also has been running his own label (Three Keys) and now promotes his own wine under the Flo brand, along with a string of matching CDs. Playing with him, he had saxophonists Philip Doc Martin and Brian Lenair, who were great additions to the show. He started the show with some hard hitting uptempo songs, before slowing things down, which allowed each player to show his sensuous side. In between, he was talking about his career, emphasizing to go your own way even if everybody says it wouldn't be possible. Further highlights of the show were his covers of Sergio Mendes' "Mas Que Nada" and Steve Miller's "Fly Like An Eagle", which brought his set to an end.

After an intermission, saxophonist Kirk Whalum appeared with his killer band, he was accompanied by drummer Marcus Finnie, bassist Braylon Lacey, guitarist Kevin Turner and his long time friend and collaborator John Stoddart on keyboards and vocals, they were kicking off the show with "The Wave", followed by "Desperately", a song written for his wife transferring a message of love. Then we got a southern flavor with brother Kevin Whalum joining the stage for "Do You Feel Me". For a change, we got a straight ahead jazz track with some scatting by Kevin Whalum, a thing he is particularly adept with, plus solos by each member of the band. Next was "Autumn Serenade", a song they did together on their Romance Language album, followed by "You Are Too Beautiful" from the same CD. Then it was back to well known territory with their famous rendition of Maxwell's "Ascension", after that they gave us a little teaser for the upcoming Gospel show that would take place Sunday night with the great "Ta Ta You Jesus", using the Johnny Guitar Watson classic to carry a spiritual message. The next segment was featuring John Stoddart on vocals and keyboards, an outstanding artist in his own right, doing the heartfelt "Angel", a song he did for his wife on his wedding day, then the pace picked up with the Stevie Wonder classic "Do I Do". During the introduction to his next song, he was talking about his time with Whitney Houston, veering off to some preaching, before he went on to play "I Will Always Love You", probably the biggest hit of Whitney Houston that featured the timeless saxophone solo of Kirk Whalum, ending another entertaining show by those consummate artists.