By Val Vaccaro [photos by Barry Chapman -BazPix Photography]
2015 Berks All Star Jam - music directors Rick Braun & Gerald Veasley (photo by BazPix )
Both the popular, world-renowned 2016 Berks Jazz Fest and the spring weather in the Northeast are early this year - which is great news for jazz fans. The 2016 Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest runs from Friday, April 1 to Sunday, April 10 (and is sponsored again by Boscov's (a large family-owned American department store chain which opened its first store in the fest's hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania in 1914). As always, the Berks Jazz Fest is presented with support from the Berks Arts Council, and is run successfully by John Ernesto, Festival Manager for over two decades.
This year's 2016 Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest has 60 major ticketed concerts with top music legends, renowned artists, and talented newcomers performing a variety of music including smooth jazz, contemporary jazz, straight-ahead jazz, blues, big band, gospel, and world music. The star-studded artist lineup at the 2016 Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest includes: Chick Corea & Bela Fleck, Manhattan Transfer & Take 6, Kirk Whalum, Rick Braun & Norman Brown (BWB), Jonathan Butler & Gerald Albright, Boney James, Keiko Matsui, Chuck Loeb, Jeff Lorber, Gerald Veasley with guests Bobby Lyle, Nelson Rangell and Chieli Minucci, Michael Lington with Taylor Dayne, Brian Bromberg & The Berks Horns, Eric Marienthal, Everette Harp, Pieces of a Dream & East Bay Soul, Andy Snitzer, Nick Colionne, Najee & Chante Moore, Four80East with Matt Marshak and Art Sherrod Jr., The Rippingtons, Jackiem Joyner & Selena Albright, Richard Elliot & Bobby Caldwell, Robben Ford, Brubeck Brothers, Marcus Finnie, Vince Giordano, Nellie Mckay, Djangoholics Anonymous, The Original Groovemasters, David P Stevens, Dee Lucas, Carol Riddick, Popa Chubby, Keb' Mo', Greg Hatza, Tim Price, Lindsey Webster, Blind Boy Paxton, Philadelphia Funk Athority, Sherrie Maricle, Phil Perry & Howard Hewett, Zoe', Joey Alexander, Jazzreach Metta Quintet, Erich Cawalla, Bennie Sims, Cliff Starkey, Marko Marcinko, Craig Thatcher, Mavis Staples, Amy Helm, Devon Allman, Jackiem Joyner, Selina Albright, Kim Simmonds & Savoy Brown, Eric Mintel, the Kutztown University Jazz Ensemble 1, U.S. Air Force Rhythm in Blue Jazz Ensemble, U.S. Navy Band Commodores, and the Berks High School All-Star Big Band & Jazz Chorus.
The 2016 Berks Jazz Fest has many special shows including the popular Berks All Star Jam, four dynamic midnight jam sessions hosted by bassist Gerald Veasley, a BWB concert with Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum, and Norman Brown, and a Four 80 East show with Matt Marshak and Art Sherrod Jr. There is also a "Jazz Meets James" tribute to James Brown with Nick Colionne, Kim Waters, Eric Darius, Marion Meadows, Gerald Albright, Jeff Bradshaw, Jay Rowe, J.J. Sansaverino, and the Berks Horns, a Michael Lington and Taylor Dayne show, and a concert with Brian Bromberg and The Berks Horns (Mike Anderson, Rob Diener, and John Loos), along with Carl Cox and Bob Stoyko. Anderson and Diener will also perform at the Lington and Dayne concert. There are also plenty of other special concerts and events, including two different Sunday brunch concerts with Andy Snitzer & Nick Colionne, and Keiko Matsui, and the Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest Auction with prizes for jazz concert vacation getaway tickets to jazz cruises and various hotel resorts. On April 2, there are also a number of free music education workshops.
2015 Brian Bromberg & The Berks Horns: John Loos, Rob Diener, Mike Anderson (photos by BazPix)
Four80East (Tony Grace and Rob DeBoer), Matt Marshak, and Art Sherrod Jr. (photos by BazPix)
Nick Colionne2015 Berks Jazz Fest (photo by BazPix)
Jay Rowe-2015 Berks Jazz Fest (photo by BazPix)
BWB - Norman Brown, Kirk Whalum, Rick Braun -2014 Berks Jazz Fest (photos by BazPix)
At many of the venues, concert-goers will find a selection of attractive festival merchandise with the 2016 Berks Jazz Fest logo.
In the lobby of the Crowne Plaza Reading hotel, there are vendor tables with artfully crafted gift items and jewelry for sale. In addition, there are about 70 local festival shows (free or with cover charges) which feature a multitude of highly talented local musicians playing at various restaurants, bars, and churches. The Reading, PA area also includes outlet shopping, historic architecture, and some interesting tourist attractions including the Reading Pagoda.
The 2016 Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest finale event will take place on Sunday April 10th at 7pm. For the fourth year in a row, the inspirational concert will include Grammy award winning (and eleven-time Grammy nominee) saxophonist Kirk Whalum and his Gospel According to Jazz Celebration concert at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. The show includes Kirk Whalum, Donnie McClurkin, Jonathan Butler, Kevin Whalum, John Stoddart, Shelea Frazier, and the Doxa Gospel Ensemble. Kirk Whalum has recorded The Gospel According to Jazz CD series Chapter I (1998), Chapter II (2002), Chapter III (2010) and Chapter IV (2015), and has released a number of concert DVDs. As an ordained minister, Kirk Whalum also posts his Bible in Your Ear 15 minute podcasts every day (reading the entire Bible in 365 days) on his website. Whalum is the recipient of two Gospel music Stellar Awards, three Dove awards, and a NAACP Image Award nomination. In 2010, Kirk Whalum was named President and CEO of the Memphis-based Soulsville Foundation which includes the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, the Stax Music Academy and The Soulsville Charter School.
Kirk Whalum at the Gospel According to Jazz 2015 Berks Jazz Fest finale concert (photos by BazPix)
Each year over 40,000 jazz fans from around the world attend the Berks Jazz Fest in Reading, Pennsylvania area for a grand music celebration. The fest provides a wonderful music festival experience and maintains a friendly, easy-going, warm community spirit and environment for the jazz fans, musicians, festival management, and its over 400 volunteers. Every year, the Berks Jazz Fest staff and Berks Arts Council members do a superb job running and supporting the Fest. The Berks Arts Council receives funding through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.