April 30, 2013

ALWAYS SOMETHING NEU

I knew when I first met Andrew Neu that someday I’d be writing about him. I found him to be such an interesting and versatile musician. The first thing that struck me about him was the level of his skill in playing. Next was the very down to earth personality, those blond curls and that ready smile. With so many talented saxophone players already in my CD player, I wondered how I could fit yet another one into my mixed bag of musical favorites. I didn’t know how there could be anything truly new, because I’ve heard so, so many good players over so many years. And that’s only because I live in Reading, Pennsylvania, home of the Berks Jazz Festival; I’m blessed with the opportunity to get a close-up look and impression of the great players that come through our town. And that includes saxophonists like David Sanborn, Boney James, Richard Elliot, Kim Waters, Warren Hill, Euge Groove, Kenny Blake, Gerald Albright, David Mann, Kirk Whalum, Dave Koz, and the list could go on. But I didn’t need to worry. Just as with other artists who are true to themselves, I found that in Andrew Neu there was, indeed, something new.

I had heard Neu with other players, mostly as a sideman and recognized that he was very talented. I’d seen him lead a high school jazz band and knew he was not just a player, but an effective leader, conductor, composer and arranger and that his talents were many. But when I heard him do his own show back in 2011, I was more impressed than I ever could have imagined. I loved the tunes, I couldn’t believe how he kept going and going with one exceptional performance after another on each song. He had a passion I loved to watch, and while he’s aware of his audience, he was mostly lost in each moment of musical expression – totally engrossed in a perfect delivery of what he came here to do. I was, and still am, so impressed – after hearing him perform numerous times, now, I see the same signature of dedicated effort and perfection in performance.

What I have found in following his career is that there are new things to discover about him at every turn. His multi-genre abilities, his experiences with so many talented players and vocalists, his compositions and arrangements, his publishing work, the status he maintains as ready-willing-and-able to add so much to any project he’s asked to do -- all of this adds up to a remarkable journey for those of us who have become true fans. His life gives new meaning to the phrase, ‘There’s always something Neu.’

Neu has so many things going on I can hardly keep up. Here is an encapsulated view of just some major highlights of his career: he was chosen to play and tour with Bobby Caldwell and also with Diane Schuur in major US cities like Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, as well as Japan and China this past year; he has been regularly filling in with Smokey Robinson on his tours. He’s also played in England, France and Italy (the Italy trip involved taking a high school band there to perform). He plays with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops, and has played with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He leads an all-star big band with trumpeter Anthony Bonsara in Los Angeles, and has shared the stage with Elton John, Patti LaBelle, Melissa Manchester, Mel Torme, along with many contemporary jazz artists, such as Pat Martino, Randy Brecker, Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Gerald Albright, Kim Waters, Nick Colionne, David Benoit, Chieli Minucci, and Brian Simpson. He recorded with Bobby Caldwell and others, including Manhattan Transfer, David Sanborn, Jeff Lorber, Brian Culbertson, Sister Sledge and Buddy DeFranco.

One thing is certain about Neu. He is constantly changing from one location to another. You may find him in the Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood, California or the Razz Room at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco, playing with Bobby Caldwell or Diane Schuur, or you might find him in Pennsylvania for most of the ten days of music of the Berks Jazz Fest, which is where I’ve found him in recent years. I might add there are a few regulars who are always part of Berks -- people like Gerald Veasley, Chuck Loeb and a few others with a versatility and talent for orchestrating and arranging music for events involving many musicians. Andrew Neu is quickly becoming one of those who are valuable to Berks in that regard -- he simply has that much to offer. I’ve seen it first-hand and I’ve seen his fan base continue to grow, something that is exciting to watch.

I wanted to learn more about how Neu began playing the saxophone in his early years and get to know the visions that have provided him the energy to accomplish all that he does. What has and does life as a musician mean to him as a person?

Interestingly, Neu began his musical efforts with a clarinet. He loved trumpet, but an older brother was already busy learning to play it, flute was taken by a sister, and drums were too loud for the household, so he settled on the clarinet. Later, he realized this had been a good choice, because it was much easier to go from clarinet to saxophone than vice versa. And when he switched to the saxophone, he always had the clarinet to fall back on. Along the way he learned to play the flute, also, and he has never fallen out of love with the trumpet.

Seeing his brother play gigs made him realize this is something he also wanted to do some day. He got into the high school jazz band. He spent a lot of time listening to classical music in his earlier years and this gave him an enduring appreciation at a young age for the teamwork of more than one instrument – a ‘big band.’ He loved the idea, and it shows that in so many of his efforts; it’s leading or playing in a big band that seems to satisfies something deep within him.

Neu likes to play all kinds of music – he’s happy with a big band, a folk band, playing behind a vocalist, enjoying the quietness of an acoustic song, or a loud ‘kicking out all the stops’ type of song, in addition to Latin, funk, and classical. He writes and transcribes music for entire bands for Kendor Music, and for the individual music of particular artists.

Neu learned early in his career to always give his best effort, and that he won’t always know who might be listening and what they are looking for. Bringing your top game every time and appreciating all of the opportunities that come your way has been an important part of his vision of what being a musician is about. It’s also important to him to be emotionally open to music and where it takes him and where it takes others who are listening.

Neu is grateful to have played on the albums of three key players in the last year, being featured on Steve Oliver’s top 10 record, World Citizen, Bobby Caldwell’s new CD entitled, House of Cards, and playing sax and flute on every track of Peter White’s new CD, Here We Go.

Neu has released three well received CD’s of his own (Inspire, 2000, In Clear View in 2007 and Try Something Neu in 2009) and is now ready to launch his fourth and most exciting CD on June 4th of this year. The new CD title, Everything Happens for a Reason, was inspired by his recent experience of looking forward to a gig in Bermuda or the Bahamas. While planning the trip, Neu realized Berks Jazz Fest was at the exact same time, and felt he needed to choose Berks instead of going to an island. As hard as that was, it turned out to be a great choice because that year many got to know him, and many opportunities grew from that particular year being part of the Berks Jazz Scene. He knew afterwards there was a reason why he didn’t end up on an idyllic beach during that ten day period. Since that time, he’s been reminded so often that it’s true – things really do happen for a reason.

The new CD is being produced by Brian Bromberg (who played on and helped engineer In Clear View) and Steve Oliver. Neu says, “It’s an adventurous project featuring Rick Braun, Bobby Caldwell, Jeff Lorber, Brian Bromberg, Steve Oliver, Tom Schuman, Alex Acuna and others. It’s embellished by a horn section and a full orchestra and takes you on a journey.” Andrew co-wrote a song with Bobby Caldwell for the CD and arranged a different take on the well-known jazz standard, ‘Take Five.’ Neu says it’s inspired by the soul jazz and Latin music of the 60’s. The CD will also feature more of Neu’s flute playing.

Neu continues to move forward with a keen desire to “be out in front of audiences, connecting to people on whatever level they are responding to the music.” As he puts it, “I can’t see having chosen any other career….my passion, my work, and my hobby are all the same thing: music.”

As an observer of his brilliant career, I can only say: it definitely shows. And becomes Neu every day.

Please keep up with the latest news on Andrew Neu at his website, andrewneu.com.

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Reading, Pennsylvania
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Write me at mygirlsunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:25 AM

April 16, 2013

Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Maysa

At 2pm, Maysa was headlining her own show tagged as Maysa & Her Jazz Funk Soul Symphony, the first time she actually appeared under how own name, until now she just has been guesting with other artists, so she took the opportunity to give us something really special. The stage was crammed with players, the band consisted of four string players, a three piece horn section, two keyboard players (one doubling on flute), percussion, drums, bass, guitar, plus two additional vocalists. They started with a nice latin track with some great flute playing, followed by "Hooked On Your Love", then her classic "Out Of The Blue" followed, a song she wrote when her son was prematurely born, then one of my favorites, the mesmerizing "Hypnotic Love", which was nicely grooving along, the groove picked up again with "Pressure" having almost an Incognito feeling. In general I had the impression that her songs owe a lot to Bluey and Incognito, that is the school she went through and an ongoing connection that is still very strong, even the instrumentation retains many ingredients of the Incognito sound, especially the strong horn section, which provided several great solos. Another nice one was "Honey Bee", slowing down the pace, allowing her voice to shine, the first set was ended with the introspective "Can We Change The World".

Part two of the show continued with Gil Scott-Heron's "The Bottle", then she did "Come Dance With Me" inspired by a broken up relationship, followed by Angela Bofill's "I Try" doing it justice, pulling all the stops, then some old school was due with a nice medley consisting among others of "Wishing On A Star" and "Zoom", which was well received, followed by a disco medley of songs like "Last Night A DJ Saved My Live", "Just A Touch Of Love" and more, recreating the spirit of that era nicely, before she went back to her own material with "Deep Waters", segueing into "I Will Always Love You", then "Love To Love You Baby", complete with a subtle rap part by Maysa, later culminating in shouting, moaning and scatting, which was a real musical journey and musical treat, this climax marked the end of a remarkable show by one of the best singers in the business.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 9:24 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Marc Antoine

Sunday morning, the was another Sunday morning brunch at the Inn at Reading featuring guitarist Marc Antoine, the room was packed and the show seemed to be sold out. After some healthy breakfast, we were ready for some music. Marc had a great band, on keys was Jay Rowe, on drums was Third Richardson and on bass was Tim George, they were nicely grooving along supporting the acoustic guitar playing of the leader. Among the songs played were his classically influenced "Dreamer", a nice rendition of a Mozart composition, his famous composition "Jaseco" which also was covered by George Benson, they played the gamut from latin to jazz to funk to classic having the time fly by, the encore given was Chick Corea's "Spain", bringing a very nice and well received concert to an end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 9:22 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Jonathan Butler

At 10pm, Jonathan Butler appeared at the Crowne Plaza ballroom with his own band, he had his daughter Jody as vocalist in the band. He opened with a nice instrumental on acoustic guitar, with lots of African flavors, followed by "Many Faces" featuring some killer bass. Next were the funky "Color Green" and the great cover of "If I Ever Lose This Heaven", other highlights were "Sarah, Sarah" and especially "No Woman, No Cry" which is one the staples of his show. Next was a cool instrumental on guitar, providing some solo spots for his band, before the show was finished with his hit song "Lies", that had people get on their feet and clap and sing along.

Additionally, he was promoting his safari in South Africa which provides an experience of a lifetime, offering a safari with Jonathan Butler and his family, more info can be found at http://www.jbutlersafari.com.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 9:19 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Brian Culbertson

Saturday night, the much anticipated new show by Brian Culbertson was taking place, it was sold out. They started their current tour one week ago, so the new band was playing together not for very long. They entered the stage and hit us hard with some funk, playing some of his favorite in songs in quick succession. All that was left from his old band were drummer Chris Miskel and keyboardist Eddie Miller, everybody else was gone. New in were some young players, we got Maurice Ellis on bass and Adam Hawley on guitar, plus vocalists Selina Albright and Jason Morales. Brian Culbertson as usual was center stage with his keyboards, also playing his mean trombone. They were playing a few songs from the XII record, among them "It's Time", then things slowed down with some soulful trademark playing by Brian, creating magical moments. Despite all the nice vibes, I felt something to be missing, until it stuck me - there were no horn players! So getting used to a horn-less Brian Culbertson takes some time, the shift from a powerful horn section to vocalists will probably make some people feel uncomfortable at first. Nevertheless, especially Selina Albright was a great addition to the show, with her youthful energy and great vocals, she provided lots of joy and entertainment, while her fellow vocalist Jason Morales did a great job as well, especially on "Skies Wide Open" that featured him. They turned up the heat again with "You Got To Funkifize", then it was time for some solo piano with "Dreams", the tile cut of the CD of the same name, segueing into "Secret Garden", providing some sensuous playing of the highest order, having the audience cheer along. Next was his rendition of EWF's "Serpentine Fire" featuring his keyboards, followed by "Funk For My Fathers", before they wrapped up the show with another instrumental. Despite the new band needs some getting used to, the final impression was positive and the crowd seemed to have loved it. Brian Culbertson deserves credit for doing something new, take some chances and not play it safe by relying on the same old stuff.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 9:10 PM

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.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 9:03 PM

April 13, 2013

Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Gerald Albright & Norman Brown

At 10pm, we got two of our favorite players, saxophonist Gerald Abright and guitarist Norman Brown, doing a show together to promote their current release 24/7 which they were finally able to realize after more than 30 years of friendship. Better late than never, one may argue, so those two players were warmly welcomed, they kicked off their show with both artists playing, before Norman Brown took over the spotlight with "West Coast Cooling" featuring his Wes- and Benson-inclined playing, before Gerald Albright came out to do his classic "Bermuda Nights", then they did their current single "In The Moment" featuring both players. Things slowed down with Gerald Albright playing some of his most revered covers in the form of "So Amazing" and "My, My, My", both done in the inimitable Albright style. Norman Brown came back to do the tiltle track from his After The Storm album, later they did "Bueno Amigos" from the 24/7 release, then Gerald Albright did his rendition of "Georgia On My Mind" complete with blues guitar from Norman Brown, after that they funked up things again with each band member getting a solo spot, plus gave an encore, finishing a great show.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:13 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Jazz Attack

Friday night at 7pm, another audience favorite with Jazz Attack was due, this all-star band features Jeff Lorber on keyboards, Peter White on guitar, Rick Braun on trumpet and Richard Elliot on saxophone, the backing band consisted of Nate Phillips on bass, Randy Jacobs on guitar, Third Richardson on drums and Ron Reinhardt on keys. They started the show with Rick Braun entering from the rear, playing his trumpet, with the band picking up the groove on the stage, having the audience clap along, thus bringing things up to speed quickly. Next was Peter White doing one his songs, with Richard Elliot supporting him on sax. Then Jeff Lorber joined the stage to play his "Tune 88" from his Water Sign album, amply supported by the horn players, before the groove got heavier with "Rock Steady" featuring Richard Elliot on sax, segueing into "Move On Up" with some nice trumpet playing by Rick Braun, then going into "Boom Town" from his current In The Zone album. Then Rick Braun stepped into the spotlight to do his big hit "Notorious" on the flugelhorn, slowing things down after that with "The Good Life", a song he recorded on his Sings With Strings album with full orchestra. Peter White came back to get real serious, he played his great rendition of the Isley Brothers' "Who's That Lady", segueing into the Temptations' "Papa Was A Rolling Stone", taking off with an outstanding solo on his distorted sounding acoustic guitar. Then it was Jeff Lorber's turn again with the title track from his He Had A Hat album, followed by "Monserrat" from his Galaxy album, the grooving and complex fusion track had Rick and Richard play their horn parts, reading from sheets. To give the audience a bit of relief, Richard Elliot dug into his trademark song, "When A Man Loves A Woman". I guess he must have stopped counting how often he did this one, but he injects each time so much emotion into the song that it never sounds tired, consequently his great performance brought the house down. Peter White did "Costa Rica" from his current release, followed by another hard hitting fusion track by Jeff Lorber, followed by "Shake Your Body Down To The Ground", a song that will appear on the soon to be released BWB album called Human Nature. Then, as a little surprise, they threw in some straight ahead jazz with "A Night In Tunisia" that showed what outstanding jazz players both Rick Braun and Richard Elliot are, which contrasted nicely with the hard hitting funk of "Keep On Truckin'" that followed after that, the song featured a great guitar solo by Randy Jacobs and had Richard Elliot groove on the EWI. The show was closed with the Peter White classic "Bueno Funk" with some nice interplay between Peter and the horn players. Despite the fact the band had played for well over two hours, the audience demanded an encore, so they came back to wrap up this great show with "Grazing In The Grass". I have seen the Jazz Attack show many times, still I am well entertained by the awesome musicianship by each player on stage, in addition they change the program all the time, so this show always is a sure bet.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:03 PM

April 12, 2013

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.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 2:31 PM

April 11, 2013

Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Berks Bop III

Wednesday night at the Jazz Base, guitarist Chuck Loeb was leading a bunch of daring musicians through his Berks Bop III night, a concert which was dedicated to the art of bebop, taking place for the third time and always drawing a big crowd. The club was packed and not a single seat was empy. They kicked off the show with "Billy's Bounce", originally done by Charlie Parker, featuring the horn section, saxophonist Eric Marienthal did the first solo, followed by Rick Braun on trumpet, then it was Gerald Albright's turn, each player having a distinct sound on his instrument, before Chuck Loeb took the chance to shine on guitar, then Jeff Lorber did a smoking solo on the keys, next was bassist Brian Bromberg on acoustic bass soloing, the band was supported by the excellent Lionel Cordew on drums, who seemed to have a lot of fun playing this kind of music. After this one, they did "Night In Tunisia", originally done by Dizzy Gillespie, slowing things down a bit, before the pace decidedly picked up with Miles Davis' "Donna Lee" who really was the ultimate challenge for the horn section, Jeff Lorber on acoustic piano and Chuck Loeb on guitar played like hell as well, it was great to see those world class players to master this complex tune. After that, they did Charlie Parker's "My Little Suede Shoes", followed by Thelonius Monk's "Round Midnight" featuring Gerald Albright to relax a bit, before after one more uptempo track we had a short intermission.

The second part of the concert was started with "All The Things You Are", followed by Charlie Parker's "Ornithology" that featured the two saxophonists, then Rick Braun brought his valve trombone for "St. Thomas", a song made famous by Sonny Rollins. Next was John Coltrane's "Giant Steps", before Rick Braun sang "Body & Soul", a song he covered previously on his shows, just accompanied by Chuck Loeb on guitar, additionally featuring his trumpet playing. One more uptempo track and the show was over, but they returned for an encore and did Stanley Turrentine's "Sugar", which brought a great show to an end. Experiencing those great players in an intimate club setting playing from their hearts is always a joy, I am glad that the Berks Jazz Fest offers this opportunity, and the packed house made it look very likely that we will get Berks Bop IV next year.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:02 PM

April 10, 2013

Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Esperanza Spalding

Tuesday evening, we got the opportunity to witness two times Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding on bass and vocals at the Scottish Rite Cathedral doing her Radio Music Society show, she appeared with her band (keyboards, guitar and drums) plus a mini big band consisting of seven reed players, one of them doubling on vocals, plus a dedicated singer. Esperanza Spalding is not only a great bassist - acoustic and electric - but also a gifted vocalist and a beauty to look at. She was extensively talking between songs sharing her views on various things, their talks were segueing into the next song, each time featuring her on bass and vocals, with several horn solos thrown in for good measure. Her horn players were an integral part of her music, we got lots of great trombone, alto and tenor sax playing, plus the occasional keyboard and guitar solo. Her music has a certain quirkiness and is therefore a bit of an acquired taste, but is at the same time innovative and intriguing, thus providing excellent entertainment. Her show lasted two hours which flew by, they finished with the title track of their current release, which had the audience sing along. The encore was just a duet done by her female singer and her on bass and vocals, which brought things nicely to an end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:02 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Fourplay & Lalah Hathaway

At 7pm Sunday night at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center, it was time to witness the beauty and perfection of super group Fourplay, featuring Bob James on piano, Nathan East on bass & vocals, Chuck Loeb on guitar and Harvey Mason on drums, plus special guest Lalah Hathaway on vocals. Despite their lengthy careers, they still kept the sparkle, they opened their show with "December Dream" that featured the voice of Nathan East and some nice piano playing by Bob James, this song was written by newest member Chuck Loeb and garnered them a Grammy nomination, followed by the groovy "Max-O-Man" that had Chuck Loeb smoking on the guitar, then "Chant" written by Bob James. They did their tribute to Hank Jones called "Gentle Giant" featuring some trademark Bob James piano playing, followed by their current single from the Esprit De Four album called "Sunnymoon". Then it was time to have special guest Lalah Hathaway enter the stage, she sang a jazzy version of the Gershwin classic "Summertime" in her inimitable style, then "For All We Know" - a tribute to her father Donny Hathaway - before a highlight from the Fourplay catalog in the form of "Between The Sheets" was due, featuring the vocals of both Nathan East and Lalah Hathaway. The pace picked up with another funky song, showing the virtuosity of all players, before the signature song "101 Eastbound" was done. They finished their show with Lalah Hathaway back, doing the Marvin Gaye classic "After The Dance", they came back for an encore, the much revered "Westchester Lady" that gave each member of the band an opportunity to shine. This was another flawless show by those great players, it was nice to see that Chuck Loeb now firmly has become a Fourplay member, having earned his rank in this super group with his excellent contributions as a composer and instrumentalist.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:33 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Lee Ritenour & Michael Lington

After an intermission, Lee Ritenour appeared with his excellent band. On drums was Sonny Emory, on bass the awesome Melvin Davis, and on keys Phil Davis, who had been added to the band very recently and did a great job. The show was opened by special guest Michael Lington on sax, who did a couple of his numbers first, one of them being "Pacifica" from his Stay With Me album, before Lee Ritenour came to the stage to do "Roadtrip", a song from Michael Lington's current album Pure they both did together, followed by Lee's classic "Night Rhythms" from his Festival album, featuring acoustic guitar. After that, Lee took over and played the title track from Wes Bound, keeping things jazzy with "Stolen Moments" after that, during this song, bass player Melvin Davis was featured on 7-string bass and vocals, showing considerable vocal prowess and improvisational skills. Next was a song from his current release Rhythms Sessions called "The Village", that brought more classic Lee guitar playing. Michael Lington came back to join the band for the last song, an extended version of the inevitable "Rio Funk" which was done in a very open and improvisational spirit, yielding exciting results. They came for one encore and did Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up", having the audience sing along. This was a very enjoyable concert by one of my musical heroes, supported by a killer band.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:17 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Joey Sommerville

Sunday afternoon, it was the double bill of trumpet player Joey Sommerville, followed by Lee Ritenour with special guest Michael Lington on sax, both playing full-length shows

Trumpet player Joey Sommerville appeared for the first time at the Berks Jazz Festival, which certainly was long overdue. He opened his show with a killer jazz-funk track that had the bass slapping and gave the drummer some, he was definitely in the mood to play! The energy level was kept high with a groover from his Ride To This album, followed by AWB's "School Boy Crush", a song he did with the late Wayman Tisdale. After that, things were slowed down with his cover of Floetry's "Say Yes", featuring Alex Smith on keyboards. As a special guest, saxophonist Elan Trotman was invited to the stage to do a funked up version of Duke Ellington's jazz classic "Caravan", both players stretched out and delighted the crowd with their extended solos. Next, Joey sat at the piano to start his "Moonshadows", later switching back to his trumpet to play this heartfelt, slow number, showing lots of sensibilities. After that one, the pace picked up again with a blues number that gave Joey an opportunity to sing, having the audience clap along, followed by "On And On", his tribute to the late Grover Washington, Jr., a cool track that offered some smoking trumpet playing over a rhythm that owed a lot to "Mr. Magic". Elan Trotman was reinvited for the last song, they finished their show with "Like You Mean It", a latin party track that brought a great concert to an end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:43 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Elan Trotman

Sunday morning, we had to get up early again to be at the Sunday Jazz Brunch at the Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, where rising star Elan Trotman on saxophone was playing. As he later remarked during the show, three years ago, he came to the festival as a spectator, the year after that he sat in at the Midnight Jam, the next year he officially participated in the All-Star Jazz Jam, and this year he got his own show. He started it by entering the ballroom from the rear and wandering through his audience, playing his sax. He brought us in the right mood with the sultry "Rain" from his Love And Sax album, he totally blew me away with his soulful and smooth playing, this artist has the art of smooth jazz completely mastered, this song was simply outstanding and had people cry and shout of excitement, a nice extended guitar solo by Tyrone Chase was another highlight during this one. Hailing from Barbados, Elan Trotman paid homage to his heritage with "Tropicality", the title track of his new album, providing a laid back island vibe, followed by his rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Master Blaster Jamming", that grooved along nicely. "Tradewinds" featured him on soprano sax, showing his versatility. Then his guest artist, bassist Gerald Veasley was invited to the stage, a musician he heard playing with Grover Washington, Jr. when he was 16 at the Barbados Jazz Festival, an experience that influenced him deeply, and now he had Gerald play with him - dreams come true after all! They did Grover's "Winelight" and Elan Trotman proved that had the Grover vibe down for sure, his smooth and sensual playing was simply mesmerizing, and Gerald's bass playing did the rest to make this a very memorable performance. The next song featured his trumpet player Eric Bloom on Chick Corea's "Spain", jazzing things up, during this one, each band member got a short solo spot. After that, a really great Earth, Wind & Fire medley followed, starting with "That's The Way Of The World", segueing into "Reasons" which featured some nice flugelhorn, then "Sun Goddess" which really evoked a classic EWF feeling and had the audience sing along, then "Can't Hide Love" and "Getaway", providing another highlight of the show. He did one encore and used this opportunity to get out into the audience once more and play close to his fans. This concert was really outstanding, I knew that Elan Trotman was good, but during this show, I learned that he is an absolute top-class artist, and with his humble and nice personality, there should nothing stand in his way to make it to the very top of the genre.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 2:35 PM

April 9, 2013

Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Gerald Veasley's Midnight Jam #2

Saturday at midnight, it was time for another Midnight Jam led by bassist Gerald Veasley, the place to be for people looking for unexpected moments and unpredictable moves from our favorite players, who happen to hang around at the club during this night. The core band were Gerald Veasley on bass, Richard Waller III on drums, Donald Robinson on keyboards, Andrew Neu on saxophone and Brian Hughes on guitar, they started the proceedings with the easy grooving "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" by Joe Zawinul, saxophonist Elan Trotman joined the band, to give us some awesome saxophone playing, continuing the song, then another saxophonist, Michael Lington, joined in to do his part of this song. After that Forrest Robinson sat at the drums and Allen Smith at the keyboards to support Kim Waters on sax who did an uptempo and very straight ahead jazz track showing his prowess on the sax. Next was trumpet player Joey Sommerville doing Freddie Hubbard's "Little Sunflower". Other players that showed up later that night were Nick Colionne on guitar and the outstanding Eric Bloom on trumpet. They wrapped it up with Richard Tucker on guitar and Andrew Neu on sax doing a moving rendition of the Beatles classic "Let It Be". It was another memorable and entertaining jam that lasted until 2am. There will two more this week on Friday and Saturday.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:13 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Brian Bromberg

At 10pm, I opted to skip the big star event at the Crowne Plaza and check out bassist Brian Bromberg who played in the Jazz Base, presenting his Compared To That album with a five piece horn section. I always admired his artistry on the bass and experiencing him play in the intimate setting of a club seemed rather enticing. He was supported by Joel Taylor on drums, Randy Brecker on trumpet, Chris Farr on tenor sax, Tom Zink on piano and keyboards, plus the Berks Jazz Fest Horns who appeared in their extended version. They kicked off the show with "Compared To That", a groovy uptempo number that featured several solos by the band members, followed by "I'm Just Sayin'", a song with a cool walking bass line that had many heads bopping along. Featuring his more introverted, darker side, he did "The Eclipse" and evoked a variety of sounds from his acoustic bass. Another favorite was "Rory Lowery, Private Eye" with its no holds barred, go for it feel having the band groove like hell. For the song "A Little Old School", he switched to his electric bass and funked things up considerably, the horn section was burning on this one. They continued the set with the swinging "It Is What It Is", the title track from the album of the same name, before they returned to the Compared To That album with Brian's cover of the Chicago classic "Doesn Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" played on a higher tuned bass guitar, sounding close to a guitar, before they wrapped up the show with "Give It To Me Baby", originally done by Rick James, but his jazzed up version sounded definitively different. This was a really great straight ahead concert that tremendously benefitted from the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, who elevated the music to another level.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:44 PM

April 8, 2013

Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Incognito feat. Maysa

At 7pm, Incognito performed at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center, a great historic venue that provided the appropriate setting for this great band from Britain, led by Bluey Maunick who celebrates his 34th year in the music industry. They kicked off the show with an uptempo instrumental featuring the three piece horn section and a keyboard solo by Matt Cooper. Remember that Incognito entered the scene back in 1979 with an instrumental album called Jazz Funk, vocalists were later added during their career, and Bluey still loves to do some smoking instrumentals during his shows. Next was one of my favorites from their catalog, the funky "Roots (Back To A Way Of Life)" featuring the lovely Vanessa Haynes on vocals. Next being introduced was singer Natalie Williams, followed by the only male singer, Tony Momrelle, who just returned from a tour with Sade and had been sorely missed by the band during that time. Then it was time for the best singer this band ever nurtured, Maysa, who spent some important time during the early stages of her career with Incognito and will always be connected with them, she sang "Don't Turn My Love Away" in her own inimitable style. followed by "Step Into My Life" from the Positivity album.

In between songs, Bluey shared stories from his career, before more jazz-funk inclined songs featuring one of those world-class singers followed, with "Just A Friend Of Mine" being another highlight. Another fun part during the show was when everybody switched instruments and Bluey had an excuse to feature his vocals. They turned up the heat with "Parisienne Girl" from 1979 that featured the sax player who really brought the house down with his smoking sax playing that didn't want to end, people were cheering while he took the song higher and higher, it was just awesome. Then we got a great percussion and drums solo, where both players really pulled all the stops and showed their virtuosity. In the middle of the concert, Bluey paid tribute to songwriters Leon Ware and Stevie Wonder, who both are close to his heart, with Natalie Williams doing an awesome rendition of Minnie Riperton's "Inside My Love" that gave me goose bumps. Maysa did her signature song "Deep Waters", complete with some vocal improvisation, before they did their own Philly tribute with "Nights Over Egypt". At the end, Bluey did his "peace & love" speech, before we were dismissed to the sound of Bob Marley's "One Love" after over two hours of music. Time flew during this firework of music.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:15 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Gerald Veasley’s Sounds of Philly

Saturday afternoon at 2pm, we were in for a treat with Gerald Veasley’s Sounds of Philly featuring a string of guest artists, celebrating the music of Philly created by Gamble and Huff on their seminal PIR label during the 70ies and 80ies. Bassist Gerald Veasley not only hails from Philadelphia, he played for several years with the late saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. who was from Philly as well, so he was well entitled to do this tribute show to this golden music era.

The show was opened with "T.S.O.P" originally done by M.F.S.B., it featured saxophonist Chris Farr and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns. Next was Teddy Pendergrass' "Love T.K.O." featuring guitarist Nick Colionne who looked awesome in his pink suit with tails, confirming his status as best dressed man in show business, he did the song justice with his soulful, Wes inclined playing. Things were speeded up a bit with "I'll Be There", also played by Nick Colionne, who took the opportunity to fool around with Gerald Veasley with some crazy interplay during one segment of the song. Things slowed down when songstress extraordinaire Carol Riddick came to the stage to do her heartfelt renditions of Phyllis Hyman's "Old Friend", followed by "Don't Let It Go To Your Head", originally done Jean Carn. After that, it was time to cover Grover Washington, Jr.'s "Let If Flow" which featured Chris Farr on tenor sax, giving also Gerald Veasley some solo space on the bass, he took the opportunity to throw in the bass line of "For The Love Of Money", after that things slowed down with Phil Perry, who tore up Patti LaBelle's "If Only You Knew". They closed their first half of the show with "Wake Up Everybody", featuring husband and wife duo Kindred The Family Soul.

After the intermission, the show was continued with Grover's "Winelight" featuring Chris Farr, a cherished classic of this artist, before we continued to dig deeper into the PIR catalog. Nick Colionne and Phil Perry were summoned onto the stage to do "Say It", before Phil Perry and Carol Riddick did "You Are Everything" as an emotional duet, showing their vocal prowess. This intense moment inspired Gerald Veasley to do a song off the set list, his own "Forever" featuring his bass, which always is a highlight of his show. Kindred The Family Soul came back to raise the soul factor, doing some of their own songs, before Phil Perry did one of the ultimate PIR classics in the form of "Love Don't Love Nobody", bringing the house down. The show was brought to an end with Kindred The Family Soul doing "Ain't No Stopping Us Now" bringing the crowd to their feet. An encore was demanded and given, it was the grande finale with everyone on stage doing "Love Train", which brought a great show lasting over two hours to an end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:20 PM

Berks Jazz Fest: Weekend One

The official opening of the Berks Jazz Festival was quite a night. It’s impossible for one person to attend every show that is going on, but I had a very full night attending Keiko Matsui's concert at the Miller Center for the Arts, Najee and special guest Alex Bugnon at the Reading Crowne Plaza, followed by hanging out at the Gerald Veasley Jazz Base for the Midnight Jam until 2:30 AM!

Keiko Matsui put on a phenomenal show, filled with the beauty and grace of her well known hits and some uptempo as well as Latin-influenced tunes. With her I keep noticing how perfect her delivery of notes, mood, and style are in every song. The endings to her songs were exquisite, to the point where it felt sacred to remain quiet-- I wanted to hear the last note evaporate into the air before that burst of applause. Her band members and featured saxophonist were outstanding as well and the entire evening has become a beautiful memory.

Najee’s show was filled with energy, of course his own (he's a multi-talented player of soprano, alto, tenor sax and flute!) but also the band members, especially the bass player, always moving and grooving and easy to see in his white slacks (a welcomed tribute to warmer weather on the way), and the guitarist, Chuck Johnson, who was a dynamo of heart and soul, most especially when he sang Freddie Jackson's 'All I Ever Ask.' Both Najee and Alex Bugnon thrilled the audience with their playing. It’s hard to imagine the complexity of what these artists can do until you see them in person.

The Midnight Jam was a gift, as usual. It's great when you get the chance to see the interaction between so many loved and talented musicians. Gerald Veasley always sets the stage so beautifully and then we’re off with every combination of all the multi-talented artists in the place. They come and go as if they’ve practiced all week, yet you know it’s only natural for them to enter and exit the stage on cue and know just what to do. Here are the musicians we saw at the first jam: Gerald Veasley, Nick Colionne, Andrew Neu, Brian Bromberg, Brian Hughes, Elan Trotman, Chris Farr, Richard Faller, Najee and his band, and more! A very exciting night!

The rest of the weekend has been a whirlwind, too. Shows were awesome and very well-attended. Our host Peter Boehi will continue to post pictures and information about individual concerts. As this first weekend comes to a close, remember that during this next week there will be more events to attend.

Monday evening, bassist Brian Bromberg will be the guest of the Berks High School All-Star Jazz Band at the Crowne Plaza Reading Ballroom. This is a free concert. I’ve seen Brian play with a big band last year and he was phenomenal, so I’m sure Monday night will be a real treat.

Tuesday evening, Esperanza Spalding, bassist, vocalist, composer and Grammy Award winner for Best New Artist in 2011, will appear at the Scottish Rite Cathedral.

Wednesday evening brings Chuck Loeb and his friends Rick Braun, Brian Bromberg, Gerald Albright, Eric Marienthal, Jeff Lorber, and Lionel Cordew to his Berks Bop-III. This show has become a tradition at Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base at Berks with its concept of straight-ahead, swinging and be-bop jazz.

Also Wednesday evening, the Dave Stahl Big Band will feature special guests Bobby Caldwell and Andrew Neu in the ballroom of the Crowne Plaza. Dave Stahl has played with many renowned bands and artists in his day, including Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Ella Fitzgerald. Bobby Caldwell is a very well-known vocalist who brings an unforgettable performance whenever he’s on stage. Andrew Neu, stellar saxophonist, has become a regular at the Berks Jazz Fest. His impressive background includes touring with Bobby Caldwell, playing with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops, performing live with Diane Schuur and Smokey Robinson as well as with the Dave Stahl Big Band when time permits, and in addition to all this, he’s working on his 4th CD!

Stay tuned for more information on what’s coming up during the second weekend of Berks. And remember, for Jazz Fest, Thursdays are part of the weekend!

Happy Jazzin’

Beverly J. Packard
Reading, Pennsylvania
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Mygirlsunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 2:45 AM

April 6, 2013

Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Gerald Veasley's Midnight Jam #1

At midnight it was time for Gerald Veasley's Midnight Jam at the Jazz Base, my favorite event that always provides musical surprises and unexpected moments, yielding the best jazz entertainment one can wish for. Gerald Veasley was leading the event, he was supported by Richard Waller III on drums, Donald Robinson on keyboards, Andrew Neu on saxophone and Brian Hughes on guitar who started the proceedings with Stanley Turrentine's "Sugar". Then Elan Trotman joined the stage to play a very jazzy rendition of "St. Thomas", before a slow blues featured the gutsy tenor sax of Chris Farr, plus the guitars of David P. Stevens and Nick Colionne, who was killing it once again with his bluesy guitar playing and singing, his wicked humor is a treasure to behold. For "Footprints", Brian Bromberg funked thinks up on the bass, then Najee's band took over to play the Gap Band's "Ourstanding" supported by Najee on flute, providing a highlight of the night. Then the core band came back and wrapped up a great night of improvised music.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:28 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Najee & Alex Bugnon

At 10pm saxophonist Najee with special guest Alex Bugnon on piano appeared at the Crowne Plaza Hotel ballroom, the set was opened with an explosive version of "Can't Hide Love", his young and tight band was kicking ass and Najee soared like an eagle with his soprano saxophone above it all. Like Keiko Matsui, Najee is celebrating 25 years as a solo artist, still going strong. After the first few ultra groovy tracks, Alex Bugnon joined the band with some funky playing on the piano, having the crowd cheer along. Later he played a couple of tracks from an upcoming album, one of them being "Night In Tunisia".

Alex Bugnon and Najee go back a long way, Alex Bugnon was the keyboard player in Najee's band when he toured after the release of his first album, with Alex Bugnon later being signed by Capitol as well. So the bond between those two is strong, which was clearly felt during the concert. Najee is one of my favorite flute players, his sound and technique are just perfect, he did Stevie Wonder's "Knocks Me Off My Feet" on the flute having the audience sing along. Then they did "All I Ever Ask" which originally featured Freddie Jackson, soulfully sung by guitarist Chuck Johnson who put all his heart into the song. Later Alex Bugnon did "Harlem On My Mind", his tribute to Isaac Hayes, delivering some massive keyboard playing. Najee did "Noah's Ark", one of his classic songs, then Alex Bugnon came back to the stage, doing "A House Is Not A Home", he pulled all the stops and provided one of the highlights of the show. Then they funked it up for the rest of the show, leaving a satisfied crowd after over two hours of great playing.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:01 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Keiko Matsui

The festival was officially kicked of for me with the sold out Keiko Matsui concert at Miller Center for the Arts, an intimate venue that was just perfect for this kind of music. Keiko Matsui is celebrating her 25th year in the music industry, having released a total of 23 CDs in the US and having toured the world several times. She still looks gorgeous and her personality is just lovable. She opened her show with "Whisper From The Mirror", followed by "Doll", the title track of the album of the same name, featuring Jackiem Joyner on saxophone, who played in her band in previous years as well. Next were a few songs from her current release The Road… She emphasized those dots after the tile because the road would go on and be created by ourselves thus the dots, leaving the future course of the road open. She switched from the keyboards to the Steinway grand piano, it is a joy to witness this petite woman to immerse herself so deeply into her music, creating those beautiful melodies and emotions. Another highlight was the solo piano piece "Forever, Forever", while the heat later was turned up with the groovy "Across The Sun", which was one of her radio hits. Her band supported her well, they provided funky grooves when needed and provided subtle grooves during quieter moments, especially Jackiem Joyner blends well with Keiko's music and is a good choice for her band. She gave two encores, closing the show with a moving solo piano rendition of "Deep Blue". This was a totally enjoyable and memorable concert by this world class artist.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:10 PM

April 5, 2013

Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Brian Hughes

It is that special time of the year again: The Boscov's Berks Jazz Festival 2013 is taking place now, it was unofficially kicked off Thursday night with guitarist Brian Hughes at the Neag Planetarium at the Reading Public Museum, a suitable venue for such a concert with an additional catering area that was welcome as well. I had just flown in from Europe that afternoon, checked in with my hosts Michael & Beverly - who generously let me live at their place during the festival each year - grabbed some food and headed to the venue, where I was greeted by several friends and warmly welcomed, so I was in the festival mood right away. Despite having all of his CDs and having followed his career since day one, I had never seen Brian Hughes before, so this opportunity was really welcome. This concert was in part privately sponsored by Brentwood Industries, a music fan who learned about this artist one day by chatting with Brian's wife while sitting next to her on a plane, which I found remarkable. Brian was accompanied by a killer band, among them Ron Powell on percussion and Tom Brechtlein on drums, he played several songs from his current CD Fast Train To A Quiet Place, beginning with "Fast Train", followed by the latin groover "Would You Like Fries with That My Dear?" that kept Ron Powell busy. Another nice one was "Blanket Of Stars", a song which was made to be played at a planetarium like Brian jokingly remarked, featuring acoustic guitar. During the evening, he alternated on guitars, mostly playing his hollow body electric guitar, but also acoustic and other electric guitars. His guitar playing is clearly influenced by Wes Montgomery and Pat Metheny, and his songs all feature catchy melodies and head-bopping grooves. His concert was broken up into two sets, it was well received, thus providing a great start to this year's Berks Jazz Fest. Watch this space for more concert reviews!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:43 PM

April 4, 2013

BERKS AT ITS FINEST

The 23rd Annual Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest has begun! The festival runs from Friday, April 5th through Sunday, April 14th. Although I live in Berks and have attended the event for many years, I’m amazed at how much talent and how many shows and venues are involved in this year’s festival. It seems like yesterday I wrote about Berks being a full ten years old and then in a flash Berks turned ‘Sweet Sixteen.’ Now, at the more mature age of 23, the festival has truly come into its own. With an identity and style that is easily recognized, it can be said that Berks has learned how to make these ten days count to provide memories that jazz fans want to relive year after year.

For me, there is one sure way to know the festival is ready to begin, and that is the arrival of my good friend Peter Boehi, administrator of this site, SmoothVibes.com. Peter has now traveled to the United States from Switzerland for the ninth year to bask for ten days in the music he loves. My husband and I enjoyed dinner with Peter earlier this evening and then he was off to one of the pre-festival shows at the Reading Public Museum Neag Planetarium, featuring Brian Hughes, the guitarist. Peter has been a wonderful support to our festival. In the early days I wrote about shows and posted photos here, but as time went on, Peter has made it his priority while here to cover the shows he attends and share brilliant photos he captures of the artists.

Along with Peter, many other media friends, musician friends and friends around Berks make the festival so enjoyable for me. As I looked over the festival plans for the year, I was again struck by the enormous task it is to produce and promote a festival of this magnitude.

I counted the approximate number of people directly involved in making Berks the festival that it is. The number reflects those who work in festival management, sponsor development (title sponsor, major sponsors, promotional/media sponsors, community and hotel sponsors), festival production (house, stage, production managers and crews), technical support, as well as support for transportation, hospitality, ticketing, merchandise, website, and workshop/youth activities, plus marketing/publicity, logo design, ticketing and merchandise, photography, security. Many of these positions are filled by those who give of their time, and so volunteer coordination is a significant part of the planning. The festival always has a title sponsor, and the title sponsor again this year is Boscov’s, which may mean little to you until you learn that Boscov’s is a department store that originated in the city of Reading by Solomon Boscov. His son Albert Boscov is a household name in Reading and Berks County. He has done so much good for the city in his initiative, creativity and support of so many successful projects (too many to name here, but The Goggle Works, one of the best art communities of its kind is just one example). He recently received a most prestigious award from the state of Pennsylvania, and people came from so many places and so many walks of life to celebrate with this very humble man who is so well loved and respected. I know the people involved in the Berks Jazz Fest couldn’t be more proud than to have Boscov’s as the title sponsor. But back to the number of people directly involved, are you ready for this? The number is somewhere around 250 people/organizations to do what’s mentioned above, and that doesn’t include the list of volunteers who will provide support out front and behind the scenes in each of the venues during each concert.

To give you the scope of this festival, there have been jazz events at local restaurants and all kinds of venues (anywhere that someone can set up an instrument or a band or a stool to provide music/singing) for at least a month leading up to the official start of the Jazz Fest. There have been at least six preview shows and there is a post-Jazz Fest show. During the ten days of the festival, there are 67 listed local events and many more that are not formally advertised but occur all during this time. As for major events, there are 45 of them listed. Most of these occur on the two weekends of the festival, (weekends is a loose term during Jazz Fest as it often includes Thursday night as well as Friday through Sunday.)

Here’s a taste of the talent that is appearing this first weekend, again beginning with tonight, Thursday: Brian Hughes, Babatunde Lea, John Scofield’s Hollowbody Band, Keiko Matsui, Dianne Reeves and the Reading Symphony Orchestra, The Music of Amy Winehouse featuring Jenifer Kinder and the Amy Flies in Paradise Band, Najee with special guest Alex Bugnon, Gerald Veasley’s Sounds of Philly, featuring Phil Perry, Nick Colionne, Carol Riddick and Kindred the Family Soul, Brian Bromberg Band featuring Randy Becker and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, Incognito featuring Maysa, Kurt Elling, Eric Clapton Retrospective featuring Craig Thatcher Band, Kim Waters with special guests Chante Moore and Phil Perry, Elan Trotman and Friends, Lee Ritenour with Michael Lington and Joey Sommerville, Fourplay with special guest Lalah Hathaway, and Arturo Sandoval.

It’s quite a sight to see fans scurrying in all directions, from show to show, taking in all they possibly can of all this talent gathered in one place. What also draws people to Berks is that in addition to hearing great music, you get to meet and rub shoulders with many musicians. They are generally approachable and truly appreciate their fans. It makes the whole experience of being here that much more memorable. Fans return year after year because they have found kindred spirits and friends within this entire musical community known as the Berks Jazz Fest.

Tickets are still available and we would love to have you join us for any part of these ten days in Reading, Pennsylvania!!

Stay tuned here to read about many of the shows coming up and the ones we have attended.

Happy Jazzin’

Beverly J. Packard
Reading, Pennsylvania
Berks Jazz Fest Jazz Circle Member
mygirlsunday@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 4:50 AM

April 4, 2012

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Brian Culbertson

The final concert of the festival traditionally took place at the Scottish Rite Cathdral, once again Brian Culbertson took care of drawing a capacity crowd to this venue to finish this festival in style. He had his killer band with him, each member stands out in his own way, we got Nathaniel Kearney, Jr. on bass, Chris Miskel on drums, Gerey Johnson on guitar, Eddie Miller on keys, hammond B3 & vocals plus Marqueal Jordan on vocals, percussion & sax, and they were smoking! There was no horn section this time. They opened the show with "Secret Garden", followed by "Always Remember" from the Bringing Back The Funk CD, next was "Get It On" from the Live On The Inside DVD, before the current album XII was featured with "That's Life" and the vocal "Wide Open", featuring Marqueal Jordan. They funked things up with the Sly & The Family Stone classic "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)", which segued into one of Brian's own instrumentals. The next section was dedicated to Brian's upcoming CD called Dreams, an album full of slow jams aimed at the bedroom, the first song played was "You're My Music" that featured the soulful singing of Eddie Miller, followed by another classic from the BC catalog, then he did the title track "Dreams", a beautiful instrumental that went down very well with the crowd, plus the funkier opening track of the CD. After that, the energy level was raised with his rendition of the EWF classic "Serpentine Fire", followed by the well known slow keyboard track that always pleases the crowd, playing the keys from the opposite side, before they ended the show in a funk frenzy. This was a truly great and entertaining show by one of the genre's finest!

Please take note: Next year's Berks Jazz Festival will take place April 5-14, 2013.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:01 PM

April 2, 2012

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Richard Elliot & Rick Braun

Sunday afternoon at the last day of the festival, R'n'R aka trumpeter Rick Braun and saxophonist Richard Elliot appeared at the Crowne Plaza ballroom, they were supported by Ron Reinhardt on keyboards, Frank "Third" Richardson on drums and Nate Phillips on bass plus a guitar player. They opened their show with a couple of great funky tracks that had both players feed off each other, providing fluid jazzy lines on their horns. Richard Elliot picked up his EWI for an intro, then picking up his sax to play his version of Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues", which had Third Richardson kick his drums so hard that the kick drum broke, needing a replacement. Next was "Notorious" that featured Rick Braun on the flugelhorn, segueing nicely into a swinging version of "Wade In The Water" with minimal accompaniment on the organ. Richard Elliot played "Boom Town", a track from his new CD In The Zone, followed by Rick Braun doing "The Good Life", a classic song by Tony Bennett, which was recorded with full orchestra on his latest CD Sings With Strings, he opened the song on his flugelhorn and then sang romantically, which was received very well. After that, the mood was set for Richard Elliot doing his crowd pleasing version of "When A Man Loves A Woman", despite the fact that he played this song numerous times, he put his whole heart into it and played the song as if it was the first time. Then they kicked up the energy with another funky instrumental, that had Third Richardson break his bass drum a second time, needing another replacement. While another drum kit was installed, the two horn players did an accapella straight ahead jazz tune displaying their incredible technical abilities. Now with the mood set, they played a smoking straight ahead jazz rendition of "Night In Tunisia", before they went back to the funk with Eddie Kendricks' "Keep On Truckin'", Richard Elliot used his EWI as a vocoder, which had the crowd cheer along. They wrapped up the show with "Grazing In The Grass", and gave us as an encore a Chicago blues. This was a very entertaining show with a few unexpected surprises, most notably some straight ahead jazz, which was very welcome.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 1:59 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Incognito with Maysa

Saturday at 10pm, the next highlight awaited us with the show by the British band Incognito with guest Maysa, the show was sold out. They kicked off the concert with a funky instrumental, featuring the horn section (sax, trumpet, trombone), before the three singers (two female, one male) entered the stage, to do the funky "Roots (Back To A Way Of Life)" that featured Vanessa Hayes on vocals. In between songs, leader Bluey Maunick told short stories and gave insights into his roots and his vision of the band. Mo Brandis was the featured singer on Stevie Wonder's "As". While a technical problem with the keyboards was solved, we were treated with an acapella version of "What's Going On" that had the audience sing along, followed by a great drums/percussion solo. The show continued with Natalie Williams singing the next song, before Maysa entered the stage to sing "Step Into My Life", followed by "Change", one of the early songs she did with the band. After a groovy instrumental complete with scatting by Maysa and some great horn work, they played four songs from the brand new CD Surreal, which were oozing style and class, before Maysa did her signature Incognito song "Still A Friend Of Mine". After that, they played their rendition of "Espresso Madureira" by Banda Black Rio, a great funky instrumental. Later they did "Everyday" that featured the great voice of Vanessa Hayes, plus one more song to finish the concert. But the audience didn't want to let the band go, so they returned with acapella versions of "Don't You Worry Bout A Thing", "Always There" and "Nights In Egypt", before they allowed Maysa to deliver "Deep Waters", bringing a very satisfying concert to an end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:41 AM

April 1, 2012

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Will Downing & Gerald Albright

Saturday night, singer Will Downing and saxophonist Gerald Albright shared the stage at the Scottish Rite Cathedral, the show was sold out. Those two artists have been collaborating for a long time, and they blended very well together. In the band, I recognized Mike Logan on keyboards and Bruce Wayne on guitar. The show was opened by Will Downing doing "I Can't Help It", followed by Gerald Albright going back playing "Bermuda Nights" from 1989, handing the stage over to Will Downing for the Barry White classic "Deeper And Deeper" that went down with the crowd very well, followed by a cherished Luther Vandross track. Gerald Albright kept things moving with Grover Washington, Jr.'s "Winelight", a track he covered an a tribute CD a few years back, before Will Downing sang some of his own classic songs. In between songs, Will Downing gave the fellows some advice on romantic issues, revealing a considerable talent as a comedian. After a couple of instrumentals featuring Gerald Albright, the both artists reunited on stage doing the highlight of the whole show, an incredible version of "Stop, Look, Listen To Your Heart" with beautiful interplay and improvisation. This was a truly great show by two consummate and unique artists, pure bliss.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:34 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Spyro Gyra

The second part of Saturday afternoon's double bill featured Spyro Gyra, a classic band whose career started over 30 years ago and still is going strong, providing another superlative show. This group of consummate players is led by saxophonist Jay Beckenstein, plus Julio Fernandez on guitar, Tom Schuman on keyboards, Scott Ambush on bass, plus a new member on drums (who replaced Bonny B). They started the show with two tracks from their current CD A Foreign Affair, before they settled in a medley of their greatest and best known songs, "Shaker Song", "Morning Dance" and "Catching The Sun", before turning their attention to more recent material. A beautiful Julio Fernandez composition pulled all the stops and was a highlight of the whole show. Next was a tribute to the late Joe Zawinul of Weather Report, a band that was influential on all of the players, before they featured bassist Scott Ambush on "Dancing On Table Mountain". Without running down the rest of the playlist, Spyro Gyra provided a truly great show, each of the players brought his share to the music, and together they created some magical moments.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:44 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Nick Colionne

Saturday afternoon, the double bill was opened by guitarist Nick Colionne doing one of his energetic and entertaining shows. Being probably the sharpest dressed man in smooth jazz, he entered the stage clad in a white suit and white hat, looking awesome. He started off with a couple of funky instrumentals on the guitar, before he switched to a beautiful white guitar for a slow blues that was the perfect vehicle for his velvety voice, then stepped out into the audience during an extended solo to get closer to his fans. Then he did "The Connection", a song dedicated to his very active fan club. The funky blues tune "Po' House" had the audience sing along, before Nick channeled James Brown into him in order to do his tribute to the man with "Godfather J", prompting the artist for another lengthy stroll into the audicene, having several people get up and dance along with him, bringing another fun show to an end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:12 PM

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

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 http://www.berksjazzfest.com/ticketedevents.htm.

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.

OTHER INFORMATION

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:
http://berksjazzfest.go3media.com/player.html
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/berks-jazzfest/id490458798?mt=8
https://market.android.com/details?id=com.wwn.berks&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwyLDEsImNvbS53d24uYmVya3MiXQ

Also, the 2012 Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest has a partnership with Michael Tozzi's ijazzglobal.com 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: http://www.berksjazzfest.com/ticketedevents.htm

For artist information, check the artists’ individual artist websites, and also see the following link: http://www.berksjazzfest.com/artistsprofiles2012.htm

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 www.ticketmaster.com, 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:
http://www.berksjazzfest.com/purchase.htm
http://www.berksjazzfest.com/seatingcharts.htm
http://www.berksjazzfest.com/directions.htm
http://www.berksjazzfest.com/wheretostay.htm
http://www.berksjazzfest.com/nonticket.htm
http://www.berksjazzfest.com/becomeasponsor.htm


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 www.fanwavemedia.com.

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: http://www.berksjazzfest.com.
To learn more about the Berks Arts Council, see http://www.berksarts.org.

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 http://www.berksjazzfest.com/ticketedevents.htm

For more information on Brian Bromberg and other artists in the show such as Philippe Saisse, please visit http://brianbromberg.net and http://www.philippesaisse.com/.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:56 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 http://www.berksjazzfest.com/ticketedevents.htm

For more information on the artists, please visit http://www.thesaxpack.com/, http://www.jeffkashiwa.com/, http://www.kimwaters.net/, http://www.stevecole.net/, and http://www.allmightymusic.com/.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:28 PM

December 7, 2011

Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest 2012

The lineup of the upcoming 22nd annual Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest has been announced and tickets went on sale last weekend. The festival will take place March 23 - April 1, 2012 and will be held at various locations in and around Reading, PA. The festival is well known for its friendly atmosphere and the numerous volunteers that help things go smoothly, in addition to the large number of top-notch artists performing there. Check out the lineup at the festival site, highlights include Jeff Golub, Sax Pack, Global Noize, George Benson, Peter White, Walter Beasley, Nick Colionne, Brian Bromberg, Chieli Minucci & Special EFX, Rick Braun, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Albright, Boney James, Dean Brown, Brian Culbertson, David Benoit, Mindi Abair, Gerald Veasley, Spyro Gyra, Will Downing, Incognito, Maysa, Chick Corea and many more. It's going to be another awesome festival!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:19 PM

April 6, 2011

Berks Jazz Fest 2011: Brian Culbertson

Sunday night, the festival was brought to an end with Brian Culbertson who pulled all the stops to bring the house down. He jumped onto the stage with his youthful energy, kicking off the show with some funky uptempo material featuring him on keys, before turning to his current release XII with the radio hit "That's Life". The band consisted of Gerey Johnson on guitar, Eddie Miller on keys & B3, Chris Miskel on drums, Nathaniel Kearney Jr. on bass, Marqueal Jordan on sax & vocals, plus a four-piece horn section (including his father Jim Culbertson). Special guest was singer Kenny Lattimore who did first one his own songs, then an uptempo vocal track from XII, which was very well received. After another instrumental, Marqueal Jordan sang "Skies Wide Open". Kenny Lattimore performed "You Are My Starship" in his own soulful way plus his nod to the UK with a soulful Beatles cover. Brian slowed things down with a solo keyboard track called "Forever", before the party really started with his version of the EWF classic "Serpentine Fire", then again slowing it down with his famous slow keyboard track where he plays from the opposed side and almost crawls into his instrument, which had the crowd cheering. Then the funk was brought back for a high-energy final, complete with a horn frenzy having Brian play the trombone, ending a satisfying a very balanced concert, that had it all from funk to jazz to soul.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 10:28 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2011: Nick Colionne & Brian Simpson

Sunday we got the Smooth Jazz 92.7 Sunday Brunch show featuring guitarist Nick Colionne and keyboardist Brian Simpson, along with Jeff Kashiwa on sax. I went to the later show at 1pm, there were tables set up in the Crowne Plaza ballroom and we got a nice buffet, followed by the show. They started with a Jeff Kashiwa track, followed by "Southbeach" featuring Brian Simpson with the keyboards strapped around his neck, then it was Nick Colionne's turn with two tracks, one of them his great rendition of "Rainy Night In Georgia" featuring his velvety voice. Then Jeff Kashiwa took over playing "Blue Jeans" with a swaying Reggae rhythm, followed by Brian Simpson getting into a laid-back latin vibe with "Brazilian", then getting romantic with "Let's Get Close" with his trademark keyboard playing. Nick Colionne kicked it up a notch with his version of "Hurry Up This Way Again", Jeff Kashiwa keep things up with "Hyde Park" with some audience participation.The other players were Tim Gant on keys, Frank Richardson III on drums and John Dillard on bass. The band was called for an encore and did a blues shuffle, bringing a very entertaining concert featuring some of our favorite smooth jazz artists to a rousing end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 10:17 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2011: The Jazz Crusaders

Late Saturday night, the legendary Jazz Crusaders in their original lineup featuring Joe Sample on piano, Wayne Henderson on trombone and Wilton Felder on saxophone appeared, additional members were Joe's son Nicklas Sample on bass and Doug Belote on drums. The original players must be well above 70, and their age showed in some physical limitations, forcing them to perform mostly sitting, but they did a great job nevertheless. We went back in time to the 50ies and 60ies when they started out, being childhood buddies from the same neighborhood. They kicked off the show with "Young Rabbits", followed by "On Broadway" with nice solos by all involved, other tracks were the Stix Hooper composition "Night Theme", their famous "Freedom Song" and cover of "Eleanor Rigby", then they moved to later material like "Snowflake" and the great "Scratch". In between songs, they made lengthy and humorous remarks and reminisced about how things were back in the day. They finished the show with the inevitable "Street Life", followed by the ultimate Crusaders track "Way Back Home" that brought back fond memories of my youth, when I listened to them the very first time, helping to ignite my lifelong love for jazz. This was a memorable evening witnessing some living legends still doing their thing.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 10:03 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2011: Fourplay

Saturday night, supergroup Fourplay appeared at the Scottish Rite Cathedral, founding members Bob James on keyboards, Nathan East on bass & vocals and Harvey Mason on drums welcomed newest member Chuck Loeb on guitar, who replaced Larry Carlton who left the band to pursue his solo career. Chuck Loeb blended well in and proved to be the perfect choice artistically to maintain the legacy of the band, delivering several great solos. Despite our heroes have visibly aged, they still performed at the peak of their powers, especially Bob James on keyboards provided several inspired solos on the piano, while Nathan East and Harvey Mason held it all together. Among the tracks performed were "Blues Force", the title track from the current CD Touch The Sky, and the Chuck Loeb contribution "Third Degree", "I Still Be Loving You" (featuring Nathan East on vocals) and the Harvy Mason composition "Pineapple Getaway". They finished the concert with the Bob James' classic "Westchester Lady". After such a long time together, it is no wonder that this band plays like a well oiled machine at the highest level, this was a truly awesome performance that was very well received and left a satisfied crowd.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 9:57 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2011: The Rippingtons

The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman were the headliner of the afternoon tagged Smooth Jazz 92.7 Day, the lineup of the Ripps was Russ Freeman on guitar, Dave Karasony on drums, Rico Belled on bass, Jeff Kashiwa on saxophone and Bill Heller on keyboards. They kicked off the show with their classic "Welcome To The St. James' Club" from 1991, followed by "Modern Art" and a surf tuned called "Le Calypso" bringing an island feeling. Then things were slowed down with Russ on acoustic guitar playing a ballad medley of old favorites, bringing back fond memories. Then it was "Bingo Jingo" from the 20th Anniversary CD, later followed by "When It Feels Good" featuring Jeff Kashiwa burning on saxophone and a slamming bass solo by Rico Belled. As an encore, they played "Tourist In Paradise", segueing into a heavy rock jam with some Jimi Hendrix guitar. This was a solid concert by a class act.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 9:42 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2011: Philippe Saisse Trio

Saturday afternoon was tagged Smooth Jazz 92.7 Day boasting two acts, keyboardist Philippe Saisse did part one in a trio setting, featuring David Finck on acoustic bass and Scooter Warner on drums. This was the original lineup that was reunited after 3 years since Philippe Saisse relocated from New York to Los Angeles. They opened the show with Steely Dan's "Let's Do It Again", followed by the Beatles "Lady Madonna" and EWF's "September". After having done their radio hits, they moved on to complexer material with Bill Evans' "The Dolphin" probing the trio's capabilities, with everyone performing truly top-notch. Bassist David Finck played some nice solos and could be seriously funky when required, while Scooter Warner was a joy to watch with his complex and groovy playing, a great talent. Later one of my favorites, Phlippe Saisse's rendition of the Sergio Mendes classic "Constant Rain (Chove Chuva)" was played and brought a nice latin vibe. At the end of the show, special guest Rick Braun joined to band to do one track - his upcoming CD Rick Braun Sings (with full orchestra) was produced by Philippe Saisse - bringing the concert to a rousing end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 9:34 PM

April 2, 2011

Berks Jazz Fest 2011: Euge Groove

Saxophonist Euge Groove appeared 10pm at the Crowne Plaza ballroom with his top-notch band. He was clad in a nice suit and did a powerful, funky show with flawless playing by all involved, one of my favorite bass players, Darryl Williams was in the band holding down the bottom. Euge led through his familiar catalog, playing favorites like "Living Large", "Chillaxin" and others, that just made us feel good. He did his usual booty shaking contest giving away a t-shirt and CD, having lots of people dance in front of the stage. It was nothing new, but still very entertaining and funky.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:47 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2011: Gerald Albright & Friends

Friday evening, Gerald Albright & Friends featuring Brian Culbertson, Rick Braun, Larry Braggs, Selina Albright and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns was scheduled to appear at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. The show started in a relaxed manner featuring the flawless horn playing of the leader, he played "From The Soul" from his current release Pushing The Envelope and "Bermuda Nights" from his debut release back in 1989, that was well received. Next they played one more from the current CD called "I Found The Klugh" featuring guitarist Wayne Bruce on acoustic guitar, before tribute to the late Grover Washington, Jr. was done with a special version of "Winelight".

Then it was time for the first guest, Rick Braun, who appeared from the back of the audience playing his trumpet and walking down the aisle, doing one his own songs, with Gerald Albright joining him, bringing the house down. The he did "Grazing In The Grass", before Brian Culbertson with his trombone entered the stage to do the funky "What Would James Do" - in reference to James Brown - providing some great interaction between the two players and turning up the heat. Next guest was vocalist Larry Braggs of Tower Of Power fame who did the JB classic "Gimme Some More", with the great horn section of the Berks Jazz Fest Horns (John Loos on trombone, Mike Anderson on sax, Rob Diener on trumpet), expanded with Rick Braun and Brian Culbertson, recreating some hot JB grooves. After that, daughter Selina Albright came to the stage and did a great rendition of "It's A Man's Man's Man's World", for me this was the highlight of the whole festival, it was deep and soulful. Glad to hear that Selina Albright is working on her first release due this year. Larry Braggs came back to do the James Brown classic "I Feel Good", and staying in the JB mode, TOP's own "Diggin' On James Brown" allowing Larry to show how funky he is. After this funk fest, things slowed down, after a bluesy intro by Wayne Bruce on guitar, Gerald Albright segued into his signature song "Georgia On My Mind". Then for the finale, the funk was brought back with "What Is Hip", joining everybody on stage. This was a great concert that provided a lot of fun.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:20 PM

April 1, 2011

Berks Jazz Fest 2011: All-Star Jazz Jam

Thursday night, our favorite, the Berks All-Star Jazz Jam, took place at the Crowne Plaza Ballroom, this year the concert was featuring Chuck Loeb, Rick Braun, Gerald Veasley, Brian Bromberg, Gerald Albright, Euge Groove, Andrew Neu, Ada Rovatti, Randy Brecker, Chieli Minucci, Philippe Saisse, Selina Albright, Karen Briggs, Lionel Cordew, Frank Vignola and Larry Braggs. As you can imagine, the stage was crammed at times with all performers joined together. Chuck Loeb, aided by Rick Braun, led through the show. They started out with all the players covering "Night Train", originally done by Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery, although after a brief argument with Rick Braun, who preferred the funky James Brown version, they agreed to do the track both swinging and funky. This song gave several of the players some solo space, especially Karen Briggs' enthusiastic solo on the violin had the crowd cheer along. Next was the Crusaders' classic "Put It Where You Want It" that featured Chuck Loeb, Euge Groove and Gerald Veasley. Then they did their rendition of Miles' "So What" where Randy Brecker and Gerald Albright could shine. Then "Footprints" by Wayne Shorter that highlighted Ada Rovatti and Rick Braun was delivered with some great solos by all involved, Brian Bromberg did a funky solo on the electric bass. Frank Vignola on guitar and Karren Briggs on violin were the featured players on next song, they delivered a heartfelt version of "Summertime" which was a highlight of the show, notable was a great acoustic bass solo by Brian Bromberg. They finished the first set with a funky rendition of "The Chicken".

After the intermission, the band played the Stanley Turrentine classic "Sugar" featuring Rick Braun on trumpet and Andrew Neu on saxophone. Then "Canteloupe Island" was covered, it featured Euge Groove on sax and Brian Bromberg on bass - who did this track on his Downright Upright CD - and Chieli Minucci on the electric guitar. Breaking things down a little bit, all the guitar players were summoned onto the stage to perform an unplugged version of "Sweet Georgia Brown", along with Karen Briggs on the violin, which provided a nice change of pace. Keeping things slow, Selina Albright sang "Nature Boy", only accompanied by her father Gerald Albright on sax and Philippe Saisse on keyboards. This heartfelt rendition of this classic song was another highlight of the show. The evening was wrapped up with the funky TOP classic "What Is Hip" that reunited all the players and had TOP singer Larry Braggs join the band, this was an uplifting finale of a memorable evening.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:19 PM

March 31, 2011

Berks Jazz Fest 2011: Chuck Loeb & Friends

Wednesday evening, I attended a show at the packed Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Crowne Plaza hotel tagged The Bebop Sessions, it was led by guitarist Chuck Loeb and featured Rick Braun, Randy Brecker, Brian Bromberg, Gerald Albright, Ada Rovatti and Philippe Saisse. There was not a smooth jazz track in sight, instead this band of world class players provided a program of straight ahead material with lots of excellent solos. It was quite a treat to experience those artists in the intimate setting of a club teaming up for a fun evening of jazz.


The first track featured each member of the band, later the band was broken up a bit to allow for various combinations of soloists. Guitarist Chuck Loeb coordinated the efforts and directed the players, while Brian Bromberg stuck the whole evening to his acoustic bass, which was the appropriate choice for this musical material, but this didn't hinder him to provide some outstanding solos. He seemed to feel very comfortable and anchored the band in a sovereign manner, together with drummer Lionel Cordew - who usually plays with Chieli Minucci & Special EFX - doing an outstanding job. All players seemed to have a lot of fun, a relaxed atmosphere permeated the show, I enjoyed to hear my favorite saxophonist Gerald Albright to stretch out a little more, while Ada Rovatti on tenor sax was firmly rooted in the bebop tradition and must have felt very comfortable in this setting. Randy Brecker showed his impeccable technique and hardly missed a note, while fellow trumpet player Rick Braun proved to be a skilled straight ahead player on trumpet and flugelhorn as well. At the end of the show, he sang a heartfelt version of "Body & Soul", complete with a solo on the muted trumpet. Philippe Saisse alternated on keyboards and grand piano and provided some great solos as well. The material covered included "Groovin' High" and "Night In Tunisia" by Dizzy Gillespie, "Joy Spring" by Clifford Brown, "52nd Street Theme" plus a few Charlie Parker tracks (among them "My Little Suede Shoes"). The concert had an intermission and lasted well over two overs, it was of the kind you only can experience at the Berks Jazz Festival.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:48 PM

March 29, 2011

Berks Jazz Fest 2011: Guitars & Saxes

Sunday evening, another highlight was the Guitars & Saxes show featuring Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, Peter White and Jeff Golub with special guests Jeff Lorber and Eric Marienthal, the event took place in the Sovereign Performing Arts Center. Those four performers belong to the very best of the genre, so the expectations were high. The show was started with Peter White, who introduced Kirk Whalum, followed by Jeff Golub and Gerald Albright, each one played a short part of one of their signature tracks. The band consisted of Sean McCurley on drums, Ron Reinhardt on keys plus a young bass player whose name I didn't catch. Peter White played his tribute to Wayman Tisdale with the song "Bright", followed by Kirk Whalum playing "Valdez In The Country" from his current release Everything Is Everything: The Music Of Donny Hathaway with a burning guitar solo by Jeff Golub, who later played his own "Shuffleboard" in his bluesy style. Gerald Albright stuck to his tried and tested classics "Mi, Mi, Mi" and "Georgia On My Mind", complete with the breaks and the familiar antics on the horn.

Always great is Peter White's rendition of the Isley Brothers' "Who's That Lady" (later segueing into "Papa Was A Rolling Stone"), and his own "Bueno Funk" which is one of my all-time favorites from his catalog. Jeff Golub brought back the blues with "In The Blink Of An Eye". A very entertaining segment of the show was when each artist told what players or songs had influenced them in the beginning, playing those songs - Kirk Whalum, the son of a pastor, reflected his gospel background with "Oh Happy Day", Jeff Golub was influenced by various blues players like B.B. King, he played "The Thrill Is Gone" (with Kirk Whalum singing), Gerald Albright grew up in L.A. and through the record collection of his brother learned about Maceo Parker and Cannonball Adderley, he played "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy", while Peter White in England was primarily exposed to the Beatles in his youth, obviously he learned fast after that. After Gerald Albright's "Pushing The Envelope" they brought special guests Jeff Lorber on keys and Eric Marienthal on sax to the stage to perform "Ain't Nobody" giving those players ample solo space, bringing a great and very entertaining concert to a close.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:36 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2011: Pieces Of A Dream feat. Phil Perry

Smooth Jazz 92.7 was hosting the next concert that took place in the Crowne Plaza Reading Ballroom, the show featured Pieces of a Dream with special guest Phil Perry, being another sold out show. Pieces Of A Dream are founding members Curtis Harmon on drums and James Lloyd on keyboards, plus Rohn Lawrence on guitar, David Dyson on bass, plus new faces Morris Pleasure on keyboards and a new young saxophone player whose name unfortunately I didn't catch. They kicked things off with the groovy "Wakeup Call" that had the crowd cheering, followed by the slow-burning "Anywhere You Are", a Curtis Harmon composition dedicated to his wife, that featured the saxophonist. They revisited their own classic "Fo-Fi-Fo", after a couple more tracks, special guest Phil Perry was brought to the stage bringing his inimitable vocals to the proceedings, he sang "If Only You Knew" pouring all his heart into it. The first set was closed with the Christopher Cross classic "Ride Like The Wind".

The beginning of the second set was dedicated to their late mentor Grover Washington, Jr. with their rendition of "Mr. Magic" that gave both Morris Pleasure on keys and Rohn Lawrence on guitar some time to play extended solos. Things slowed down with "Night Vision", an often requested track from their catalog, before going back in time to play "Mt. Airy Groove" with a long, stunning bass solo by David Dyson and a smoking drum solo by Curtis Harmon. Then Phil Perry joined the band and performed the Isley Brothers' classic "For The Love Of You", later in the show, he whistled in an incredible and jazzy way, showing what a great talent he is. Notable also was a Benson-like guitar solo by Rohn Lawrence where he concurrently played and scatted. Phil Perry finished his part with "Dance With Me", before the band appeared for one more instrumental track as encore. The whole show lasted close to two and a half hours and was well received by the capacity crowd.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:40 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2011: Smooth Jazz 92.7 Sunday Brunch feat. Andrew Neu

Sunday morning we had to be back early at 10am for the Smooth Jazz 92.7 Sunday Brunch featuring Andrew Neu which took place at the Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom. There were tables set up and a big buffet that catered every need, so you could eat, meet people and socialize a bit, before the show started. Saxophonist Andrew Neu has been working with many artists in the past, most notably Bobby Caldwell with whom he tours regularly, and has started his own solo career concurrently a few years ago. He was backed by a great band and led us through his program of mostly self composed material, they kicked off the show with "Poolside", a new track that will be released on a forthcoming CD. Another favorite was a song penned by Brian Bromberg for him called "Wine" from the In Clear View CD, another track from the same album was the groovy "Seven Mile Bridge". They slowed down things for "Open Mind" from their current album Try Something Neu, providing some great moments of intensity. Later in the show, they played a nice cover of Steely Dan's "Peg" and - my personal highlight - the funky "The Nut" which really stuck in my mind. This was a good show by a consummate sax player who definitely deserves wider recognition.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:41 PM

March 28, 2011

Berks Jazz Fest 2011: Gerald Veasley's Sounds of Philly

The late show Saturday was tagged Gerald Veasley's Sounds of Philly featuring Will Downing, Carol Riddick, Nick Colionne and Walter Beasley, held in the ballroom the Crowne Plaza hotel. The evening turned out to be another sold out show, it was broadcasted live on WFMZ-TV Channel 69.

Bassist Gerald Veasley is a Philadelphia native who handpicked a bunch of artists to recreate some Philly magic that evening. After a brief version of "Nights Over Egypt" and the announcement by Rick Scott, they kicked off the show with their version of "TSOP", before returning to "Nights Over Egypt" featuring Carol Riddick on vocals. Mighty great music they did back in the heydays of the PIR label! Carol gave us her heartfelt rendition of "You Are Everything", before guitarist Nick Colionne stepped to the stage, beautifully clad in a pink suit and hat, playing "Love TKO" providing an early highlight of the show, having the audience sing along. Saxophonist Walter Beasley played Blue Magic's "Sideshow", pleasing the crowd, before the reference to Grover Washington, Jr. in the form of "Winelight" was given, proving Walter Beasley being the perfect choice to perform this song in the spirit of Grover. Then singer Will Downing joined the stage to provide a totally smoothed out version of "Mr. Magic" with Walter Beasley which was a total treat. Then he sang "Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)" in his inimitable style, which was pure soul bliss. I could go on endlessly, but I won't run down the rest of the show, just let me say that many great artists alternated to give the Philly catalog their reference, all held together by our favorite, Gerald Veasley on bass, who has to be applauded for another great project you only get to hear at the Berks Jazz Festival. The show lasted over two hours and left a satisfied crowed well past midnight.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 9:53 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2011: Al Jarreau & George Duke

Saturday evening, two of the biggest stars of the scene were due in the Sovereign Performing Arts Center: Al Jarreau and the George Duke Trio were to reunite. Both artists started out in a club called Half Note in San Francisco in 1965 where they performed regularly together, now after over 40 years, they are recreating the magic.

The show was kicked off with Al Jarreau singing "Moanin'", before the George Duke Trio took over with "Brazilian Love Affair". We got the great Michael Manson on bass and Rayford Griffin on drums, forming a world-class rhythm section. George Duke showed why he is one of the most respected keyboard players in the industry with his excellent playing, be it jazz or funk. Al Jarreau came back to give us his version of the Eddie Harris classic "Cold Duck Time" with some of his trademark scatting and vocal antics, then his pop hit "We're In This Love Together" was thrown into the mix for good measure. Then it was George Duke's turn again singing his biggest hit ever (done under the banner of the Clarke/Duke Project) "Sweet Baby", followed by my personal highlight of the concert, the deeply felt "No Rhyme No Reason" where George really pulled all the stops with a cool keyboard solo that started electrically and ended acoustically. After some more Al Jarreau songs, among them the inevitable "Roof Garden", George Duke flipped the switch and launched the funk with "Reach For It", with his keyboard strapped around his neck, he walked out into the cheering crowd. This was a great concert that touched all different kinds of music provided by two classic artists.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:54 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2011: Victor Wooten & Stanley Clarke

Saturday afternoon was a treat for all bass fans with the double show of the Victor Wooten Band, followed by the Stanley Clarke Band. Both bands are touring as a package. The shows were sold out and the capacity crowd was in for a treat.

Bassist Victor Wooten is one of the new bass heros on the scene and naturally, he was the center of the action during his show. With him, he had his brothers Regi Wooten on guitar and Joseph Wooten on keyboards (who toured with the Steve Miller Band for 18 years), backed by the amazing drummer Derico Watson. They provided a powerful show full of hard-hitting fusion and out-of-this-world bass playing, Victor Wooten showed a tremendous range of technique from slapping to tapping to whatever you can imagine that can be done with a bass. The other members of the band showed great skills as well, especially Regi on guitar showed a masterful tapping technique that reminded me of Stanley Jordan in parts. Another player that really stood out was drummer Derico Watson who not only could play some mean in the pocket funky grooves, but also provided some mind-boggling and complex drum solos. The band mostly played songs from their own catalog, among them the thought-provoking "I Saw God" from their current Palmystery CD, plus a jazzed and funked up version of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back". This was a really impressing concert for all fusion and bass lovers.

Next was Stanley Clarke, the now 60 years old bassist who started out in the early 70ies with Return To Forever and later went on with a successful solo career, being a living bass legend having legions of fans, me included - his music, among others, was responsible for igniting my love for jazz, so whenever I hear the sound of his instruments, it is like an old friend that is re-visiting me. He was accompanied by a band of young players, two keyboard players from Israel (Ruslan Sirota and Davy Nathan), Ronald Bruner, Jr on drums and Charles Artura on guitar. Stanley started on the acoustic bass and played a couple of great straight-ahead tracks in the RTF vein with some good solos by the band, before he picked up the electric bass for some more hard-hitting tracks. Then another acoustic part followed, before Victor Wooten was called to the stage to help bring down the house with Stanley's biggest hit "School Days". This was a excellent show on a high level which was musically satisfying.

After the show, both bass players visited Gerald Veasley's Bass Boot Camp where several workshops took place to instruct bass players of all levels, sharing some knowledge and experience with the aspiring bassists attending.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:11 PM

March 26, 2011

Berks Jazz Fest 2011: Richard Elliot & Norman Brown

The first major show for me was the concert by guitarist Norman Brown and saxophonist Richard Elliot who for the first time were co-headlining a show. I saw some familiar faces in the band like Ron Reinhardt and Gail Jhonson on keyboards and Dwight Sills on guitar, they seemed to have taken members of both bands to back the two main players. They kicked off the show with a smashing cover of EWFs "Getaway", before Richard Elliot took over to do the first half of the show, keeping the groove with "Rock Steady", "Move On Up" and others, then did his nod to Grover with "Inner City Blues". A Richard Elliot show would not be complete without "When A Man Loves A Woman" and - despite having played this song numerous times - did it in a totally convincing and heartfelt manner, bringing the house down. Another great part of the show was his version of "A Night In Tunisia" which was jazzy and swinging, providing a nice change of pace. He finished his part with Eddie Kendrick's "Keep On Truckin'" before Norman Brown took over, playing the title track from his newest CD Sending My Love, and the great uptempo latin song "Play Time" from the same album, before revisiting the After The Storm album - another must-have album. He performed Kenny Loggins' "Celebrate Me Home" as a reference to his daughter currently doing military service in Iraq. Another highlight was the part where he payed tribute to his main influences Jimi Hendrix, Wes Montgomery and - you guessed it - George Benson. The he did a P-funk style song, before Richard Elliot joined him for the finale. This was a great show by two consummate veteran artists of the scene.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:24 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2011: Joey De Francesco

This year's Berks Jazz Fest started for me Friday evening at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base in the Crowne Plaza hotel, the intimate jazz club hosting smaller concerts, with the first set by organist Joey De Francesco (he had a second one at 10pm). This well known Hammond B3 player was accompanied by his longtime band members Byron Landham on drums and the excellent Paul Bollenback on guitar who took us on a trip through the vast repertoire of the leader. As Joey De Francesco stated, the band doesn't have a set list, they know each other well enough to go through any song the leader feels playing without any rehearsals, so the whole concert is spontaneous and the result of the interaction between the artists and the audience, which I found a great concept. Apart from some classics, they played two songs from his latest release Never Can Say Goodbye: The Music of Michael Jackson ("Never Can Say Goodbye" and the title track), before they finished the show with a blues track. Each song involved longer improvisational parts and allowed each member of the band to shine, especially guitarist Paul Bollenback provided many inspired solos. This nice concert was a good start to the festivities.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:17 PM

December 7, 2010

21st annual Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest brings big star power

The 21st annual Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 25-April 3, and features some of the hottest names in contemporary and traditional jazz, blues, R&B, fusion and more.

With a new title sponsor and one of the most diverse lineups in festival history, the 2011 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest promises to be one of the best yet. More than 130 events are hosted at large venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Berks County.

There is something for everyone: the legendary Al Jarreau and the George Duke Trio; the always-popular Guitars & Saxes, featuring Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, Peter White and Jeff Golub; B-3 master Joey Defrancesco with his trio; jazz icon Dave Brubeck with his quartet; electric bass legends Stanley Clarke and Victor Wooten; and guitar masters Bucky Pizzarelli, Frank Vignola, Howard Alden and Gene Bertoncini.

Don’t miss big names like The Rippingtons; Rick Braun, who is joining the Reading Pops Orchestra; and Brian Culbertson, who is wrapping up this year’s festival with a finale concert featuring vocalist Kenny Lattimore.

Expect memorable shows by Grammy Award-winning vocalist Steve Tyrell; contemporary jazz-fusion masters Chieli Minucci & Special EFX; jazz supergroup Fourplay; Pieces of a Dream and Phil Perry; Norman Brown and Richard Elliot; Euge Groove; and more.

Fusion has a big presence at this year’s fest, with Jeff Lorber Fusion, featuring Lorber, Eric Marienthal, Jimmy Haslip, Michael White, and special guest Randy Brecker; Al Di Meola’s World Sinfonia; and Steve Smith & Vital Information: NYC Edition.

Several brunches offer a delightful way to start the day, with Andrew Neu; the trio of Marc Antoine, Brian Simpson and Jeff Kashiwa; and a blues brunch with the Clarence Spady Band.

Ensemble shows are always a treat, and there is no shortage of ensembles this year.
The BeBop Sessions with Chuck Loeb & Friends features Loeb, Brian Bromberg, Randy Brecker, Rick Braun, Philippe Saisse, Gerald Albright, Ada Rovatti and more.

The Vista All-Stars bring the experience of a jazz cruise to you, with Wycliffe Gordon, Houston Person, Ken Peplowski, Shelly Berg, Tom Kennedy, Ernie Adams and Dee Daniels.

The Original Jazz Crusaders, featuring Joe Sample, Wilton Felder and Wayne Henderson bring their reunion tour to Reading.

Brian Bromberg and his band are coming to town for a CD release concert, and will include special guest Randy Brecker in the celebration.

Gerald Veasley, a Philly native and Berks favorite, is hosting Gerald Veasley’s Sounds of Philly, with Will Downing, Carol Riddick, Nick Colionne and Walter Beasley. Join Gerald ’Round Midnight for two late-night jams at his namesake club, Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base. This in-the-moment event is a new festival favorite.

Gerald Albright will present The Man and His Music, with special guests Rick Braun, Larry Braggs, and Selina Albright, plus the Berks Jazz Fest Horns.

Blues once again has its own niche in the festival, with concerts by Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue; Walter Trout and opening act Gina Sicilia; Mark Hummel’s Blues Harmonica Blowout, featuring Lazy Lester, Jerry Portnoy, Mark Wenner and the Blues Survivors; and the young and rising stars of Homemade Jamz Blues Band.

The Ladies of JazzSharon Bailey, Suzie Ernesto and Toni Lynne -- are back, and are joining The Last Big Band for an afternoon of standards.

Dance Hall Docs always promise a rousing show, with their Music of Tower of Power and More concert, featuring vocalist Brent Carter, a former lead singer of TOP.

The always-popular free community concerts, sponsored by Reading Eagle Company, are back, with the U.S. Air Force Rhythm in Blue Jazz Ensemble welcoming two different special guests on back-to-back nights of shows. Randy Brecker joins RIB for the first show, and Ernie Watts will be sharing the stage for the second. The Berks High School All-Star Band is opening both nights.

This year’s festival brings a rich variety of musical genres, with two promises – great music, and a really good time.

A complete schedule of concerts, artist bios, hotel information and more is available at www.berksjazzfest.com

Tickets go on sale Saturday, Dec. 4, at 10 a.m.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:21 PM

September 3, 2010

Usher In the Holidays with "A Peter White Christmas"


PeterWhiteChristmas.jpgFollowing is a press release from the Berks Arts Council announcing a "Peter White Christmas' show. Hope you can make this show in Reading, PA, home of the Berks Jazz Festival!

Three of today's most popular musicians are bringing their jazz-flavored carols to Greater Reading for the holiday season. A Peter White Christmas, a concert featuring jazz sensations Peter White, Mindi Abair and Rick Braun and presented by the Berks Arts Council (BAC) is set for Sunday, Dec. 5, at the Miller Center for the Arts on the campus of Reading Area Community College in downtown Reading.

"This is a unique year for our holiday concert in that we are offering two performances instead of one," noted BAC Executive Director Chris Cannon. "We are very excited about this addition, as it will give more people the opportunity to experience these amazing and talented performers."

There will be two shows, one at 3 p.m. and one at 7 p.m. Tickets go on sale Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 10 a.m. and are $39. All seats are reserved, and only 500 tickets are available for each show.

Peter White is an extraordinary and fluent acoustic guitarist whose skills are world-renown. Mindi Abair is a double-edged talent from her fluid saxophone to emotive vocals. Rick Braun is a masterful trumpet/flugelhorn player whose warm tones transform the simplest melody into a work of art. They have separately sold literally millions of records, and together they put their creative talents to work, giving a marvelous, fresh feel to your favorite Christmas classics!

This show, a rousing opening event for the 21st annual Berks Jazz Fest, is a great way to start the Christmas season, and is guaranteed to put you in the holiday mood!

For tickets:

CD Exchange
360 E. Wyomissing Ave.
Mohnton, PA 19540

By phone: 610-777-2310

On the web: www.berksjazzfest.com

For more information, contact:
Beth Renfro@berksarts.org, Marketing and Public Relations Director, Berks Arts Council

Get your tickets early and we hope you enjoy the show!

Happy Jazzin'!

Beverly Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com


Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 12:43 PM

March 27, 2010

Berks Jazz Fest 2010: Peter White & Mindi Abair

Late Friday evening, Peter White and Mindi Abair appeared at the Crown Plaza ballroom, funkin up the place. They started with "Mr. Magic" among others, then Mindi Abair played her hits "Smile" and "The Last Dance", bringing us in a good mood. The band consisted of Stan Sargeant on bass, Jamey Tate on drums and Jay Gore on guitar. Peter White slowed it down with his tribute to Wayman Tisdale, the beautiful "Bright" capturing the spirit of the late bass player. Mindi Abair played "Bloom", followed by Peter White and his take on "Who's That Lady" from the Isley Brothers, segueing into "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" having everyone sing along, completed with his extended soloing on his distorted guitar delivering a highlight of the show. They slowed it down again with the beautiful song "Everytime" just featuring Peter White on acoustic guitar and Mindi Abair on vocals. Peter White played a beautiful acoustic version of "How Deep Is Your Love", the groove picked up again with "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" with a hot solo by Mindi Abair. The party really started with "Flirt" letting Mindi stretch out, then Peter White did his classic "Bueno Funk", segueing into Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up", going back to the song they started out with. Then "Lucy's" lifted things further up, before the they wrapped up the show with a string of high energy songs. This was another great and very entertaining show by two of my favorite artists of the genre.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:39 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2010: Four80East with Matt Marshak & Shilts, Nick Colionne & Eric Darius

Saturday afternoon, the third Smooth Jazz 92.7 Fan Appreciation Concert took place at the Crowne Plaza Reading ballroom with a double bill of Four80 East, followed by Nick Colionne.

Four80East hail from Toronto, Canada, they were enforced by guests Matt Marshak on guitar and Shilts on sax. Their infectious, ultra-groovy sound soon had everyone bop their heads right from the start, their leader Rob DeBoer sat behind the keyboards in front of the stage leading the band through the songs. The played "Roll On", then Shilts played his own "Looks What's Happening" burning on the sax, followed by Matt Marshak doing his "Funkology", before the band took over with their own "En Route", then Matt Marshak played his "On The Rocks" showing his chops on the guitar. The band went back in time playing their very first single called "East Side", before Shilts led through the Down To The Bone tracks "Staten Island Groove" and "Brooklyn Heights" that were played back to back, wrapping up the show.

After an intermission, smooth jazz super-star Nick Colionne with special guest Eric Darius on sax took over. His high-energy show captured the audience right from the first note and didn't let go until the end of the show, this man is an extraordinary player and entertainer. He had a top-notch band with him, they were Tim Gant and John Erickson on keyboards, Lamar Jones on bass and the incredible Chris Miskel on drums. Eric Darius played his own "Just For The Moment" and "Going All Out", his youthful energy is the perfect complement for Nick Colionne, and they had a great time on stage together feeding off each other. Things slowed down with the beautiful song "Everything Must Change" that was another suitable choice for the deep, velvety voice of Nick Colionne, the song had a great climax with a funky guitar solo, before it slowed down for the end. Then they did a blues, followed by a Alicia Keys cover featuring Eric Darius, he went out in the crowd serenading some women, which had the crowd cheering. They went old school with their rendition of "Hurry Up This Way Again", allowing to do Nick his lengthy stroll out into the audience with an extended guitar solo going all the way, another highlight of the show. Eric Darius funked it up with "Slick" playing his sax energetically. They finished their great show with a James Brown inspired instrumental. This was one of the very best concerts of the whole festival for me, it was "off the hook"!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:18 PM

March 26, 2010

Berks Jazz Fest 2010: 20th Anniversary Berks All-Star Jazz Jam

Thursday night, the 20th Anniversary Berks All-Star Jazz Jam took place in the Crown Plaza ballroom, I was pleased to see that this star-studded event took place in the early evening allowing us to enjoy the concert to the fullest. Hosts were guitarist Chuck Loeb and trumpet player Rick Braun, who led through the concert announcing the players and leading through the songs.

They started out with all players on stage with the well-known Charlie Parker standard "Now's The Time" allowing each one to present him or herself with a short solo. The lineup was incredible, on the crowded stage were drummer Rayford Griffin, bassist Gerald Veasley, keyboardists David Benoit and Joe McBride, saxophonists Eric Darius, Mindi Abair, Andrew Neu, Richard Elliot and Shilts, guitarists Chuck Loeb, Nick Colionne, Chieli Minucci and Peter White, trumpet players Rick Braun and Jim Culbertson, plus surprise guests Brian Culbertson on trombone and Selina Albright on vocals. Next was the Freddie Hubbard tune "Little Sunflower" featuring Andrew Neu on sax, Chuck Loeb on guitar and David Benoit on piano, having everyone soloing extensively. Then Brian Culbertson, Shilts, Joe McBride and Nick Colionne played a smoking version of the Crusaders' classic "Put It Where You Want It", it was especially cool to see Brian Culbertson stretching out on the trombone on this track. Clifford Brown's "Joy Spring" got a funked up treatment by Rick Braun, Eric Darius and Rayford Griffin who arranged the song and happens to be Clifford Brown's nephew. Then Rick Braun led through "My Funny Valentine" along Chuck Loeb and Peter White on guitar and Mindi Abair on sax, Rick Braun's sensitive singing was moving and Mindi Abair's extensive solo was deeply felt and the highlight of the whole evening for me. Next David Benoit, Chieli Minucci and Richard Elliot delivered "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy", additionally Gerald Veasley played a mean bass solo and Richard Elliot showed off his skills on the EWI.

After the intermission surprise guest Selina Albright, lovely daughter of saxophonist Gerald Albright, stepped on the stage to do the TOP classic "What Is Hip", a song she asked to do. She delivered it with ease and was supported by a heavy horn section, definitely doing it justice. Joe McBride slowed things down with his solo version of Seal's "Kiss From A Rose", just supported by Chuck Loeb on guitar, before the groove picked up again with Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" populating the stage with band again, Richard Elliot played a great tenor solo and later used his EWI as a vocoder to a cool effect. The heat was further turned up with a great funk medley, with Gerald Veasley slapping his bass, going from Sly & The Family Stone's "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" right into Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music" with Brian Culbertson jumping around the stage blowing a mean trombone, supported by Mindi Abair on sax. A special part of the concert was the rendition of Chick Corea's "Spain" by four guitars and drums, Rayford Griffin moved one drum in the center of the stage and was surrounded by Chieli Minucci, Chuck Loeb, Nick Colionne and Peter White, everyone was able to show his impressive chops. They wrapped up the All-Star Jazz Jam with Grover Washington Jr.'s "Mr. Magic" giving everyone another chance to groove along and play some solos. The cheering crowd didn't let the artists go, so they played one more, it was Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" bringing everyone to their feet.

This was an excellent concert by a world-class band of players that I truly enjoyed.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:01 PM

March 25, 2010

Berks Jazz Fest 2010: Dean Brown

Wednesday evening at the Jazz Base at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, it was time for some world-class fusion by guitarist Dean Brown. He had an outstanding band with him featuring Dennis Chambers on drums, Schuyler Deale on bass and Bobby Sparks on organ & keyboards. They were grooving hard and went through the catalog of the leader, playing songs from the current Groove Warrior album and more. It is always great to see how Dean Brown totally immerses himself into his playing and goes to a different state when soloing, his playing showing a lot of love for the music of Jimi Hendrix. Dennis Chambers laid a solid foundation to the music and proved why he is one of the most respected drummers in the industry, Bobby Sparks delighted the audience with his soulful organ playing and cool sounds from his various keyboards, while Schuyler Deale provided some solid bass playing. They played two sets, ending the show with their rendition of a Jimi Hendrix classic and even had people dancing in front of the stage!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:26 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2010: Tuck & Patti, Earl Klugh

Sunday afternoon, another Smooth Jazz 92.7 Fan Appreciation Concert was held with the double bill of Tuck & Patti, followed by Earl Klugh. The shows took place in the Crowne Plaza Reading Ballroom.

Husband and wife duo Tuck & Patti feature Tuck Andress on guitar and Patti Cathcart on vocals. They hail from the San Francisco area and definitely brought a flower power vibe with them, their career spans 30 years by now allowing them to rely on each other blindly. Tuck's guitar technique is absolutely unique, he plucks and strums his strings with both hands playing several lines at the same time being a mini-orchestra, while Patti is a gifted singer with a great range of expression. They delved into their vast catalog, one of the standout tracks was their classic "Takes My Breath Away" and the interplay of those two created some truly mesmerizing moments. Additionally, both of the artists took the time for some lengthy comments, showing wit and insight. I really enjoyed this concert and am happy to see them going strong.

After the intermission, guitarist Earl Klugh and band appeared. I was happy to see that Earl delivered a show playing all his classic tracks from my favorite period of his career, backed by a first-rate band. He had David Lee on keyboards, Lenny Price on saxophone, Al Turner on bass and Ron Otis on drums, a band that worked like a well-oiled machine providing the perfect backdrop for the acoustic guitar of the leader. They played "Living Inside Your Love", "Last Song" and many more gems from his vast catalog, then bass player Al Turner stepped to the front of the stage to perform the title track of this current release Movin', then saxophonist Lenny Price did a beautiful rendition of "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" while later in the show keyboardist David Lee could show off his funk roots (being an early member of Parliament/Funkadelic). It was a great and entertaining concert full of memorable melodies and excellent playing by all involved.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:03 PM

March 24, 2010

Berks Jazz Fest 2010: Brian Bromberg & Friends

Late Saturday night, Brian Bromberg & Friends - who was promoting his current It Is What It Is CD - was appearing at the Crowne Plaza Reading Ballroom. The bass player was backed by the great Will Kennedy on drums, Gary Meek on sax, Alec Milstein on bass and Thomas Zink on keyboards, plus the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, with an array of top-notch friends lined up to bring us lots of good music. Additionally, the show was broadcasted on TV. On keyboards was Jeff Lorber who provided many cool solos during the evening, they opened the show with "Mr. Miller" which provided some heavy bass slapping and horns, bringing things up to speed. The first guests were Chuck Loeb on guitar and newcomer Cindy Bradley on trumpet playing the uptempo groover "It Is What It Is". Then saxophonist Michael Lington performed "You And I" from his last CD Heat mellowing things out a little bit, later followed by saxophonist Marion Meadows doing his own "Dressed To Chill". The funked up version of "Theme from Sanford & Son" featuring Gary Meek went down very well with the crowd, then Cindy Bradley played her current single "Bloom", before Chuck Loeb was leading one of his songs, followed by Michael Lington and Marion Meadows doing "Through The Time". Another highlight was Brian Bromberg's version of the B-52's hit "Love Shack". The concert - which lasted over 2 hours - was concluded with Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon" having all artists on stage for a rousing finale.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:16 PM

March 23, 2010

Berks Jazz Fest 2010: Tribute to Grover Washington, Jr.

Saturday evening one of the first true highlights took place with the "Remembering a Legend: Music of Grover Washington Jr." show put together by Jason Miles, a true labor of love dedicated to the great late saxophonist who hailed from Philadelphia, his wife Christine was in the audience also. Jason Miles summoned some of Grover's old cohorts like Buddy Williams on drums, Neil Jason on bass and - most notably - Ralph MacDonald on percussion, who was with Grover for a long time and composed several of his greatest hits. The show was aptly kicked off with "Winelight", featuring Gerald Albright on saxophone, followed by a great rendition of "East River Drive" giving Jeff Golub the opportunity to shine on the guitar. Then it was the turn of Walter Beasley to deliver "Reaching Out". Next was Ada Rovatti on sax, later joined by husband Randy Brecker on trumpet playing the cool "Loran's Dance". Then it was time for songstress Chante Moore to sing "Just The Two Of Us" along with Gerald Albright on the sax, followed by "The Look Of Love" supported by Jeff Golub on guitar with some spirited interaction between the two. Later in the show, they delved into "Black Frost" from the seminal Mr. Magic album, "Inner City Blues" featuring Chante Moore and at the end - inevitably - Grover's signature track "Mr. Magic" joining everybody on the stage, bringing another great Jason Miles project to a rousing end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:37 PM

March 21, 2010

Berks Jazz Fest 2010: Gregg Karukas, Kim Waters & Maysa

Saturday afternoon, Smooth Jazz 92.7 who are a festival sponsor, hosted their traditional fan appreciation concert with the double bill of Gregg Karukas, followed by Kim Waters with special guest Maysa.

This was the third time Gregg Karukas appeared with his own band at the Berks Jazz Fest, featuring John Whitney on guitar, Jay Delaney on bass, Shannon Ford on drums, and most notably Brad Collins on saxophone, who is a music teacher for 27 years and plays with Gregg Karukas on his east coast gigs. They kicked off the show with "Severna Park" and "Nightshift" providing a smooth and easy grooving start to the show. His current CD "GK" was prominently featured and all members of the band got their opportunities to shine, especially Brad Collins on saxophone turned out to be an excellent and very expressive player, being a great part of the show. They slowed down things a little bit with a solo version of "Sound Of Emotion", before turning up the heat towards the end of the show where the band was grooving hard, with Gregg having his portable keyboard around his neck, bringing the house down. During several parts of the show, the band was supported by the ever reliable Berks Jazz Fest Horns.

After a short intermission, saxophonist Kim Waters took the stage, he captured the crowd immediately with his trademark urban smooth jazz sound and songs like his current "For Lovers Only". After the first three songs, songstress Maysa entered the stage singing a song from her current CD "A Woman In Love", she was supported by her background singer Angela Phillips, while Kim Waters provided some really tasteful background playing on the sax, complementing Maysa perfectly.

Another highlight was "Honey Bee" where Maysa's vocalizing was out of this world, in parts reminding me of Al Jarreau. Then it was Kim Waters' part again with "Reaching Out", his current single, which morphed into Bob Marley's "Jamming" in a very cool way. Maysa came back to sing her classic "Deep Waters", composed by Bluey from Incognito. The band consisted of his brother James Waters on bass, Allan Smith on keyboards and Gary Grainger on drums. On a side note, it was also Kim Waters' birthday that day which was reflected in a birthday cake with candles and a nice rendition of "Happy Birthday" delivered by surprise guest Chuck Loeb and Maysa at the end of the show.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:37 PM

March 20, 2010

Berks Jazz Fest 2010: Chris Botti

Friday night, the 20th annual Berks Jazz Festival was kicked off at the Sovereign Center in Reading, PA by trumpet player Chris Botti. He appeared with his incredible band featuring Billy Childs on piano, James Genus on bass, Billy Kilson on drums, Mark Whitfield on guitar and Andy Ezrin on keyboards. First song was "Ave Maria", the well controlled and subtle sound of Botti's trumpet was stunning, then they segued into their trademark track that features every member of the band, especially Billy Kilson was able to show what an extraordinary drummer he is. Unfortunately they were forced to open the show without Mark Whitfield who was held up due to some personal reasons, but joined the band soon after the beginning of the concert, jumping right into the proceedings with a great solo during Miles Davis' "Flamenco Sketches". Special guest of the show was singer Lisa Fischer (who is also known as longtime background vocalist of the Rolling Stones and the late Luther Vandross), she showed an incredible vocal range and had a good time with the band performing "The Look Of Love", "The Very Thought Of You" and others. Later Botti slowed down the pace with Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and Ennio Morricone's "Love Theme from Cinema Paradiso", both songs having become staples of his show. After a couple of more energetic songs with some funk and rock quotes (letting both Kilson and Whitfield off the chain), they concluded the show with an unplugged song with Chris Botti in the audience, just accompanied by Billy Childs on the piano, ending another top-notch concert by a consummate artist and world-class band.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 2:28 PM

March 12, 2010

VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest Celebrates rich heritage with Reel Jazz Classics

Reading, PA -- Jazz isn't just a music genre. It's an art form steeped in rich tradition with a widely celebrated, inspirational past.

While many of jazz's great musicians are gone, their music lives on through music lovers and musicians alike.

Now, jazz lovers have an exciting opportunity to experience a treasure trove of audio-visual footage from six timeless legends of jazz, thanks to the Jazz Icons DVD series.

The VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest has partnered with the producers of the Icons series -- four boxed sets, 30 individual DVDs -- to screen selections of these vintage, unseen concerts at this special "Countdown to the 20th" community event.

Reel Jazz Classics is slated for Sunday, March 7, at the Miller Center for the Arts on the campus of Reading Area Community College in Reading, beginning at 2 p.m. There is no cost.

The schedule is as follows:


2 p.m., Woody Herman
Live concert: England, 1964
Woody Herman features a blistering concert from 1964 showcasing one of the hottest lineups of the "Swinging Herd," including trumpeter Bill Chase, trombonist Phil Wilson and saxophonist Sal Nistico. Woody and band roar throughout the show which includes standards such as "After You've Gone," "Lonesome Old Town" and "Sister Sadie."

2:30 p.m. John Coltrane
Live concert: Germany, 1961
Saxophone legend John Coltrane was a true giant of 20th century music. This incredible video features Trane's classic quintet of Elvin Jones on drums, Reggie Workman on bass, Eric Dolphy on sax/flute and McCoy Tyner on piano performing three classic songs -- "My Favorite Things," "Ev'rytime We Say Goodbye" and "Impressions."

3 p.m. Wes Montgomery
Live in-studio: England, 1965
Wes Montgomery was one of the most unique and influential guitarists in music history. This beautifully filmed program features Wes, in an intimate studio setting, performing some of his best-known tunes, including "Four On Six," "Full House," "Here's That Rainy Day" and "Twisted Blues."

3:30 p.m. Duke Ellington
Live concert: Holland 1958
Filmed at Amsterdam's famed Concertgebouw, this film features the 16-piece Duke Ellington Orchestra that includes legendary musicians Clark Terry, Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, Paul Gonsalves, Quentin Jackson and Ray Nance. Duke and the band are in top form performing an outstanding set that features "Sophisticated Lady" and "My Funny Valentine."

4 p.m. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
Live concert: Belgium, 1958
This historic film features what many consider to be one of drummer Art Blakey's finest ensembles in jazz history -- Bobby Timmons, piano; Jymie Merriitt, bass; Benny Golson, sax; Lee Morgan, trumpet. Lost for nearly 50 years, this concert is the only known visual document of this influential band who were together for only six months.

4:30 p.m. Ella Fitzgerald
Live concert: Belgium, 1957
In one of the first Ella Fitzgerald concerts captured on film, "The First Lady of Song" joins jazz greats Ray Brown, Herb Ellis, Jo Jones and the legendary Oscar Peterson on classic songs such as "Lullaby of Birdland," "Angel Eyes," "Love for Sale," "Tenderly," "April in Paris" and "Just One Of Those Things."

These special screenings will be hosted by former WEEU 830AM Radio personality Lew Runkle.

The Jazz Icons DVDs feature full-length concerts and in-studio performances by the greatest legends of jazz, filmed all over the world from the 1950s through the 1970s.

"The release of Jazz Icons is like the unearthing of a musical time capsule ?" -- Quincy Jones

Come celebrate the past legends of jazz at this special Reel Jazz Classics event.

The 20th annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 19-28, and features an expansive array of musical styles featuring contemporary and traditional jazz and blues artists. Over 130 events at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Greater Reading make this a truly unique music festival. For more information, including ticketing, artist bios and archived releases, visit www.berksjazzfest.com. For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to promoting the arts in Greater Reading, visit www.berksarts.org.

To order tickets for Berks Jazz Fest shows:
Visit the Sovereign Center box office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading.
Call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 to charge by phone; or visit ticketmaster.com.
Order online at berksjazzfest.com.
For a complete schedule of concerts, visit www.berksjazzfest.com

Contact:
Dana L. Hoffman
Publicity Director
VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest
dhoffman@readingeagle.com

Beth Renfro
Marketing/Public Relations Director
Berks Arts Council
www.berksarts.org

Hope you get to take advantage of one of these travels back in time!

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 4:08 AM

Chris Heslop to Receive 2010 Frank Scott Award at Berks

ChrisHeslop.jpgREADING, PA -- The Berks Arts Council's Frank Scott Award is given annually during the VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest to honor the late jazz legend Frank Scott's memory and his contribution to the jazz heritage in Berks County.

Honorees are selected for this award because of their significant contribution to jazz in Berks County, as well as their active involvement in giving back to the community.

This year's award will be presented to Wyomissing musician and music educator Chris Heslop prior to the USAF Satellite Jazz Ensemble, plus opening act Berks High School All-Star Jazz Band, Tuesday, March 23 at 7 p.m. in the Crowne Plaza Reading ballroom.

Heslop has been a tireless supporter of jazz education in Berks County. A graduate of Temple University with a degree in jazz studies with performance concentration, he has taught saxophone, clarinet, flute and more since 1991, and has participated in the Reading Musical Foundation's Jazz in the Schools program for seven years.

He's chaired the educational activities committee for the Berks Jazz Fest for the past five years, working closely with the Berks Arts Council and Berks Jazz Fest general manager John Ernesto to develop clinics, performances and workshops for young Berks County musicians.

He also was instrumental, along with fellow Frank Scott Award recipient Mike Eben, in bringing together the Reading Musical Foundation, Reading Eagle's Voices and Zeswitz Music to create the Berks Jazz Jam, a monthly free program for students which includes use of a free CD/DVD library.

"The most important part of jazz education to me is simply exposing the highest number of students to the most variety of music," Heslop said. "Although my expertise is in jazz, I want encourage the students to explore a variety of music and not just the narrow spectrum offered by pop culture."

While Heslop recognizes the accomplishments he has made, he also realizes his work is far from finished. "When I was first notified that I was the 2010 recipient, my initial reaction was that I don't deserve it," he said. "Then, when I was asked to list the educational activities I have either started or been a part of, I realized that we have a lot of progress in the last five years and felt both a sense of pride and a need to turn it up a notch for the future."

He's already well on his way, with a grant he obtained to start a Berks Summer Jazz Workshop, beginning in June. He and his wife, Jill M. Scheidt, created the Scheidt/Heslop Jazz Fund, a scholarship awarded annually to a student in kindergarten through 12th grade to attend a summer camp focusing primarily on jazz.

For him, receiving the Frank Scott Award brings things full circle. He recently recalled a concert from his high school days at the Sunnybrook Ballroom in Pottstown that left no doubt in his mind that he wanted to be a musician.

"A friend's neighbor invited us to hear his jazz band," Chris said. "I was a budding saxophonist and looked forward to the concert for weeks. Hearing the band, my expectations were exceeded and if I had any doubts that I was going to pursue a career in music, they were quickly laid to rest.

"The band was led by my friend's neighbor, Al Grey, the famous trombonist of Count Basie fame. I was thrilled when, on break, he introduced me to the tenor saxophonist who had me in absolute awe. That saxophonist was Frank Scott."

Frank Scott, for whom the award is dedicated, was born on June 24, 1923, in Reading. Throughout his musical career, Scott played with many notable musicians such as Bing Crosby, Ray Charles, and Bill Haley and the Comets. Scott opened two nightclubs in the Reading area which had a great influence on the community, opening people up to the sound of jazz, and played a vital role in much of Berks County's jazz programming. His album, "Never Too Old to Dream," captured the heart and soul of his generosity which translates through his music.

The 20th annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 19-28, and features an expansive array of musical styles featuring contemporary and traditional jazz and blues artists. Over 130 events at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Greater Reading make this a truly unique music festival. For more information, including ticketing, artist bios and archived releases, visit www.berksjazzfest.com. For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to promoting the arts in Greater Reading, visit www.berksarts.org.

To order tickets for Berks Jazz Fest shows:

Visit the Sovereign Center box office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading.
Call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 to charge by phone; or visit ticketmaster.com.
Order online at berksjazzfest.com.
For a complete schedule of concerts, visit www.berksjazzfest.com

Contact:
Dana L. Hoffman
Publicity Director
VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest
dhoffman@readingeagle.com

Beth Renfro
Marketing/Public Relations Director
Berks Arts Council
www.berksarts.org

Congratulations, Chris!!

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com


Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:48 AM

Brian Culbertson to host 'Live From The Inside' at Berks Jazz Fest


BrianCulbertson.jpgREADING, PA The VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest is celebrating its 20th anniversary in a big way. Joining the celebration is longtime Berks Jazz Fest fan favorite Brian Culbertson, playing host for a special screening of his recently released CD/DVD "Brian Culbertson Live From the Inside."

This one-time-only screening is set for Friday, March 26, at 4 p.m. at the RC/Reading Movies 11 & IMAX theater at 30 N. Second St. in Reading. Following the screening, Brian and his father, Jim, will host a meet-and-greet with fans at the theater. Tickets are $10 and are on sale now at the theater and online at fandango.com. Seating is limited to 250 fans.

"Finally I'll get to see the film on the big screen!" Brian said. "I'm very excited about partnering with the Berks Arts Council and RC Theatres to make the special screening part of the 20th anniversary Berks Jazz Fest -- and most important, available to the fans. I'm looking forward to welcoming fans to the screening and spending time with them at the post-show event. It's going to be a fun time."

"Live From The Inside" is a deluxe 2-disc set consisting of a 98-minute DVD that features live performance, interviews and exclusive behind-the-scenes footage, plus over 90 minutes of additional bonus content. The CD contains 12 songs (10 of which were No. 1 hits) that gives Culbertson fans newly-rendered versions of some of his most popular numbers, including one brand-new song titled "Go" - a sequel to Culbertson?s recent chart-topping hit "Always Remember," which is also on "Live From The Inside."

"I was flying home from the Berks Jazz Festival back in March (2009) when the whole concept for this project really hit me," Brian shares. "I guess you could call the concept a high-energy blast of 'best of' and biography."

The film also features special all-star guests Ray Parker Jr., Dave Koz, Eric Marienthal, Michael Lington, Eric Darius and Brian's father.

As an added treat, Brian will join the always popular Berks All-Star Jazz Jam, Thursday, March 25 at 8 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Reading. Brian will join stars Rick Braun, Chuck Loeb, Nick Colionne, Peter White, Chieli Minucci, Gerald Veasley, Brian Bromberg, Eric Darius, Mindi Abair, Richard Elliot, David Benoit, Joe McBride and more for a blowout jam.

The 20th annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 19-28, and features an expansive array of musical styles featuring contemporary and traditional jazz and blues artists. Over 130 events at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Greater Reading make this a truly unique music festival. For more information, including ticketing, artist bios and archived releases, visit www.berksjazzfest.com. For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to promoting the arts in Greater Reading, visit www.berksarts.org.

To order tickets for the Berks Jazz Jam or other Berks Jazz Fest shows:
Visit the Sovereign Center box office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading.
Call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 to charge by phone; or visit ticketmaster.com.
Order online at berksjazzfest.com.
For a complete schedule of concerts, visit www.berksjazzfest.com

Contact:
Dana L. Hoffman
Publicity Director
VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest
dhoffman@readingeagle.com


Beth Renfro
Marketing/Public Relations Director
Berks Arts Council
www.berksarts.org
P: 610.898.1930

Hope to see you at Brian Culbertson's 'Live From The Inside'

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:15 AM

February 5, 2010

The Party Starts Early for 20th Annual Berks Jazz Fest

The following information has been recently released from the Berks Arts Council.

READING, PA -- A 20th anniversary is certainly something to celebrate, and the VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, is starting the party early, with a full schedule of events counting down to the biggest, best festival yet. Concerts, educational programs, films and jazz jams are just some of the events slated to celebrate the 20th annual Berks Jazz Fest.

Saturday, February 20, 8 p.m.
The Manhattan Transfer is performing a pre-festival concert at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center. For more information and tickets, visit www.sovereigncenter.com.

Sunday, February 21, 4 p.m.
As part of their Downtown Performing Arts Series, the Miller Center for the Arts is presenting the Hot 8 Brass Band. The Miller Center is located on the Reading Area Community College campus in downtown Reading. Hot 8 is a New Orleans-based brass band that blends hip-hop, jazz and funk styles with traditional New Orleans brass sounds. For more on this concert, visit www.racc.edu/MillerCenter/events.html.

Sunday, February 28, 5 p.m.
Anyone seeking spiritual enlightenment can get his or her fill at the Gospel Jubilee at Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church in West Lawn. Featured are the mass choir, youth choir and local musicians. Good-will offering. For more information visit: www.gtaog.org/.

Saturday, March 6, 1 p.m.
Free community concert
VF Outlet is once again title sponsor of the festival, and is joining in the celebration with Berks Jazz Fest Day at the VF Outlet Complex. Shop the complex and enjoy the 20th Anniversary Preview Concert featuring Swing House with opening act GAMUT at 1 p.m. at Designers Place.
For more information visit: www.vfoutlet.net/.

Wednesday, March 10, 6 p.m.
Free community event.
Prepare to be inspired.
The Miller Center for the Arts is hosting a screening of the documentary "CHOPS," followed by a special Berks Jazz Jam with guest musicians Larry McKenna, Larry McKenna on tenor sax, Tony Miceli on vibes, Dave Brodie on bass and Dan Monaghan on drums. Hosted by Mike Eben, the jam is open to anyone. Bring your instruments and join in, or come to learn!

"CHOPS" tells the story of a group of kids with extraordinary musical ability who learn to make the most of their gifts in an acclaimed public school jazz program in Jacksonville, Fla. You follow their musical journey from Florida to New York City, where they compete against the top high school jazz bands in the nation at the prestigious Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival.

Friday, March 12, 8 p.m.
With the festival a week away, what better way to get in the mood for great music than a high-energy Tribute to Tower of Power?

Join Dance Hall Docs and special guest Brent Carter at the Inn at Reading as they bring down the house with TOP's legendary tunes. A former TOP lead singer of nearly 6 years, Brent Carter promises to touch the hearts and souls of all who attend. The Dance Hall Docs are a 10-piece band that performs in a style reminiscent of the horn bands of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Get more info at www.berksjazzfest.com/docstowerofpower.htm.

Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Crowne Plaza Reading will play host to several shows before the fest, all on Thursday nights at 7 p.m.:

February 11: West Chester University Faculty Group, featuring David Cullen, Terry Klinefelter, Chris Hanning, Greg Riley, John Swana and Peter Paulsen
February 18: Steve Smith's Vital Legacy, featuring Steve Smith, Vinny Valentino, Baron Browne, Andy Fusco and Mark Soskin
February 25: The Art of Strings, featuring John Blake, Jimmy Bruno and Gerald Veasley
March 4: WEEU Big Band Night with The Last Big Band, directed by Lee Southall, Roger Morgan and Jimmy Zoller
March 11: Dave Posmontier Quintet, featuring David Cullen, Bob Howell, Erick Johnson, Chico Huff and Dave Posmontier
March 18: Guitar Summit: Remembering Les Paul with Bucky Pizzarelli, Howard Alden and Frank DiBussolo
For more information on Jazz Base shows, visit: www.geraldveasleysjazzbase.com.

Saturday, March 13, 7:05 p.m.
Berks Jazz Fest Night at the Reading Royals
Watch as the Royals take on the Toledo Walleye at the Sovereign Center, and hang around for the post-game auction of player-worn jazz-themed jerseys. For more, visit: www.royalhockey.com.

For updates on 20th Anniversary countdown events, visit: Stay tuned! Information on a vintage film series is coming soon, and more events are in the works.

The VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest is proud to bring fans 20 years of great music and lasting memories. Join in the celebration!

The 20th annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 19-28, and features an expansive array of musical styles featuring contemporary and traditional jazz and blues artists. Over 130 events at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Greater Reading make this a truly unique music festival. For more information, including ticketing, artist bios and archived releases, visit www.berksjazzfest.com. For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to promoting the arts in Greater Reading, visit: www.berksarts.org.

To order tickets:
Visit the Sovereign Center box office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading.
Call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 to charge by phone; or visit ticketmaster.com.
Order online at berksjazzfest.com.

For a complete schedule of concerts, visit: www.berksjazzfest.com.

Contact:
Dana L. Hoffman
Publicity Director
VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest
610.236.4744 office
610.401.4914 mobile
dhoffman@readingeagle.com

Beth Renfro
Marketing/Public Relations Director
Berks Arts Council
201 Washington St. Suite 523
P.O. Box 854
Reading, PA 19603

Phone: 610.898.1930
Fax: 610.898.1932

Happy Jazzin' and hope to see you at many of the shows!!

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:52 AM

December 11, 2009

Nick Colionne To Ring In The New Year in Philadelphia

Following is a press release from On The Edge Productions, Chicago, Illinois, December 10:

Soul-Jazz Superstar Nick Colionne To Ring In The New Year in Philadelphia

NickColionneNYE.jpgJazz guitarist and vocalist Nick Colionne brings his special brand of excitement this New Year's Eve to Philadelphia. Michael Tozzi of ijazzglobal.com (former WJJZ Program Director) presents Nick Colionne (along with an after party with Philadelphia Band ZOE) at the Embassy Suites Hotel, Philadelphia International Airport.

Colionne joined the ranks of today's premier jazz artists with his Top Ten 2003 Album "JUST COME ON IN" that included the #1 hit "High Flyin" and top-ten hit "It's Been Too Long". His 2006 release "KEEPIN' IT COOL" propelled him to the top of the charts once again with the Top Ten hit singles "Always Thinking of You" (which stayed on the R&R charts for an incredible 45 weeks), "Keepin' It Cool" and "If You Ask Me". "KEEPIN' IT COOL" was also named Top Ten CD of the Year for 2006 on numerous lists.

His latest CD "NO LIMITS" has already produced two Top Five Hits, the title track "No Limits" and "The Big Windy Cat".

Says Colionne of the project: "NO LIMITS" is my latest adventure. I wanted to explore doing some different things with my music and not limit myself to one genre or style of playing". Colionne teamed up with two Grammy-award winning writers for the CD: Jim Peterik who wrote "The Eye Of The Tiger", the theme from the film "Rocky", and Paul Richmond who wrote "Shining Star" for the Manhattans. From this collaboration came three great vocal tracks - the soulful and romantic "Melting Into You", the bluesy "Hard Line" and the R&B tinged "Anyway".

Colionne's live performances defy categorization. His shows incorporate all the music he loves best and the influences he's had throughout his career. You are as likely to hear Nick sing the blues or some heartfelt R&B as you are to hear his blazing jazz licks, or even the hint of metal, recalling the beginning of his career as a heavy metal guitarist. From that diverse musicality comes an incredible live performance that showcases the talent, vocal ability and yes, comedic timing, of this charismatic entertainer.

More About Colionne
NickBGM.jpgComing of age on Chicago's West Side, Colionne began playing professionally at age 15, and has performed with legendary R&B icons Natalie Cole, Al Green, The Impressions, Curtis Mayfield and The Staples Singers. The recipient of the Malcolm X College Alumnus of the Year Award, (he earned his degree there in music), Colionne has devoted much of his spare time over the past 12 years to mentoring children at a suburban Chicago K-8 school.
Nick Colionne is an endorsee for Epiphone Guitars and Gibson Strings & Accessories as well as prestigious clothier Stacy Adams and is featured in both of their national advertising campaigns.

According to Nick, "The most exciting part of all of this for me is that I am actually living my dream, getting a chance to perform for people around the world, The greatest moments come when I look at their faces in the audience when I play, and I realize that I'm making them feel what I'm feeling. That's a fascinating level of communication".

Nick is the host of the popular radio program "Keepin' It Cool with Nick Colionne" heard daily on SmoothJazzNow.com, and recently spearheaded a national fund raising campaign to benefit breast cancer research and awareness in conjunction with Wine and Jazz Magazine that raised significant donations for The Pair Tree Foundation, a partner with The 3 Day Walk which benefits the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Colionne's busy tour schedule in 2009 year took him to multiple US cities, Canada, the Caribbean and Europe. Much to the delight of his many fans, he ends this year's multi-city holiday tour in Philadelphia with this special New Year's Eve performance.


New Year's Eve Event Information

EmbassySuitesPhiladelphia.jpgSpecial "singles" and "couples" package pricing is available (dinner, the Nick Colionne concert, a special silent auction to benefit "The Little Rock Foundation" , an after party with Philadelphia's ZOE and optional hotel accommodations/New Year's Day Breakfast).

Reservations/Tickets: Call Embassy Suites Hotel, Philadelphia International Airport at 1-215 - 365-4500 & ask for the Nick Colionne New Year's Special.

Event is brought to you by: Michael Tozzi's ijazzglobal.com

Sponsored by: Allstate Insurance and Golden Nugget Jewelers. Sponsorship Opportunities: Contact: Michael Tozzi at 610 324-9314.

Visit Nick Colionne's Website, www.nickcolionne.com

Media & Press Inquiries for Nick Colionne

Christine Clark, 610-918-3252
Media Manager, On The Edge Productions
media@nickcolionne.com

Photography credits: Cary Gillaspie, Scenic Jazz Photography; Bettie Grace Miner, Miner Works of Art

Special note to www.smoothvibes.com visitors:

Having seen Nick Colionne numerous times since he first came to Reading, PA, I can say without a doubt his is always a stellar show with lots of fan connection, unbelievable guitar playing along with an excellent band, and most of all the chance to meet Nick, himself, who is as fun, friendly and kind as he is debonair. If you can attend this event, you will surely join the ranks of us who already know this will be a magical holiday happening.

Hope you can be there!

Happy Jazzin'

BEV & NIC0.JPGBeverly J. Packard
Reading, Pennsylvania
Home of the Berks Jazz Festival
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 12:12 AM

December 1, 2009

The 20th Annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest celebrates milestone with white-hot lineup

READING, PA -- November 29 -- The 20th Annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 19-28, and promises a memorable experience for lovers of contemporary and traditional jazz, blues, one-of-a-kind ensemble shows and more.

What began as a weekend festival of a few shows has grown to 10 days of great music and camaraderie, creating lasting friendships and memories.

The festival has always been unique in that it offers an array of venues and musical styles, with more than 130 events at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Reading and Berks County, Pa.

Several artists who played for the first fest in 1991 are returning this year, including Wynton Marsalis with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra; the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band; Turtle Island Quartet with special guest Cyrus Chestnut; and Denis DiBlasio with special guest Randy Brecker.

Other featured artists in this year's festival include jazz trumpet star Chris Botti; pianist Keiko Matsui; the legendary Blood Sweat & Tears; bassist and hometown favorite Gerald Veasley with his Electric Mingus Project; contemporary jazz star Boney James; trumpet great and local favorite Rick Braun & Friends, featuring David Benoit, Richard Elliot and Selena Albright, joined by the Berks Jazz Fest Horns; the always-entertaining duo of Peter White & Mindi Abair; Earl Klugh with opening act Tuck & Patti; Kim Waters & Kenny Lattimore plus opening act Gregg Karukas; Jane Monheit with the Reading Pops Orchestra; and Pat Martino Quartet featuring Eric Alexander, Tony Monaco and Jason Brown.

Fans also will enjoy vocalist Jackie Ryan featuring Larry McKenna, Lee Smith, Dan Monaghan and Tom Lawton; the free community concert by the U.S. Air Force Satellite Jazz Ensemble; Frank Vignola's Hot Club; Dean Brown Band; saxman Euge Groove; Joe McBride Trio; Nick Colionne & Eric Darius; the Yellowjackets; and Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead Concert.

Unique ensemble shows to look forward to this year are the Music of Grover Washington Jr. featuring Jason Miles, Gerald Albright, Walter Beasley, Chante Moore, Randy Brecker, Jeff Golub, Ada Rovatti, Buddy Williams, Ralph MacDonald and Neal Jason.

Hometown favorite Rick Braun is celebrating this milestone year with a 20th anniversary concert, Rick Braun & Friends featuring David Benoit, Richard Elliot, Selina Albright, and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns and Berks Jazz Fest Strings.

The 20th Anniversary Berks All-Star Jazz Jam features Chuck Loeb, Rick Braun, Peter White, David Benoit, Gerald Veasley, Joe McBride, Nick Colionne, Chieli Minucci, Brian Bromberg, Eric Darius, Mindi Abair and Richard Elliot.

There's also Brian Bromberg & Friends, with the veteran bassist being joined by Jeff Lorber, Chuck Loeb, Michael Lington, Marion Meadows, Cindy Bradley and Will Kennedy, Gary Meek, Alec Milstein and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns; and Guitarzzz featuring Chuck Loeb, Chieli Minucci and Paul Jackson Jr. plus opening act Jessy J, Oli Silk and Jackiem Joyner.

Blues are back in a big way, with rousing shows promised by the Grammy Award-winning Robert Cray Band; vocal powerhouse Shemekia Copeland plus opening act Eric Steckel with the Craig Thatcher Band; and guitarist and vocalist Coco Montoya plus opening act Deanna Bogart Band.

The VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest is proud to bring fans 20 years of great music and lasting memories. Join in the celebration!

The 20th Annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 19-28, and features an expansive array of musical styles featuring contemporary and traditional jazz and blues artists. Over 130 events at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Greater Reading make this a truly unique music festival. For more information, including ticketing, artist bios and archived releases, visit www.berksjazzfest.com. For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to promoting the arts in Greater Reading, visit www.berksarts.org.

Tickets go on sale Saturday, Dec. 5, at 10 a.m.
To order tickets:
Visit the Sovereign Center box office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading.
Call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 to charge by phone; or visit ticketmaster.com.
Order online at berksjazzfest.com.

For a complete schedule of concerts, visit www.berksjazzfest.com

Posted by Peter Böhi at 1:14 AM

October 24, 2009

Change in Line-up for 'Remembering Grover Washington, Jr.' Concert


This press release from Beth Renfro, Marketing/Public Relations Director for the Berks Arts Council:

Grover+Washington+Jr.jpgREADING, PA -- October 21 – The Berks Arts Council announces a line-up change for the “Remembering Grover Washington Jr.” concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11, in the Miller Center for the Arts on the campus of Reading Area Community College in downtown Reading. Special guest sax man Eric Darius will replace Walter Beasley in the original lineup, joining bassist Gerald Veasley, a member of Grover's band and a longtime friend. This special concert also features keyboardist Donald Robinson, who was musical director for Grover's band for years, and saxophonist Chris Farr, musical director for Veasley's band.

No stranger to Berks audiences, Darius took the contemporary jazz world by storm with his 2004 Narada Jazz debut, Night on the Town. He followed that success with Just Getting Started. His latest release is Goin' All Out, which peaked at No. 9 on Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz chart.

The show, a rousing kick-off event for the milestone 20th annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, March 19 to 28, will feature many of Grover's classic hits as well as music from Grover's holiday CD, Breath of Heaven. Tickets are on sale now, and are $40. All seats are reserved, and only 500 tickets are available for this special show.

Grover Washington Jr. was probably the most successful contemporary jazz artist of his generation. His blend of R&B, soul, pop and jazz earned him a glowing reputation with music lovers and DJs. His discography boasts three decades of creative and heartfelt albums. Breath of Heaven, a funky yet serene holiday release, was nominated in 1998 for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance.

Gerald Veasley is the founder of Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base at the Crowne Plaza Reading.

For tickets contact CD Exchange, 360 E. Wyomissing Ave., Mohnton, PA, or call, 610-777-2310 to order by phone.

The 20th Anniversary VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest will be presented by the Berks Arts Council March 19 to 28, 2010. For complete jazz fest information, visit www.berksjazzfest.com.

We hope to see you at what is sure to be a memorable show.

Happy Jazzin'

BeverlyHappy   Jazzin'.jpgBeverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 10:49 PM

October 3, 2009

Gerald Veasley and Walter Beasley headline holiday tribute to Grover Washington Jr.

BACcolorv110.png Berks Arts Council has released the following on an upcoming holiday show to be held In Reading, Pennsylvania, home of the Berks Jazz Fest:

The late saxophonist and Philadelphia native Grover Washington Jr. touched the lives of so many -- music lovers and musicians alike. He was an inspiration, and his legacy lives on through many of today's top players.

"Remembering Grover Washington Jr.," a concert paying tribute to the legend and presented by the Berks Arts Council, is set for Friday, Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m., at the Miller Center for the Arts on the campus of Reading Area Community College in downtown Reading. Tickets go on sale Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 10 a.m. and are $40. All seats are reserved, and only 500 tickets are available for this show.

The 10th anniversary of Grover's passing is in December, so it's fitting to have a tribute concert hosted by a longtime friend and member of Grover's band, bassist Gerald Veasley. A Berks Jazz Fest favorite, Veasley will be joined by special guest Walter Beasley. Also joining them that night will be Veasley's band, featuring keyboardist Donald Robinson, who was musical director for Grover's band for years; and saxophonist Chris Farr, musical director for Veasley's band.

The show, a rousing kick-off event for the milestone 20th annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, will feature many of Grover's classic hits as well as music from Grover's holiday CD, Breath of Heaven.

Grover was probably the most successful contemporary jazz artist of his generation. His blend of R&B, soul, pop and jazz earned him a glowing reputation with music lovers and DJs. His discography boasts three decades of creative and heartfelt albums. Breath of Heaven, a funky yet serene holiday release, was nominated in 1998 for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance.

This heartfelt tribute to one of the most influential jazz musicians of our time is a must-see show.

For tickets:
CD Exchange
360 E. Wyomissing Ave.
Mohnton, PA
610-777-2310 to order by phone

CONTACT:
Dana L. Hoffman
Publicity Director
VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest
dhoffman@readingeagle.com

or

Beth Renfro
Marketing/Public Relations Director
Berks Arts Council
brenfro@berksarts.org

jazz%20circle%20MK.jpgHappy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com



Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 9:32 PM

April 6, 2009

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Jazz Attack

Sunday night, the festival finale laid in the hands of super-star group Jazz Attack featuring Rick Braun on trumpet, Richard Elliot on saxophone and Jonathan Butler on guitar and vocals. They relied on their tried and tested formula playing their hit songs like Rick Braun's "Notorious", while Richard Elliot delivered his beloved Stylistics song "People Make The World Go Round", where he took the opportunity to baffle the audience with some growling and purring sounds from his saxophone. Jonathan Butler sang a heartfelt version of "No Woman, No Cry", which was one of the highlights of the show. As for something new, Rick Braun played one song from his upcoming CD dedicated to the music of Herb Alpert, which is destined to become a radio hit, while Richard Elliot played "Move On Up" and "Rock Steady" from his brand new current release. They were backed by Nate Phillips on bass, Ricky Lawson on drums and Dwight Sills on guitar plus keyboards. The concert was finished with the Jonathan Butler hit "Lies", which also brought another great Berks Jazz Festival to an end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:14 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: David Benoit / Warren Hill

Sunday afternoon, Smooth Jazz 92.7 gave us their second Listener Appreciation Day concerts with the double bill of David Benoit and Warren Hill which took place at the Crowne Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom in front of a capacity crowd.

Pianist David Benoit played the grand piano and a little keyboards, he was accompanied by a stellar band featuring Jeff Kashiwa on sax, David Hughes on bass and Jamey Tate on drums. This concert was a breath of fresh air, David Benoit was in a relaxed mood, he played some songs from his Heroes CD, among them "Mountain Dance", "Human Nature" with a heartfelt solo by Jeff Kashiwa, and "Light My Fire". The band was grooving along, the tasteful playing of David Hughes and Jamey Tate never overpowering the piano of David Benoit, which yielded a really great musical experience allowing the music to breathe. It brought a dimension to the festival I had been missing so far. The nod to Dave Brubeck was "Blue Rondo A La Turk" with some great sax playing by Jeff Kashiwa, before they went through some of David Benoit's biggest hits like "Beat Street" and "Freedom At Midnight". This was a well rounded concert by a great artist, supported by a great band.

After that, Warren Hill and band were turning up the heat with their powerful performance. He opened the show with "Come Together", blowing us away with his great alto-sax playing. He was backed by a great band, among them Wayne Gerard on guitar. Another highlight was "Mambo 2000", a great latin track which was delivered with aplomb by all involved. He slowed down things in the middle of the concert, when he took the acoustic guitar and sang a gentle song dedicated to his daughter, showing a completely different musical side of his personality. After that, he played the beautiful "Still In Love", a song written for his wife. He also played a couple of songs on the soprano saxophone before it was time to give us his signature song, Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music" which had the crowd cheering along. As an encore, they played a great blues song that gave Wayne Gerard the opportunity to shine. This was a great concert by a consummate player.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:01 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Metro

Saturday, I attended the late-night show of Metro at the Jazz Base in the Crowne Plaza Reading Hotel, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base club. Metro is the fusion project of guitarist Chuck Loeb featuring Mitch Forman on keyboards, Dave Weckl on drums and Gerald Veasley on bass. The band was extended for this festival with additional soloists Randy Brecker on trumpet and Bobby Francescini on sax. They went through their hard hitting songs which were not primarily about melody, but much more about straight playing, soloing, and technical complexity. Bobby Francescini is a very powerful player giving us some great solos while the band was grooving like hell with the great Dave Weckl on drums and Gerald Veasley on bass providing the rock-solid foundation to the proceedings. Mitch Forman, Randy Brecker and Chuck Loeb added their share of excellent soloing, and the whole band proved to be a cohesive unit yielding an impressive concert.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:13 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Boney James

Saturday evening, superstar Boney James appeared in the Scottish Rite Cathedral delivering his ultra-smooth brand of saxophone led groovy instrumental music. He was accompanied by a youthful band, among them bassist Sam Sims. They brought us up to speed with "All Night Long", Boney was dancing and moving around across the stage while playing his horn, his way to express himself is totally unique and special. His current CD Send One Your Love is decidedly the ultimate make-out album, so the majority of the songs were rather laid-back and sensual, but this is the style Boney feels the most comfortable in. From this CD, he played Barry White's "I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby", the album's title track, Stevie Wonder's "Send One Your Love" and the great Stylistics classic "Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)", the rest of the show featured some of his well known tracks and trademark playing. He did his stroll into the audience and had several women dancing along to his playing, he even stepped onto some seats right behind us to play standing in the middle of the cheering crowd. The concert was sold-out and the many "Boney" shouts from the audience proved the popularity of this artist.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:09 PM

April 5, 2009

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Joyce Cooling / East Bay Soul

Saturday evening we got the Golden Gate Double-Header, taking place at the Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom with two concerts in a row.

First was Joyce Cooling who was promoting her brand new CD called Global Cooling, due in stores in one week. Hailing from San Francisco, she and musical partner Jay Wagner on keyboards brought us their brand of sunny, laid-back smooth jazz. She opened the show with some her familiar instrumental tunes, among them "Come And Get It", before featuring some new songs, among them "Cobra" and a nice song called "What Are We Waiting For", just stripped down to guitar and percussion. Another memorable moment of the concert was her performance of the track "Revolving Door", sitting on the edge of the stage. Apart from that, we got our little samba interlude with the whole band at percussion instruments featuring their great new percussionist, before finishing the show with some more familiar uptempo instrumental tracks.

Next were East Bay Soul, a band featuring former of Tower Power trumpet players Greg Adams and Lee Thornburg, plus Michael Paulo on sax and the inimitable Phil Perry on vocals. It was evident that the roots of this band were in funk and soul, the horn arrangements were very reminiscent of TOP. Greg Adams played some great trumpet and flugelhorn solos, bringing back a much welcomed jazz element. The opening track was smoking. Soon, singer Phil Perry was brought to the stage, singing two songs, among them his take on the War classic "The World is A Ghetto". Then, things slowed down a little with Sade's "Smooth Operator", Greg Adams playing beautifully on muted trumpet, paving the way for another great Phil Perry ballad and his rendition of "Walk On By". Then, Greg Adams played a great instrumental featuring him on flugelhorn, classic stuff with some great horns backing him up and a soulful sax solo by Michael Paulo. They wrapped up the show with some TOP classics, yielding one of the best shows of the whole festival.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:42 PM

April 4, 2009

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Sax Pack

Late Friday night, the Sax Pack, featuring saxophonists Kim Waters, Steve Cole and Jeff Kashiwa were performing at the Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom delivering a truly entertaining show full of top-notch musicianship and comedy. The first song was a group effort, then the next song featured Kim Waters who really set the standard, and the whole evening revolved around the concept of competition between the players, who tried to outshine each other, pulling their legs and still showing a great sense of camaraderie. Their funny remarks between songs yielded many laughs, and each of these players has a great sense of humor. One of the highlights was Steve Cole playing "Curtis", his slow burning song dedicated to Curtis Mayfield, allowing him to pull out all the stops and have the crowd cheering withjoy. Jeff Kashiwa played "When It Feels Good" from his current release, then after a funny interlude about zodiac signs, they went into "You Are My Starship", which was well appreciated. Then as a group effort, they played their big radio hit from their Sax Pack album called "Fallin' For You", which stayed for 10 weeks at #1. The band was introduced: on guitar was Jerry Johnson, Mike Logan on keyboards, Andre Berry on bass and Clyde Davis on drums. They wrapped up the show nicely with some uptempo tracks, giving us one of the most entertaining and musically satisfying shows of the festival.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:38 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Soul Summit II

Friday evening, Jason Miles presented Soul Summit II, another star-studded event celebrating classic soul music by a great cast. Prior to the show, Jason Miles was given an award by Bob Davis of Soul-Patrol.com for his contributions to soul music and his various projects over the years, a sign of appreciation truly deserved. Then Jason Miles introduced the players for Soul Summit II. As last year, backbone of the band were living legends Bob Babbit on bass and Reggie Young on guitar who both played on an endless list of classic recordings ranging from Elvis to Herbie Mann; Steve Ferrone played the drums, while Jason Miles took care of the keyboards. Featured guest artists were saxophonists Eric Darius and Richard Elliot, guitarist Jeff Golub, singers Maysa, Simone and the male duo Soul Survivors from Philly. They recreated some old-school vibes with the first soul-drenched track featuring Jeff Golub on guitar, before Eric Darius entered the stage blowing us away with his youthful energy. Then the Soul Survivors threw us back to the 60's with their Sam & Dave like performance, before Maysa delivered, among others, "Let's Stay Together" the way only she can. Eric Darius played "Knock On Wood" and "Coming Home Baby" before Simone, daughter of Nina Simone, sang a beautiful version of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" with a truly inspired guitar solo by Jeff Golub, and "Love And Happiness", which had people grooving along. Richard Elliot came to the stage and gave us his powerful rendition of Aretha Franklin's "Rock Steady", followed by Al Green's "A Change Is Gonna Come", putting all his heart and soul into the performance, giving me goosebumps! As a little surprise, Jason Miles sang one song, which led seamlessly into AWB's "Pick Up The Pieces", having all artists together on stage for the rousing finale. This was another truly great show and memorable musical experience as only Jason Miles can put together.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:34 PM

A Match Made in Jazz Heaven: Bobby Lyle and Paul Jackson, Jr.

Text: Beverly Packard
Photo: Michael C. Packard

Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base was the intimate venue for two life-long friends to come together and enjoy blending the music they both love. Bobby Lyle and Paul Jackson, Jr brought the house down with a rousing tribute to Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery. With them was the talented Mark Prince on drums.

At times soft and poignant, at times unbelievably intricate and boisterous, this dynamic duo easily held our attention for the night. In between the songs of Montgomery and Smith, Jackson and Lyle shared stories of the past, making the show interesting and educational as well as entertaining.

Early in the show Jackson credited Bobby Lyle with his decision to pursue becoming a musician. By the look on Bobby’s face, it was easy to see he couldn’t be more pleased that Jackson has been part of his circle and was there with him on stage. Often exchanging knowing looks and smiles in appreciation of each other’s playing, their special relationship in music was very evident.

One of Jackson’s stories involved his father, who, upon hearing that Jackson had played with the likes of Cher and later Whitney Houston and many other top stars, would give a proper nod of approval, but when Jackson told his father he was involved in a Jimmy Smith project, his dad’s eyes widened and he said, “REALLY??” Jackson’s father sat in the audience for this show and we found him to be a most charming man in talking with him after the show.

In addition to Montgomery and Smith classics, which included Caravan, Baby It’s Cold Outside, Round Might, Blues for Dexter, Bumpin' on Sunset and Road Song, they did an original tune, a real crowd pleaser entitled, Jump In. Walk on the Wild Side rounded out the set and although the crowd was ready for more, it was time to end, since another fortunate group of fans was scheduled to join them for the later show.

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 5:15 PM

April 3, 2009

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Berks All-Star Jazz Jam

Text: Peter Böhi and Beverly Packard
Photo: Michael C. Packard

Late thursday night at the Plaza Crowne Hotel Ballroom, one of the greatest jazz-extravaganzas known in the scene took place in the form of the Berks All-Star Jazz Jam. Under the musical guidance of guitarist Chuck Loeb, an incredible number of artists gathered on the stage to jam. There was Dave Weckl on drums, two bass players (Brian Bromberg and Gerald Veasley), four guitar players (Chieli Minucci, Paul Jackson Jr., Chuck Loeb and Matt Marshak), six saxophonists (Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole, Kim Waters, Nelson Rangell, Richard Elliot and Eric Darius), two trumpet/flugelhorn players (Rick Braun and Leon Jordan Jr.) and two keyboard/organ players (Bobby Lyle and Mitch Foreman). For the first song, they all crammed the stage performing Charlie Parker's "Now's The Time" with alternating solos by several of the players, before the band split up into smaller group allowing the individual players to shine. Next was Freddie Hubbard's "Little Sunflower", featuring Jeff Kashiwa on soprano and the incredible Leon Jordan Jr. on the flugelhorn who delivered a extensive, quite capable solo, while Brian Bromberg played a fine acoustic bass solo. Next was a funked and sped-up version of Miles Davis' "So What" that gave Gerald Veasley, Richard Elliot, Matt Marshak and Leon Jordan Jr. ample solo space. This was followed by "On Broadway", and this version was turned into a guitar frenzy by Chuck Loeb, Paul Jackson Jr. and Chieli Minucci (who toured together as Guitarzzz in the past), cranking up their guitars and jamming like crazy. The show slowed down for a while with Nelson Rangell whistling and playing the piccolo, before the speed picked up with Herbie Hancock's "Canteloupe Island" extending the band again. They wrapped up the show with all involved with Stevie Wonder's "I Wish", which brought another great concert to an end. Once again, Chuck Loeb realized his vision of what so many talented players could bring to surely the most regularly-attended show of the entire festival.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:00 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Chieli Minucci & Special EFX

Text: Peter Böhi and Beverly Packard
Photo: Michael C. Packard

Thursday evening, Chieli Minucci & Special EFX appeared at the Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, celebrating their 25th year of touring as a band. The lineup consisted of leader Chieli Minucci on guitar, Philip Hamilton on percussion and vocals, Lionel Cordew on drums, Jerry Brooks on bass, Jay Rowe on keyboards and Nelson Rangell on sax & flute. In addition, the Berks Jazz Fest Horns (Michael Anderson on sax, Rob Diener on trumpet and John Loos on trombone) supported the band. The concert was opened with "Daybreak" featuring the amazing vocals of percussion player Philip Hamilton who really added a new dimension to the whole sound with his jazzy phrasings. Saxophonist Nelson Rangell was the special guest of the band and delivered some great contributions on sax and flute, blending well with the band. Chieli Minucci delivered his well known brand of fusion and smooth jazz on electric and acoustic guitars, giving us his longer renditions of popular chart-topping songs "Kickin' It Hard" and "Cruise Control". Also featured was "Body Beat" and long time favorite "Uptown East". Some of the tunes were extremely layered, while others were more laid-back, leaving more room to breathe and allowing the players to more fully express themselves. A highlight for the crowd was the rendition of "Cause We've Ended As Lovers" which built nicely and left the crowd wanting more. Minucci has become a real favorite at the jazz festival; he is happy to be here and considers Berks to be part of his 'family,' he delivers simply amazing solos, and he has an enthusiastic band, as evidenced by the band's focused attention on giving him what he wants, and Jay Rowe's infectious smiles and dancing during his awesome keyboard playing. The show was very well received, with a number of standing ovations on the part of some or all of the crowd.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:07 PM

April 2, 2009

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Brian Bromberg

Wednesday I went to see the concert of the Brian Bromberg Quintet at the Jazz Base, the lineup consisted of Brian Bromberg on acoustic & electric bass, Mitch Foreman on keyboards & piano, Nelson Rangel on saxes, flute & whistling, Dave Weckl on drums and Chuck Loeb on guitar. The club setting was cool, and the band was ready to jam. They kicked off the show with Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon", followed by Eddie Harris' "Cold Duck Time", both tracks can be found on Brian Bromberg's latest CD Downright, Upright. Despite the fact that the musicians just gathered for this concert the band played very well together, Dave Weckl was never missing a beat, Nelson Rangell was blowing a mean horn and later whistled beautifully, while Chuck Loeb delivered a few burning solos on guitar. Another highlight was the keyboard playing of Mitch Foreman, who delivered some outstanding solos. But the man holding it all together was bassist Brian Bromberg, who alternated between acoustic and electric bass, a special highlight was his solo acoustic bass performance, before they closed the concert with a rousing version of Herbie Hancock's classic "Cantaloupe Island". This was a great concert by a world-class band.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:22 AM

April 1, 2009

Intermission - Berks Jazz Fest 2009

Text and photo: Michael C. Packard

One unique aspect of Berks is the chance to participate in some really fun activities that occur during the week, between the world class shows. A Reading Eagle newspaper advertisement highlighted a two hour "meet the artists" event hosted by the Verizon store, with on-air coverage by Jo Painter of WEEU-AM radio.

A sunny and warm spring afternoon with two free tickets for Saturday's East Bay Soul show for the first twenty people beckoned. Bassists extraordinaire Brian Bromberg and Gerald Veasley, as well as Uptown Band members, Erich Cawalla and Jennifer Kinder were on hand to autograph promotional photos, free CD's which were given away.

We had a fun time mixing it up with the Berks Arts Council folks, the radio people, and chit-chatted with the artists, friends, and fans. Everyone who attended had a laugh, got some free stuff, and left a little bit happier.

PS: On the photo (from left to right): Brian Bromberg, Peter Böhi, Gerald Veasley.

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 8:00 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Steve Smith & Vital Information

World renowned Steve Smith and his band Vital Information put on an entertaining – and informative -- show Saturday evening at Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base in the Reading Crowne Plaza Hotel. Before the show began, the chatter in the audience reflected how eager everyone was to see what magic Steve Smith was going to bring to his drumming on this, the second night of the Berks Jazz Festival.

Joining Smith was Baron Browne on bass guitar, Tom Koster (formerly of Santana) on keyboards, and Vinny Valentino, the latest addition to this band, on guitar. A guest appearance by Andy Fusco on saxophone rounded out the evening. These artists come out of rich musical background, having made their mark on the music industry even before joining Steve Smith. Fusco is part of a second band that Steve Smith leads, known as Jazz Legacy, a more straight-ahead jazz group dedicated to the legacy of drummer Buddy Rich and many other great drummers. The set list included Time Tunnel, Interwoven Rhythms – Synchronous, Get Serious, Seven and a Half, Interwoven Rhythms – Dialogue, JBen Jazz, Bottom Line, The Blackhawk or Looks Bad, Feels Good, The Closer, and for an Encore, The Trouble With/Jimmy Jive.

Vital Information has the corner on being a tight band; there is such precision in every piece they play, not a space or note is wasted. And the rhythm of the songs was nothing short of amazingly complex and perfectly executed. Twice during the show, the audience was given ‘vital information’ about music and rhythm that the artists gleaned on recent trips to India. Smith explained the time the band members learned to reframe in their minds the beat of a song in 15:8, simplified by musicians in India who taught them to use 7 ½ time, which is 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 & 7-and-a-half -1 & 2 and so forth in a repetitious pattern. He clapped this beat for us, and so it was easy to pick up…at first. But as they played and the song became more layered and complicated, it was nearly impossible for us to find the beginning of the phrasing of beats. Wow, and some of us really worked at it!

The audience was also educated in the use of voice percussion called konokol. Smith and Valentino demonstrated these vocalizations which articulate the complex rhythm in a song. There were patterns to the type of vocalization used for various phrasings in the song. It was quite fascinating to see how voice percussion is used and interesting that even perhaps one of the most famous drummers in the world can still add something new to his repertoire in the area of percussion.

When watching a great drummer like Steve Smith, somehow I begin to believe that if I could just sit in his seat for awhile, I feel certain I could produce some decent sounds and stay with the beat using syncopation and lots of other effects to make it interesting. Although I’m eager to try it, it doesn’t take long before I realize that this is probably pretty unlikely! While Smith makes it appear effortless, he has so many sticks and tricks and variations of the way he gets just the right effect that it would be impossible for almost anyone in the world to duplicate, and there are probably only a handful of drummers who can do it.

In a sense, Vital Information’s shows are about rhythm, about how challenging and complicated the music can become. Despite my love for a more recurring melody line and perhaps less complication at times, in a live show like this it’s easy to get lost in what each artist is bringing to it and in the joy they feel having accomplished what they set out to do by the end of the song. Speaking of the ending of the songs, they were superb in every case. Again, perfectly executed, all together, exactly on the same space in time for each final note.

It’s the second time I walked away from a Vital Information show simply mesmerized by the talent musicians can exhibit and the fun atmosphere that is created when a group of people sit and appreciate what a rare treat is before us.

Vital Information’s latest CD, entitled ‘Vitalization,’ was released in 2007. Please visit www.vitalinformation.com to learn more about Steve Smith and the band.

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Photo: Michael C. Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 5:43 PM

March 30, 2009

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Take 6 / Wayman Tisdale

In the evening, we got the double bill of accapella vocal group Take 6, followed by bassist Wayman Tisdale & band, the concert took place at the Scottish Rite Cathedral and was tagged Smooth and Soulful.

The six male vocalists of Take 6 are masters of vocalese, the art form of just singing and using the voice to create sounds, that brought them 10 Grammies over the years. They did a very entertaining show, from gospel to rock to r&b, everything was covered in a convincing way. The audience was excited, especially the trip down memory lane where every member featured some of his favorite music of the past, yielded great renditions of songs by Michael Jackson, Boys To Men, The Doobie Brothers and Stevie Wonder. Apart of that, several originals by the group were performed that showed their unique vocal skills, leaving the audience in awe.

After a short intermission, it was time for bassist Wayman Tisdale to take the center stage. As you may know, Wayman Tisdale had been battling bone cancer for the past two years, he has completed therapy and is getting better now, but the disease has left its mark on him. He has visibly lost weight and needs a cane and an assistant to walk. He performed sitting, but all these handicaps didn't prevent him from delivering a great show backed by a top-notch band, among them bassist Andre Berry. He played many great covers of those "old school" songs like "Can't Hide Love", "Ain't No Stopping Us Now", "Get Down On It", a great funk-medley, among them "Fire", I also like the inclusion of a vocoder to his bass allowing him to communicate. Despite his physical problems, Wayman Tisdale proved that he is willing to play and continue to bring the music to his fans, providing another great show. I wish him all the best!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:59 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Pieces Of A Dream / Average White Band

Sunday afternoon we got the double ticket of Pieces Of A Dream and Average White Band as part of Smooth Jazz 92.7FM Listener Appreciation Day, an afternoon of music in front of a sold-out house at the Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom.

Pieces Of A Dream are veterans of the scene, they started their career with the help of mentor Grover Washington Jr. in the early 80's, and are still on the forefront of today's smooth jazz scene. The band is led by founding members Curtis Harmon on drums and James Lloyd on keyboards, plus members Eddie Baccus on sax, David Dyson on bass and - newest official member - Rohn Lawrence on guitar. They put on an energetic show, featuring material from their new CD, Soul Intent, like "Hindsight"; and, several classics, among them "Fo-Fi-Fo" and and a tribute to Grover Washington Jr., giving Eddie Baccus the opportunity to shine. They were joking around and had a good time, as did the capacity crowd. A Pieces Of A Dream concert is always an enjoyable experience, they deliver a powerful performance full of catchy melodies and superior playing, satisfying your smooth jazz expectations.

Next up were the Average White Band, originally hailing from Scotland with a career that started in the early 70's, yielding many classics. The band is fronted by original members Alan Gorrie on bass, guitar & lead vocals and Onnie McIntyre on guitar & vocals. The rest of the band underwent several changes over the years, the current lineup consists of Fred Vigdor on sax, Rocky Bryant on drums and the outstanding Klyde Jones on keyboards, guitar, bass & vocals. They quickly won over the crowd by starting the show with a short version of "Pick Up The Pieces", before exploring the large catalog of the band. Alan Gorrie really incorporates AWB for me with his voice and trademark bass playing, while the rhythm guitar of Onnie McIntyre anchored things. Freddie V really nails the sax parts down and delivered many great solos, but most notable player was Klyde Jones, who really added another dimension to the proceedings with his soulful singing, mean bass playing (during the parts of the show when Alan Gorrie picked up his guitar) and Benson-like guitar playing. The songs played ranged from "Cloudy" to "TLC", "Person To Person", "I'm The One" and - for the encore - the inevitable "Pick Up The Pieces" that added Eddie Baccus to the horn section, bringing the concert to a great end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:42 PM

March 29, 2009

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Gerald Veasley

The late night show Saturday night took place at the Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, bassist Gerald Veasly and his band led an all-star cast through The Music Of Stevie Wonder, and they really stuck to the theme and exclusively played Stevie Wonder compositions, which yielded a very entertaining concert. They kicked off the show with "Do I Do" and "Don't You Worry Bout A Thing" featuring Chris Farr on sax, Gerald Veasley's regular sax player, who did a great job bringing the crowd up to speed. Then Joe McBride gave us a powerful rendition of "Higher Ground", followed by singer Nnenna Freelon, who sang three songs (among them "My Cherie Amour"), before Najee played "As" beautifully on flute -- he is such a great flautist. He also played the sax to a few more songs, before it was time for Gerald Veasley to shine, he showed his prowess on the instrument, pulling out all the stops, baffling the audience. I am always impressed with the impeccable technique of this great player. Together with Chris Farr and the band they brought the concert to its close, for the rousing encore they brought back Joe McBride and Najee to play "Superstition", which went down very well with the crowd. This song - among a few others - was ably supported by the four piece Berks Jazz Fest Horns.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:25 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Brian Culbertson

Brian Culbertson appeared Saturday evening at the Scottish Rite Cathedral, still Bringing Back The Funk, the same show which was brand new last year, and showed a lot of maturation in the meantime. The lineup changed a little, as guitarist Sheldon Reynolds was no longer in the band, and as a welcome return, his father Jim Culbertson on trumpet was back. While last year, I felt like as if i were hit by a truck when the band started, this year everything still was very funky and powerful, but much tighter and less stressful, and therefore more enjoyable. Most of the material played was from Bringing Back The Funk, but Brian also gave us plenty of his older smooth jazz material to keep the crowd happy, slowing things down for a while. I also enjoyed the horn battles when Brian on trombone chases his horn player around the stage. As usual, it was an energetic and fun show on the highest level, and the house rocked!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:23 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Kirk Whalum & Gerald Albright

Saturday early afternoon saxophonists Kirk Whalum and Gerald Albright celebrated the Sax For Stax, among other things on their show which took place in the Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom (formerly the Sheraton). As they let us know during the show, they will spend the whole year touring the country and are prepared to bring their music to the fans. Some songs were performed in tandem, while on others they alternated as leaders. They were backed by a stellar band, among them bassist Melvin Davis and guitarist Gary Goin, providing the perfect background for them to shine. The gamut of songs was wide and reached from older classics out of their catalogs to more unexpected songs. Highlights were Gerald Albright's rendition of "Georgia On My Mind" and a lengthy tribute to the saxophonists who influenced them - from Cannonball Adderley to Maceo Parker - which not only was very entertaining, but also revealed the tremendous background of these artists. Both were in a great playing mood, the camaraderie was evident, and all involved - players and audience - had a great time.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:20 PM

March 28, 2009

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Peter White & Mindi Abair

The 19th annual Berks Jazz Festival started with a bang with the concert by guitarist Peter White and saxophonist Mindi Abair. It was held Friday evening at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in front of a capacity crowd. The two artists played a lot together in past, especially during their holiday tour called "A Peter White Christmas" featuring Mindi Abair and Rick Braun, so their camaraderie was no suprise. They were backed by Mindi Abair's band, among them players like Andre Berry on bass and Rodney Lee on keyboards, doing a great job, with the guitar player adding some burning solos on electric guitar. Peter White gave us a selection of his well known hit songs and covers of r&b classics like Grover Washington Jr.'s "Mr. Magic", "I'll Be Around", The Temptations' "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" or the Isley Brother's "Who's That Lady" and more; out of his own catalog, "Bueno Funk" was a sure hit with its alternating funk and slower parts, while Mindi Abair gave us "Lucy's" and the smashing "Flirt" which was the bomb! She also sang a couple of her pop songs, one just accompanied by Peter White's guitar. Mindi looked georgeous as always in a black mini dress, smoke black stockings and high leather boots playing her sax with conviction and enthusiasm, having the crowd in the palm of her hand. It was a great concert and a worthy opening of the Berks Jazz Festival with many greats concerts ahead of us!

Photo: Michael Packard

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:14 PM

March 23, 2009

Hey Nineteen! That's Reading's Jazz Fest!

pag1.jpgNot entirely true to the referenced Steely Dan song, the age of the VF Outlet Berks Jazz Festival doesn't resemble that of a young woman without knowledge of the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin, but rather symbolizes a mature and experienced voice in the quest to celebrate jazz in all its forms and from its beginnings to the present.

The maturity and experience of those putting together the Berks Jazz Festival attests to the wisdom they have gathered over the years. Everything from the line-up, including legendary and new artistic talent, to the location of shows, the local outreach that brings the participation and excitement of so many restaurants and businesses, the logo, right down to the lodging and special touches for visitors -- all this shows that Berks knows what you love and wants to make sure you, the listener, are the recipient of all things jazz during this festival. Worthy of note is that festival is coordinated and overseen by the Berks Arts Council and then is largely executed by a huge group of volunteers who give freely of their own time and talent before, during and after the festival.


Up-close-and-personal contact is a highlight of these ten days at Berks, both for artists and fans, and many are busily arranging breakfasts/brunches/lunches/dinners with those they've gotten to know personally over the years. Add to this group those representing recording companies and all forms of media, and you have quite a joyous reunion occurring throughout the festival.

The artist line-up has been posted here often, and you can also see it by going to www.berksjazzfest.com. There is an emphasis on traditional jazz, contemporary jazz and everything in between. Sometimes bluesy, sometimes funky, sometimes full of soul, but always that awe-inspiring improvisation that breaks out during any song and any show. Being in the audience at a festival like this is a great way to find out what the group of artists playing on your favorite CD will do when they're right in front of you! You won't believe it until you see it, as returning fans know, and it keeps them coming back.

There are other important highlights of the festival. For one, there is a worthwhile effort to engage young musicians who can benefit from the influence of artists who are traveling here as well as local artists during the festival. There are camps and workshops designed to promote accomplishment in music for the next generation. Another highlight is that in addition to the main ticketed events, there are countless free events to take advantage of in various venues, restaurants, churches, and anywhere people gather. All of this is listed on the www.berksjazzfest.com site, as well.

LogoBJF09merchdesign.gifOne of the keys to success at Berks is that the atmosphere reflects a spirit of generosity. Artists are generous with each other on stage, allowing each other full expression of their talents; fans are generous in getting to know each other, introducing artists to new fans and allowing all fans to enjoy the connection to the artists; media are not in competition with each other but enjoy and appreciate each others' work in taking pictures, sharing their magazines, doing on-site interviews and engaging in other promotional activities for the artists.

There is a fun atmosphere of shopping both at the local Vanity Fair Outlets and also inside some of the venues. You'll see some classy pieces of jewelry, some of which promote the jazz lifestyle and provide us with fun. You might choose a jazzy pin that lights up (it will be easy for your friends to find you in the dark!). Also available are lamps that have instruments built right into them -- talk about jazz providing a source of light in your life, that would do it! Then there is the table with Jazz Fest merchandise from years past, along with new items for this year. There are prints of jazz-themed colorful paintings to provide a pleasing reminder of a memorable time long after you arrive back home. Fans may be able to buy something or perhaps even be given an item promoting an artist, ie, my Nick Colionne earrings of which I'm very proud. Yes, they are in the shape of a guitar pick, have Nick's name on the his guitar logo. Some might think that's silly, but to me they're a fun reminder of the awesome playing and fun personality of this guitarist and of the times I've been at his shows.

What should you bring along to Berks? As always, your keen listening ears and your jazzitude (new word, there) -- you can be serious about your jazz, you can be silly with your jazz, you can be somewhere in between and travel back and forth between serious and silly for the entire ten days or however long you are here -- the music speaks to each of us in different ways at different times. One thing is certain, however, we all love the music and the music brings us together, not only at Berks, but perhaps especially at Berks.

So I'm looking forward to seeing all of you at some point during the festival! You'll find me with Peter Boehi from Switzerland, publisher of this site who is again our house guest for the ten days, or Jonathan Widran from California, established music journalist who writes all the bios for Berks and is also managing jazz editor of the new magazine, Wine and Jazz. You will see me with Mary Bentley and Bonnie Schendell of the online jazz magazine SmoothViews, or Melanie Maxwell of Smooth Jazz News, Steve Quirk from jazz radio in England, Dave Love from Heads Up, Jack Forschette of Koch Records, or the many artists I've come to know. I'll probably check in with John Ernesto, general manger of the festival or Connie Leinbach, who's the executive director of the festival, or, or...wow, it's not possible to list them all, there are so many to connect with!

If you've never been to Berks, please join us this year and you'll soon be connecting with many others like yourself, and your list might quickly become longer than mine!

Happy Jazzin' at the 19th Annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest,

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com


BEV INTERVIEW 2.JPGHere I am with Diane Dayton, of the Cool Jazz Cafe radio show, who interviewed artists and media and fans at the Meet the Artists event, held each year on Thursday evening of the jazz festival.

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 12:44 AM

March 2, 2009

Legendary vocalist Phoebe Snow coming to Berks Jazz Fest

Sometimes, in the aftermath of heartbreak and loss, comes triumph. So it is with legendary vocalist Phoebe Snow. You can call her what you want: a rock belter, a rhythm-and-blues shouter or a moody folk-jazz diva. She is all of the above and everything in between. Her powerful yet soulful performance is sure to stay with her audience long after the last song is sung. Snow will be performing during the 19th annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest in the intimate Miller Center for the Arts, Friday, April 3, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $45.

A fully formed musical talent when she emerged in the mid-1970s with the hit “Poetry Man," Snow has remained one of the most distinctive voices in popular music. A single off her self-titled debut album, "Poetry Man" became a top 5 single, and won Snow a Grammy Award nomination for Best New Artist and established her as a formidable singer/songwriter. Platinum records, the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, and legions of fans followed.

In 1975, Snow gave birth to her daughter, Valerie, who was born severely brain-injured. At the expense of her career, Snow devoted her life to caring for Valerie.

When Valerie passed away at the age of 31 in March 2007, Snow said she wasn't sure she'd survive the heartbreak.

However, Snow not only survived; she made a comeback.

Her new CD, Phoebe Snow - Live, is her first in-concert album. It was recorded on July 30-31, 2008, at the historic Bearsville Theater in Woodstock, N.Y.

Other featured artists at this year's festival include veteran stars Peter White and Mindi Abair; the world premiere concert of Bela Fleck: The Africa Project; superstar saxman Boney James; festival favorite Brian Culbertson; the Sax for Stax duo of Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum; urban pop/jazz ensembles Average White Band and Pieces of a Dream; world-renowned bassist Victor Wooten; the Sax Pack of Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole and Kim Waters; piano-based McCoy Tyner Quartet; festival veterans Joe McBride and Kenny Blake; guitarist extraordinaire Chieli Minucci & Special EFX.

Fans also can enjoy the soulful sounds of Take 6 plus Wayman Tisdale; pianist David Benoit and saxman Warren Hill; renowned saxophonist and clarinetist Anat Cohen; the Brian Bromberg Quartet; steel pan master Andy Narell and the Catonsville High Steel Drum Band; Tim Price, Rachel Z and the Department of Good and Evil; and Nelson Rangell with the Reading Pops Orchestra performing My American Songbook. The festival finale features Jazz Attack with the always-entertaining Rick Braun, Richard Elliot and Jonathan Butler.

Blues is back in abundance at the 2009 Berks Jazz Fest, with two Severn Soul & Blues Revues and guitar virtuoso Joe Bonamassa, The Billy Price Band featuring special guest Fred Chapellier; and The Derek Trucks Band.

Fusion fans will get their fill with all-stars Steve Smith & Vital Information; and veteran-led Metro, featuring festival favorite Chuck Loeb, Mitch Forman, Dave Weckl, Randy Brecker, Gerald Veasley and Bobby Franceschini.

Great ensemble and tribute shows offer unique musical experiences to all fans this year. Soul Summit II, presented by Jason Miles, features soul-drenched music and an all-star lineup. East Bay Soul brings the funk and R&B.

Artists paying tribute to some of music's greats include the Gerald Veasley Band celebrating the Music of Stevie Wonder in a fourth show televised live by WFMZ-TV Channel 69. There is also the return of the very popular Rick Braun's Tribute to Chet Baker; and Bobby Lyle & Paul Jackson Jr. will have a Tribute to Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery.

This year's festival has something for everyone, with smooth and straight-ahead jazz, smokin' blues, soulful singing, unique ensembles, rousing tributes and much, much more.

The 19th annual Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 27 through April 5 and features an expansive array of musical styles, including contemporary and traditional jazz, blues, big band, gospel and bluegrass. Shows are held at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Reading and Berks County, making it a truly unique festival. For more information on the festival, including ticketing, artist bios and archived releases, visit www.berksjazzfest.com. For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes all the arts in an effort to enrich the quality of life in Berks County, visit www.berksarts.org.

To order tickets:
Visit the Sovereign Center Box Office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading
Call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com
Order online at berksjazzfest.com

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:05 PM

January 24, 2009

Tierney Sutton Band celebrates new release, Desire, at Berks Jazz Fest

From Beth Renfro, Marketing/Public Relations DIrector of the Berks Arts Council in Reading, Pennsylvania, comes this press release regarding the addition of the Tierney Sutton Band to the 19th annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest.


TierneySutton.jpgREADING, PA -- JANUARY 19 -- One of the most acclaimed jazz vocalists of her time, Tierney Sutton will be celebrating her latest release, Desire, at the 19th annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest.

The Tierney Sutton Band will perform two shows on Friday, March 27, at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. in Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Reading Crowne Hotel (formerly the Sheraton Reading Hotel).

Desire, on the Telarc label, is an album of mostly jazz standards, but with a very unusual twist: within the album, Sutton and her band of 15 years explore the obsession and desire for fame and fortune that seems to be a societal phenomenon.

"To me, this record is about stepping back and recognizing the difference between the voices we hear that are not our own and the ones that are truly within us, and discovering that the material things that we want or desire are not usually a path to happiness, and are not usually a path to ourselves," Sutton said.

Sutton will be joined by pianist Christian Jacob, bassist Kevin Axt and drummer Ray Brinker, who collectively have worked with such artists as Natalie Cole, Diana Krall, Ray Charles and Randy Brecker.

Wisconsin-born Sutton has enjoyed success and critical acclaim since her first solo CD, Introducing Tierney Sutton, debuted in 1999. Since signing with Telarc Jazz, The Tierney Sutton Band has released popular and critically acclaimed recordings: Unsung Heroes (2000), Blue in Green (2001), Something Cool (2002), Dancing in the Dark (2004), I’m with the Band (2005) and On the Other Side (2007). I’m with the Band was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album and earned her JazzWeek’s Vocalist of the Year Award.

An active educator, Sutton has served in the Jazz Studies Department at the University of Southern California, and has led workshops and clinics throughout the world.

The 19th annual Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 27 through April 5 and features an expansive array of musical styles, including contemporary and traditional jazz, blues, big band, gospel and bluegrass. Shows are held at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Reading and Berks County, making it a truly unique festival. For more information on the festival, including ticketing, artist bios and archived releases, visit www.berksjazzfest.com. For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes all the arts in an effort to enrich the quality of life in Berks County, visit www.berksarts.org.

Thanks to Beth for keeping us up to date on all the latest Berks Jazz Fest information.

We hope to see you throughout the week during the festival.

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com


Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 6:28 PM

December 5, 2008

Berks Jazz Fest 2009 Artists Receive Grammy Nods

Here is the latest news release from the Berks Arts Council regarding the Berks Jazz Fest. VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest will feature performances by a few artists who have received Grammy nominations. The 19th edition of the festival, which runs March 27 through April 5, 2009, features more than 130 events at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Reading and Berks County, Pa.

READING, PA -- December 4 -- Several artists scheduled to perform at the 2009 VF Outlet Berks Jazz fest received Grammy Award nominations on December 3, 2008.

Gerald Albright, Randy Brecker, Bela Fleck and Take 6 are among the nominees for the 51st Annual Grammy Awards, being telecast live Feb. 8, 2009 from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Gerald Albright is nominated in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category for his June 2008 Peak Records release Sax for Stax.

He will be performing his Sax for Stax show at the festival with Kirk Whalum on Saturday, March 28, 2009 at 2 p.m. in the Reading Crowne Hotel Ballroom (formerly known as the Sheraton Reading Hotel).

In 2008, Albright celebrated two key anniversaries a year late with the release of his on-fire, classic funk and soul-kissed second Peak Records disc Sax For Stax. 2007 marked 20 years since he burst onto the contemporary urban jazz scene with his debut Just Between Us. It was also the year that Stax Records, now part of the Concord Records family, celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Randy Brecker scored a nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz Album with Randy in Brasil, his September release with Mama Records.

Brecker will be performing with Metro, featuring Chuck Loeb, Mitch Forman, Dave Weckl, Gerald Veasley and Bobby Franceschini on Saturday, April 4, 2009 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. in Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base at the Reading Crowne Hotel.

Perhaps best known for his influential and groundbreaking work with his saxophonist brother Michael — collectively known as The Brecker Brothers — Brecker has been shaping the sound of jazz, R&B and rock for more than three decades, gracing hundreds of albums by everyone from James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen and Chaka Khan to George Benson, Frank Zappa and Steely Dan.

Legendary banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck, who is bringing the world premiere of Bela Fleck: The Africa Project to the festival on Monday, March 30, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. at the Miller Center for the Arts, has been nominated as part of Bela Fleck & The Flecktones for two categories: Best Pop Instrumental Album for their latest release Jingle All the Way on the Rounder label; and Best Country Instrumental Performance for "Sleigh Ride," a track from Jingle All the Way.

Often considered the premier banjo player in the world, Fleck is the winner of eight Grammy Awards and has been nominated 20 times in more categories than anyone in history: country, pop, jazz, bluegrass, classical, folk, spoken word, composition and arranging. Over the years, Fleck has shared Grammy wins with Asleep at the Wheel, Alison Brown and Edgar Meyer.

Take 6 has been nominated for Best Gospel Performance for "Shall We Gather At the River," a track from their recent Heads Up International release, The Standard. With its roots in gospel, doo wop and the sophisticated jazz-influenced singing groups of mid-century America like the Hi-Los, the eight-time Grammy-winning a cappella vocal group Take 6 is both a throwback to an earlier, more genteel era of American music and a precursor for a number of male pop groups of the ’90s and 2000s. Its members currently include David Thomas, Alvin Chea, Cedric Dent, Mark Kibble, Claude V. McKnight III and Joey Kibble (who replaced Mervyn Warren).

Take 6 will be joined by Wayman Tisdale for a smooth and soulful show Sunday, March 29, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Cathedral.

To order tickets**:
Visit the Sovereign Center Box Office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading
Visit the Sovereign Performing Arts Center Box Office, 136 N. Sixth St., Reading
Call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com
Order online at berksjazzfest.com
For more information on the festival, including artist bios and archived releases, click on www.berksjazzfest.com
For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes all the arts in an effort to enrich the quality of life in Berks County, click on www.berksarts.org.

**Please note that tickets for events at the Reading Crowne Hotel (formerly the Sheraton Hotel Reading) will show the Plaza Reading Hotel as the venue. The correct venue title for these events will be the Reading Crowne Hotel effective January 1st, 2009.

Beth Renfro
Berks Arts Council
Reading, PA 19603
www.berksarts.org

Here's hoping you get to see every one of the Grammy nominees during the Berks Jazz Fest!

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com


Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:18 AM

December 1, 2008

Stars shine bright at VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest

PagodaBerks.jpgBerks Arts Council has announced the artists lineup for the VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, to be held March 27th through April 5th, 2009. The 19th edition of the festival features more than 130 events at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Reading and Berks County, Pa.

The 19th annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 27 through April 5 and will bring to fans a wide array of musical styles, including contemporary and traditional jazz, soul, blues, big band and one-of-a-kind ensemble shows. Shows are held at major venues as well as intimate club and restaurant settings, making it a rather unique 10-day festival.

Featured artists at this year's festival include veteran stars Peter White and Mindi Abair; the world premiere concert of Bela Fleck: The Africa Project; superstar saxman Boney James; festival favorite Brian Culbertson; the Sax for Stax duo of Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum; urban pop/jazz ensembles Average White Band and Pieces of a Dream; world-renowned bassist Victor Wooten; powerful and moving vocalist Phoebe Snow; the Sax Pack of Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole and Kim Waters; piano-based McCoy Tyner Quartet; festival veterans Joe McBride and Kenny Blake; guitarist extraordinaire Chieli Minucci & Special EFX.

Fans also can enjoy the soulful sounds of Take 6 plus Wayman Tisdale; pianist David Benoit and saxman Warren Hill; renowned saxophonist and clarinetist Anat Cohen; the acclaimed Tierney Sutton Band; the Brian Bromberg Quartet; steel pan master Andy Narell and the Cantonsville High Steel Drum Band; Tim Price, Rachel Z and the Department of Good and Evil; and Nelson Rangell with the Reading Pops Orchestra performing My American Songbook. The festival finale features Jazz Attack with the always-entertaining Rick Braun, Richard Elliot and Jonathan Butler.

Blues is back in abundance at the 2009 Berks Jazz Fest, with two Severn Soul & Blues Revues, featuring Steve Guyger, Big Joe Maher, Tad Robinson, Roy Tyler and New Directions, and the Severn Records All-Star Band in the first show; and Clarence Spady, Darrell Nulisch, Lou Pride and the Severn Records All-Star Band rounding out the second show. Blues fans can also enjoy guitar virtuoso Joe Bonamassa, The Billy Price Band featuring special guest Fred Chapellier; and The Derek Trucks Band.

Fusion fans will get their fill with all-stars Steve Smith & Vital Information; and veteran-led Metro, featuring festival favorite Chuck Loeb, Mitch Forman, Dave Weckl, Randy Brecker, Gerald Veasley and Bobby Franceschini.

Great ensemble and tribute shows offer unique musical experiences to all fans this year.

Soul Summit II, presented by Jason Miles, features soul-drenched music and an all-star lineup with Maysa, Simone, Richard Elliot, Jeff Golub, Bob Babbitt, Reggie Young, and Steve Ferrone plus the Soul Survivors.

East Bay Soul brings the funk and R&B with Greg Adams, Phil Perry, Michael Paulo, Lee Thornburg plus the Joyce Cooling Band.

Artists paying tribute to some of music's greats include the Gerald Veasley Band celebrating the Music of Stevie Wonder, with Najee, Nnenna Freelon, Joe McBride and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns in a fourth show televised live by WFMZ-TV Channel 69.

There is also the return of the very popular Rick Braun's Tribute to Chet Baker; and Bobby Lyle & Paul Jackson Jr. will have a tribute to Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery.

This year's festival has something for everyone, with smooth and straight-ahead jazz, smokin' blues, soulful singing, unique ensembles, rousing tributes and much, much more.

Tickets go on sale Saturday, Dec. 6, at 10 a.m.

To order tickets:
Visit the Sovereign Center Box Office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading
Visit the Sovereign Performing Arts Center Box Office, 136 N. Sixth St., Reading
Call Ticketmaster at 215-336-2000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com
Order online at berksjazzfest.com

For more information on the festival, including artist bios and archived releases, click on www.berksjazzfest.com
For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes all the arts in an effort to enrich the quality of life in Berks County, click on www.berksarts.org.

Major Ticketed Events
Friday, March 27 -- The Tierney Sutton Band, Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base at the Plaza Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $30

Friday, March 27 -- Peter White and Mindi Abair, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $49
Friday, March 27 -- Severn Records Presents: Severn Soul & Blues Revue featuring Steve Guyger, Big Joe Maher, Tad Robinson, Roy Tyler and New Directions, and the Severn Records All-Star Band, Inn at Reading, 7:30 p.m., $38

Friday, March 27 -- Joe McBride & Kenny Blake, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Jazz Cabaret, 10 p.m., $20
Friday, March 27 -- Victor Wooten, Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $39
Saturday, March 28 -- Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum, Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $39
Saturday, March 28 -- The Music of Gershwin & Porter presented by Doc Mulligan and Friends, Miller Center for the Arts, 3 p.m., $18

Saturday, March 28 -- Steve Smith & Vital Information, Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base at the Plaza Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $30

Saturday, March 28 -- Brian Culbertson, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $49
Saturday, March 28 -- Severn Records Presents: Severn Soul & Blues Revue featuring Clarence Spady, Darrell Nulisch, Lou Pride and the Severn Records All-Star Band, Inn at Reading, 7:30 p.m., $38

Saturday, March 28 -- Uptown JAZZUP featuring Erich Cawalla & Jen Kinder, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Jazz Cabaret, 10 p.m., $15

Saturday, March 28 -- The Music of Stevie Wonder with Gerald Veasley Band with Najee, Nnenna Freelon, Joe McBride and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $39

Sunday, March 29 -- Average White Band plus Pieces of a Dream, Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $39
Sunday, March 29 -- Anat Cohen, Miller Center for the Arts, 3 p.m., $28
Sunday, March 29, Take 6 plus Wayman Tisdale, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $49
Monday , March 30 -- Bela Fleck: The Africa Project, Miller Center for the Arts, 7:30 p.m., $45
Tuesday, March 31 -- Andy Narell and the Cantonsville High Steel Drum Band, Miller Center for the Arts, 7:30 p.m., $20
Wednesday, April 1 -- Brian Bromberg Quartet, Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base at the Plaza Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $20
Wednesday, April 1 -- Joe Bonamassa, Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $39
Thursday, April 2 -- Chieli Minucci & Special EFX with the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $35

Thursday, April 2 -- Berks All-Star Jazz Jam featuring Rick Braun, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Brian Bromberg, Chieli Minucci, Paul Jackson Jr., Dave Weckl, Bobby Lyle, Mitch Foreman, Kim Waters, Steve Cole, Jeff Kashiwa, Nelson Rangell and more, Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $39

Friday, April 3 -- Bobby Lyle & Paul Jackson Jr., Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base at the Plaza Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $35

Friday, April 3 -- Jason Miles presents Soul Summit II featuring Maysa, Simone, Richard Elliot, Jeff Golub, Bob Babbit, Reggie Young, Steve Ferrone plus The Soul Survivors, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $49

Friday, April 3 -- Phoebe Snow, Miller Center for the Arts, 7:30 p.m., $45
Friday, April 3 -- The Billy Price Band featuring special guest Fred Chapellier, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $25

Friday, April 3 -- Tim Price & Rachel Z and the Department of Good and Evil, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Jazz Cabaret, 10 p.m., $15

Friday, April 3 -- The Sax Pack featuring Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole and Kim Waters, Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $39

Saturday, April 4 -- East Bay Soul featuring Greg Adams, Phil Perry, Michael Paulo, Lee Thornburg plus Joyce Cooling Band, Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $39

Saturday, April 4 -- Metro featuring Chuck Loeb, Mitch Forman, Dave Weckl, Randy Brecker, Gerald Veasley, Bob Franceschini, Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base at the Plaza Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $35

Saturday, April 4 -- Boney James, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $49
Saturday, April 4 -- McCoy Tyner Quartet, Miller Center for the Arts, 7:30 p.m., $45
Saturday, April 4 -- Rick Braun’s Tribute to Chet Baker, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $35
Saturday, April 4 -- Tim Price & Rachel Z and the Department of Good and Evil, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Jazz Cabaret, 10 p.m., $15

Saturday, April 4 -- The Derek Trucks Band, Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $39
Sunday, April 5 -- David Benoit plus Warren Hill, Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $39
Sunday, April 5 -- Nelson Rangell and the Reading Pops Orchestra, Miller Center for the Arts, 2 p.m., $40
Sunday, April 5 -- Jazz Attack featuring Rick Braun, Richard Elliot and Jonathan Butler, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $49

Please note: The Sheraton Reading Hotel will become the Plaza Reading Hotel on Jan. 1. In this release, it is listed as the Plaza Reading Hotel.

I'm sure you'll agree the lineup is magnificent for this year's festival. Get your tickets and I hope to see you there!

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, PA.
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 8:59 PM

April 7, 2008

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Brian Culbertson

Berks08_Culbertson.jpgKeyboardist Brian Culbertson had an all-new band and a complete new show promoting his current CD Bringing Back The Funk, which was produced by former EWF front man Maurice White and features many funk legends like Larry Dunn, Larry Graham and more. Brian always had a love for old-school funk and now dedicates a whole album to it. He appeared at the Scottish Rite Cathedral and I guess that this was one of their very first shows, Brian has assembled a veritable funk machine, the stage was crowded by a four-piece horn section, drums, bass, an extra keyboardist with a hammond B3, two guitar players (one of them being Sheldon Reynolds who played with EWF for 15 years), plus a saxophone player who took care of all the solos. They were delivering some hammering funk which at times was almost a little overwhelming, they were rushing through funk history with nods to Kool & the Gang, some P-Funk, Parliament/Funkadelic etc., especially nice was their rendition of Donny Hathaway's "Everything Is Everything" (showing that Brian knows his stuff). Those who love the back catalog of this artist got their share too, he played some beautiful slower tracks showing his considerable skills on the piano, additionally he played the trombone (funking up things) and the bass, where he was slapping along. At the end we got the expected funk finale which blew the audience virtually away. This wrapped up this year's Berks Jazz Festival up nicely, having me say to myself: I will be back next year!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:00 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Chuck Loeb & Friends

Berks08_Loeb.jpgSunday afternoon there was another special concert, tagged as WJJZ Smooth Jazz 97.5 Appreciation Concert featuring Chuck Loeb with special guests, we got Eric Marienthal and Tom Scott on saxes, Will Lee on bass, Carmen Cuesta on vocals, Matt King on keyboards, Cafe on percussion and Cliff Almond on drums. The show was centered around a laid-back brazil vibe and started out with a few gentle bossa nova tracks with Chuck Loeb playing beautifully on acoustic guitar and his wife Carmen Cuesta on vocals, the gave us their renditions of classics like "Manha De Carnaval", "How Insensitive" and more from composers like Tom Jobin, Luiz Bonfa and others. Additionally they played some of Carmen Cuesta own material, before she left the stage to make room for some groovier playing.

Berks08_Scott.jpgEric Marienthal was playing sax and flute during the first part of the show before he had to leave (he was also scheduled this afternoon to appear with the Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band), so his part was taken over by the legendary Tom Scott who joined the stage to give a nice sax battle with Eric before he went off. Tom Scott played a self-composed, yet unrecorded tribute song to Grover and then "Jive Samba", a track from his current CD Cannon Re-Loaded, a tribute album to his hero Cannonball Adderley. His warm sound and flawless, soulful playing was just great, his music is like an old friend to me that has accompanied me through my life.

Berks08_Cuesta.jpgAnother nice song was Chuck Loeb's "The Music Inside", one of my all-time favorites from Chuck's vast catalog of music. The guitarist was in a good mood and delivered some great solos. The band was top-notch, especially pianist Matt King delivered some beautiful solos, while Will Lee on bass and Cliff Almond on drums laid the solid foundation. This was an excellent concert, I really liked the gentle bossa tunes, they provided a nice change of pace and highlighted another field of music worth listening to, also kudos to Carmen Cuesta who was a special addition to the show.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:46 PM

April 6, 2008

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Late Night Jam Session

Berks08_Jam.jpg As an added goodie we got an unofficial - but extremely well attended - late night jam session which started at midnight at the Jazz Base, it featured Philippe Saisse on piano, Eric Valentine on drums, Gerald Veasley on bass, plus Jeff Golub on guitar, Rick Braun on trumpet, Jessy J and Tom Scott on saxes. Unfortunately I just caught the last song they played, it was "Pick Up The Pieces" giving each one in the band some solo space. That's what jazz is all about, getting together and jamming just for fun!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:19 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Global Noize

Berks08_GlobalNoize.jpgAt 10:30pm a new, very interesting project named Global Noize by keyboardist Jason Miles and DJ Logic was scheduled at the Sheraton. Not only the music, but also the lineup showed a lot of diversity. Next to the two leaders who were at each end in front of the stage, they had soloists Christian Scott on trumpet, Jeff Cofin on saxophone and flute, Tom Scott on saxophone, Brian Dunne on drums, Jerry Brooks and special guest Me'Shell Ndegeocello on basses, Cafe on percussion and funk master Bernie Worrell on organ. Additionally they had World Fusion Dancers Azhia and Dellaneira dancing in the middle of the stage plus Indian singer Falu bringing a great world element to the table. I was pleasantly surprised by this show, the grooves were cool and provided a suitable backdrop for these great players to show their chops, especially Jeff Cofin and Christian Scott delivered several great solos. I was a bit afraid that the world element would dominate, but in the end it was jazz with a world flavor that did not distract, instead complemented the whole thing nicely. I thoroughly enjoyed this concert and considered this project to be another winner from Jason Miles, the Global Noize CD should be in stores soon.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:41 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Guitars & Saxes

Berks08_GuitarsSaxes.jpgIn the evening "Guitars & Saxes" were due at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. This year, they appeared with a new lineup and new program. Main players were Peter White on acoustic guitar, Jeff Golub on guitar, Gerald Albright on saxophone and Jeff Lorber on keyboards. They had newcomer Jessy J in a supporting role on sax, flute, keyboards and percussion, additionally she provided some welcome eye-candy. On drums was Eric Valentine and on bass Smitty Smith, laying the solid foundation for the artists out front. All artists were drawing material from their vast catalogs, it was very interesting to see that they tried to break free from their smooth jazz routine incorporating new things, most notably were the two tracks from Jeff Lorber, one hard-hitting fusion track from his period as the Jeff Lorber Fusion and a straight-ahead track from his last CD He Had A Had. Great also was Jeff Golub's "Naked City", where he pulled all the stops creating a great live-feeling. Peter White still is the darling of the crowd, his "Bueno Funk" always brings the house down, and his rendition of "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" shows where he is coming from. Gerald Albright displayed his clean and slick playing with songs like "My, My, My" and "Georgia On My Mind", always being a favorite of the show. The lovely Jessy J, who just released her debut CD Tequila Moon, played a few sax parts, but never really was featured, but nevertheless proved to be a nice addition to the show. They played almost for two and half hours, ending with the AWB classic "Cut The Cake" - yes, they still can cut it!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:37 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Alex Bugnon

Berks08_Bugnon.jpgSaturday afternoon the double bill of keyboardist Alex Bugnon, followed by sax player Euge Groove, was scheduled at the Sheraton. I was glad to see Alex Bugnon getting the opportunity for a full length show and the artist really seemed to appreciate this, as did his fans in the crowd. Alex hails from the French speaking part of Switzerland and moved to the US to follow his music career which yielded many successful albums over the years. His band consisted of Victor Bailey on bass, Vincent Henry on reeds and guitar plus a drummer. He played a wide selection of songs ranging from "This Time Around" to his hit, the cover of Brenda Russel's "Piano In The Dark" to "107° In The Shade", the Ohio Players' "Sweet Sticky Thing" and others. His band was top-notch, especially Victor Bailey - who was a member of Weather Report - stood out and Vincent Henry with his sax and flute playing, he blew me especially away with his harmonica playing, an unusual element that worked very well. Alex played his keys in his own soulful style, often breaking it down to build it up again. The only thing that prevented me from enjoying this concert fully was the distorted sound of his keyboards, causing them to drown in the mix, I considered this to be very unprofessional and distracting. Anyway, the crowd did seem to like the performance of Alex Bugnon nevertheless.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:34 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Euge Groove

Berks08_Groove.jpgAfter a short intermission saxophonist Euge Groove was on, he was backed by a super tight band of younger players that grooved like hell, as did the leader on his instrument. He soon had the crowd grooving along, additionally cheering them up with his shouts and antics on stage. He played several tracks from his latest CD Born To Groove. To keep things going he gave a away a free t-shirt to the sexiest dancer and had a crowd of women dancing in front of the stage, later he did a stroll through the audience raising the heat. He also slowed it down nicely with a couple of romantic instrumentals, showing his chops on the sax. I really enjoyed this professional show full of great tracks, and especially the band that played on the highest level, most notably the drummer who just was a monster player. Yeah, we all could feel the funk!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:31 PM

April 5, 2008

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Rick Braun & Richard Elliot

Berks08_BraunElliot.jpgFriday night trumpet player Rick Braun and saxophonist Richard Elliot appeared at the Scottish Rite Cathedral delivering their tried and tested formula of groovy smooth jazz, they have honed an excellent show over the years and those two veteran artists play together like a well-oiled machine. They were promoting their latest album RnR and were backed by the same band they had on the record, they were Ricky Lawson on drums, Nate Phillips on bass, Ron Reinhardt on keyboards and Dwight Sills on guitar. Rick Braun and Richard Elliot delivered their unique brand of music feeding off of each other creating quite some heat, both are tremendous players and seemed to have a lot of fun. Among the material played was Luther's "Your Secret Love", the Stylistics' "People Make The World Go Round" and "Gazing In The Grass", plus a batch of their own compositions like "Notorious" and tracks from RnR. Both Rick Braun and Richard Elliot did their strolls into the audience to the delight of the capacity crowd. They left the audience in a happy party mood and witnessing these guys play is always very entertaining.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:30 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Candy Dulfer

Berks08_Dulfer.jpgAt the Sheraton hotel Candy Dulfer was scheduled for a late night show. She looked georgeous in her mini skirt and long blond hair, and boy, that lady can blow! She started her show slowly with some heartfelt smooth jazz playing, among the songs was "Everytime", one of my favorite tracks off her current Candy Store CD, which she brought to a great climax. Most notably was an extended guitar solo by her guitar player and musical partner Ulco Bed that built and built and didn't let go putting me into a state of bliss. Her band was super tight, another notable player was keyboardist and singer Chance Howard, who was a great part of the proceedings on stage, his playing and singing complemented the saxophone of Candy very well, escpecially cool was their rendition of D'Angelo's "Brown Sugar". The pace of the show picked up continuously and soon we were in a party mood with tracks like the Prince penned "Life Of The Party" and others that had a decidedly club feel. Over parts of the show, the band was really jamming with extended solos, bringing back elements that often were lacking in other shows. At the end of the show the crowd was on its feet to funky tracks like "Pick Up The Pieces" and others. I was deeply impressed by this very entertaining, very professional show and the level of musicianship by all involved. This one was definitely one of the very best shows of the whole festival.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:33 PM

April 4, 2008

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Brian Simpson

Berks08_Simpson.jpgThursday evening we were in for another treat by the double bill of keyboardist Brian Simpson and guitarist extraordinaire Nick Colionne at the ballroom of the Abraham Lincoln hotel. The show was opened by Brian Simpson who had his portable keyboards strung around his neck and moved into the audience more than once during his performance. He was supported by Dwight Sills on guitar plus the bassist and drummer from Nick Colionne's band. During his 30 minutes warming-up set he performed several of his signature tunes, among them his biggest hit "It's All Good" that went down very well with the crowd, proving his superior artistry. Too bad he had to leave so early, but this was the contract as he said, people certainly would have enjoyed to hear him playing longer.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:43 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Nick Colionne

Berks08_Colionne.jpgAfter a short intermission it was Nick Colionne's turn who wore a light grey suit with hat, looking as gorgeous as usual, backed by two keyboards, drums and bass (Dave Hilterbrand), displaying his tremendous skills on guitar. He is such a powerful performer and had the crowd soon in the palm of his hand. With a new CD entitled No Limits on Koch Records soon coming up, he delivered a few songs from this album, most notably the song "Melting Into You" that simply was mesmerizing and surely is destined to become a hit, the song evoked some strong and enthusiastic responses from the audience. Additionally he sang "Rainy Night In Georgia", a song that fits perfectly to his deep voice and gave me goose-bumps. His guitar playing was great and I am impressed each time I hear him by his level of artistry, Nick really is a bad dude! His joking remarks in between songs created quite a few laughs in the audience and he didn't mind to directly react to comments from the audience, Nick is just the consummate entertainer. He too did a lengthy stroll in the audience to the delight of his many fans, bringing his trademark guitar playing right to them. This was another outstanding performance by Nick, his concerts are always a memorable experience.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:46 PM

April 3, 2008

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Bill Evans' Soulgrass

Berks08_Soulgrass.jpgWednesday evening the pace of the festival started to pick up again with the performance of saxophone great Bill Evans and his Soulgrass project trying to fuse jazz and bluegrass. The concert was held at the ballroom of the Abraham Lincoln hotel. His band consisted of Joel Rosenblatt on drums, Christian Howes on violin, Sam Bush on mandolin, Ryan Cavanaugh on banjo and a bass player whose name I didn't catch. Bill Evans seems to have a lot of fun with this music which leaned heavily on the bluegrass side, the jazz elements were just scattered across the music but unfortunately were not too prevalent. For the most part, I felt like being at a country & western concert, desperately seeking the jazz element. At least we got a few nice solos by all involved and the level of artistry nevertheless had to be recognized, I enjoyed in particular Sam Bush's distorted solos on the electric mandolin and Christian Howes plucking his amplified electric violin like a rock guitar. But the artist I came to see in the first place, Bill Evans, was just in a happy hillbilly mood which couldn't quench my thirst for jazz.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:15 PM

April 1, 2008

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: To Grover With Love

Berks08_GroverTribute.jpgSunday evening we were in for a treat - the hard working Jason Miles brought one of his star-studded projects to us, it was the Celebrating the Music & Life of Grover Washington Jr.: "To Grover With Love" event which was held at the sold-out Sovereign Performing Arts Centre. The band consisted of players who were part of Grover's career, most notably Buddy Williams on drums, Ralph MacDonald on percussion (who wrote and produced many classic Grover tracks), Will Lee on bass, Chuck Loeb on guitar plus leader Jason Miles on keyboards. They started the show with "East River Drive" featuring Chuck Loeb on guitar, soon it was time for the first guest, saxophonist Walter Beasley, followed by Kim Waters and Everette Harp on saxophones, among the songs played was "Let It Flow" and Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments" (which was a straight jazz track that Grover covered as well at one point in his career).

Berks08_LylePerry.jpgThen Bobby Lyle joined the band on grand piano, delivering one of the highlights of the show together with singer Phil Perry who sang a truly heartfelt version of "Love Me Still" in his inimitable style. World-class artistry in the true sense of the word. But the bar was raised one notch when living legend Patti LaBelle came to the stage, looking stunningly great for a woman in her 60ies. She shared some of her memories about Grover before delivering "The Best Is Yet To Come" and "You Are My Prayer", supported by her musical director John Stanley on piano. Despite some slight vocal problems (unfortunatley she caught a cold that day), she gave her all and touched the hearts of the audience, kicking off her shoes and falling on her knees at the end of her performance, proving to be a consummate artist delivering under any circumstances. Singer Maysa is another Berks favorite - she was part of the Soul Summit event last year - delivering a beautiful rendition of "The Look Of Love" culminating in some heavy scat improvising at the end, supported by Chuck Loeb's guitar plus a mellow vocal version of "Mr. Magic". Another highlight for me was Everette Harp's rendition of "Black Frost", a track from Grover's CTI days. Present in the audience was Grover's family giving this whole event a personal Philly touch.

I cannot stress enough how much I appreciate the work of Jason Miles making these events possible, not only by bringing together this incredible bunch of artists, but also to recognize the legacy of an artist like Grover Washington Jr, who is one of the artists having ignited my life-long love for jazz.

PS: Good news - this summer Vol. 2 of "To Grover With Love" will be released.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:18 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Eric Darius

Berks08_Darius.jpgSunday afternoon the Smooth Jazz 92.7 Fan Appreciation Concert was due. The first 90 minutes belonged to saxophonist Eric Darius who started the concert with a bang, accompanied by a young band of players, he appeared playing from the audience, looking super cool with his sunglasses and hip outfit, emanating energy and fun. He belongs to the new generation of smooth jazz instrumentalists and delivered a high-engergy set full of great sax playing and cool grooves. Songs played were mostly from his last CD Just Getting Started from 2006, among them was his radio hit "Steppin' Up", plus covers like "Love TKO" and "Let's Stay Together". He also broke it down nicely with some heartfelt slow songs showing his considerable skills on his instrument. He and his band gave their all leaving us in a blissful state.

PS: A new Eric Darius CD is scheduled for release in June 2008.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:03 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Kenny Rankin, Paul Brown & Marc Antoine

Berks08_BrownAntoine.jpgAfter an intermission the groove and mood changed completely, the next concert centered around the three guitar players Kenny Rankin, Paul Brown and Marc Antoine, they were supported by a stellar band consisting of Philippe Saisse on keyboards, Ricky Lawson on drums and Roberto Valli on bass. The concert was very laid-back and easy on the ear, like a breath of fresh air, and definitely one of the positive surprises of the festival. They started with "Mas Que Nada", then Kenny Rankin - who is mainly a singer/songwriter - did one of his songs, then it was back to Paul Brown and Marc Antoine for some great guitar playing, among the songs played was "Spooky", a favorite of mine, and Grover's "Winelight", which funked things up. Paul Brown sang "The City" (a classic by Mark Almond) and "Listen To The Music" (another great one from the Doobie Brothers), some intelligent cover choices that complemented the style of these artists very well. Kenny Ranking sang "Blackbird" and evoked some Brazilian vibes with "Berimbau". This concert was an unexpected highlight and a joy from beginning to end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:29 PM

March 31, 2008

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: LA Chillharmonic Brings a New Cool to Berks

by Beverly J. Packard

IMG_0676.jpgRichard Smith on guitar. Greg Adams on trumpet. Brian Bromberg on bass. Michael Paulo on saxophone. Gregg Karukas on keyboard. Joel Taylor on drums. Berks Jazz Fest Horns on trombone, sax and trumpet. Put them all together and what do you have? A new band, never before to have played at the Berks Jazz Festival. Yes, the players are all familiar names. And the sound of the band's music is enhanced by each member’s earlier performances and CD’s. But this band proved, as the saying goes, that the sum is greater than its parts.

What an awesome afternoon of music Berks fans were treated to on Saturday, Day 2 of the Berks Jazz Festival. My first impression when seeing their name on the list of shows back in November was that it was a great combination of players for a one-time show. Now I’ve learned that LA Chillharmonic is more than that – it’s a concept for a brand new band, Richard Smith’s brainchild, and it’s sure to leave its mark on the jazz scene. So Berks now has the distinction of being the site of the very first performance of LA Chillharmonic.

IMG_0650.jpgJazz fans love jazz jams, be they totally impromptu or planned out ahead of time or somewhere in between. This show reminded me of a great all-star jam session and that’s why it was so exciting. It was a party and I’m sure many of us wanted to just stand on our chairs and dance the afternoon away along with the band. Even the word ‘chillharmonic’ is quite appropriate for these artists, all of whom are relaxed and fun players. Of course we know they practice diligently, especially Brian Bromberg, who has practiced ‘all his life’ (inside joke you will understand only if you were in attendance) -- still, these players seem to effortlessly communicate to us their own ability to 'chill.' The result is an audience who can also manage to tune out the cares of the day and escape into the music, a place where jazz fans love to be.

The songs were a wonderful mix of original numbers, numbers that featured each artist and came from some of their former CD’s, and covers of people like Herbie Hancock, Sade, Earth, Wind and Fire, etc. The title track from the CD coming out in August, entitled LA Chillharmonic, should move up the charts with no trouble. The music was upbeat, funky, with great intros, transitions from one player to another, and memorable endings. The arrangements, credited to Greg Adams, were superbly crafted.

GregandBrian.jpgGreg Adams played a great rendition of Sade’s 'Smooth Operator' from his earlier CD. Also included was Herbie Hancock's Canteloupe Island. Earth, Wind, and Fire songs which had been previously recorded were played, to the crowd’s delight. ('Sing a Song', Richard Smith’s Soulidify), ('That's the Way of the World,' from Michael Paulo’s CD My Heart and Soul) and ('September', Brian Bromberg's You Know That Feeling ) The Crusaders 'Put It Where You Want It' was played during the encore after a rousing petition by the audience for the band to return to center stage after their last song.

So who are these players, really? Richard Smith, professor of guitar at University of Southern California who travels to Europe regularly to teach and play, mainly in Sicily, Crete, Korfu and Southern Italy. Ask him if he's Italian; he has a lot of great experiences to relate! Greg Adams, former 25 year member of Tower of Power, a veteran player who brings a lot of wisdom and has done a number of his own CD's. Brian Bromberg, who is fast becoming a Berks Jazz Fest 'staple' and is just an amazing, amazing bass player (both guitar and upright). Brian would drive for 12 hours in a snowstorm to get to Berks, just ask him. Gregg Karukas, who has quite a spunky and fun personality to complement his awesome talent. Joel Taylor was the drummer extraordinaire.

As for the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, Michael Anderson on saxophone, Rob Diener on trumpet, and John Loos on trombone, these three are becoming more and more in demand during the festival. They've been doing a great job of adding even more depth to the performances of a number of bands.

LA Chillharmonic will debut with their first CD in August on Artistry Records. Everything is just beginning for this awesome group of players who are sure to find success in offering something a little different for the jazz audience. It will be exciting to see in what directions this new concept takes them. I would encourage you to catch up with them when you have the opportunity!

Happy Jazzin',

Richard and Beverly 2.jpgBeverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, PA
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 12:30 PM

March 30, 2008

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Gerald Veasley & the WJJZ All-Stars

Berks08_Veasley2.jpgBassist Gerald Veasley and the WJJZ All-Stars provided the late night show which was broadcasted live by WFMZ TV, the amiable bass player had his band with him (among them saxophonist Chris Farr) plus a string of friends to follow later. They opened the show with several tracks from their brand new CD Your Move which went down very well with the audience. Soon he added his first guest, guitar player Chuck Loeb, to the stage who was instrumental in this album, Chuck displayed his usual spirited playing and was a crowd pleaser, especially with his own composition "The Music Inside", the title track from this album from 1996, that evoked a few shouts of appreciation.

Berks08_Veasley.jpgThen Bobby Lyle came to the stage to give us some great piano playing, he contributed his version of "Minute By Minute" and some mind-boggling soloing on the keys. Then it was time for crowd-pleaser Rick Braun and his jazzy trumpet playing, during his own "Cadillac Slim" he did a stroll through the audience, followed by Chris Farr on sax, raising the bar one notch. Overall the vibe was relaxed and the band took their time, later Gerald Veasley played "Forever", a hommage to his wife, just accompanied by drums and keys, a signature song of his which is always a highlight of his concerts, plus a rousing rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Do I Do". The show lasted well past midnight, the two hours flew by and left a very satisfied audience.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:32 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Chris Botti

Berks08_Botti.jpgTrumpet player Chris Botti played at the Sovereign Performing Arts Centre Saturday evening, the concert was sold-out and expectations were running high. The leader was accompanied by a stellar group of players, he had Mark Whitfield on guitar, the outstanding Billy Kilson on drums, Robert Hurst on acoustic and electric bass and Peter Martin on piano and keyboards with him. He opened his show with "Ave Maria" which soon changed into a twisted funky groove with mind-boggling interplay between the guitar of Mark Whitfield and the complex drumming of Billy Kilson. The material on display ranged from opera ("Caruso") to Leonard Cohen compositions but no matter what source the music came from, it always kept a tremendous tension, oszillating between the introspective and the expressive, yielding a music experience that just was out of this world. The band provided some serious jazz, the interplay between these world-class players was a joy to hear and watch. The icing on the cake was singer Sy Smith with her crystal clear voice and great jazz phrasing who delivered a few songs. This show was a true highlight and the best concert at the festival so far. Chris Botti is in a class of his own and witnessing him and his band live is always great.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:24 PM

March 29, 2008

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Brian Bromberg

Berks08_Bromberg.jpgThe Berks Jazz Fest 2008 started Friday evening with a concert by bassist Brian Bromberg which was held in the intimate Jazz Base, the jazz club at the Sheraton in Reading. I attended the first of two sets. Brian was in a great mood and ready to play, he had his array of basses with him and delivered a broad range of songs, among them Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island" which appeared on his latest album Downright Upright, followed by smooth jazz tracks from his release Desire featuring saxophonist Gary Meek, another highlight was a tune from his Japan-only release In Spirit Of Jobim, an album done with a full orchestra that still awaits its release in the US. The other band members were Tom Zinc on keyboards, Joel Taylor on drums, Larry Antonino on bass (which made sense because Brian Bromberg focussed on soloing with higher tuned bass instruments). Speaking of instruments, Brian Bromberg played his 300 year old acoustic bass, a semi-acoustic piccolo bass guitar, and several electric basses, displaying stunning artistry with his double-tapping technique and spirited soloing. The band was in fine form yielding a top-notch concert and a worthy opener of the festival.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:41 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Kenny Blake

Berks08_Blake.jpgI headed over to the Abraham Lincoln Hotel where the Kenny Blake Quartet was scheduled to appear in the L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret. Despite the fact the Kenny Blake hasn't released an album for a while his name is still held in high esteem and his music is warmly appreciated. He played two sets with his band, he had piano, bass and drums plus a singer who delivered a few songs, some leaning towards pop, but he quickly made up for it with some great instrumentals which made me wonder why he is not more at the forefront of today's music scene. At the end of the concerts the band created quite some heat with their renditions of Herbie's "Cantaloupe Island" and Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On", even Sade's "Smooth Operator" - which has been played to death by various smooth jazz radio stations - created a highlight of the concert. Let's hope that we hear more of this great saxophone player in the future.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:14 PM

March 27, 2008

VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest to feature Miles' Global Noize

World premiere of Miles' Global Noize promises to get crowd moving at the VF
Outlet Berks Jazz Fest

READING, PA -- March 24 -- Over the past few years, keyboardist/producer
Jason Miles has produced and performed in numerous star-studded shows at the
VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest that pay homage to great icons in the jazz and R&B
worlds, including Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross and this year, Grover
Washington Jr. In 2007, he also tapped into the era of the greatest soul
songs of all time with the powerful collective Soul Summit.

For the world premiere of his latest project and CD, Global Noize, he joined
up with the versatile hip-hop and jazz turntablist DJ Logic.

The mission of Global Noize is about more than bringing great music to the
audience.

The show is Saturday, April 5 at 10:30 p.m. at the Sheraton Reading Hotel.
Tickets are $39 and $34.

The 18th annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts
Council, runs March 28 through April 6 and offers fans a wide array of
musical styles, including contemporary and traditional jazz, blues, big band
and gospel. Shows are held at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout
Reading and Berks County, making it a truly unique festival.

"We know how the world is these days," Miles said. "People don't hate each
other; governments hate each other. We are trying to bring everyone
together."

Global Noize is a melding of sounds from all corners of the globe -- artists
from India, Brazil, France and other parts of the world have come together
for the project.

It's truly a global effort," Miles said. "We want to make some noise, but a
hip kind of noise."

Joining Miles and DJ Logic for the show will be Christian Scott, Jeff
Coffin, Bernie Worrell, Cafe, Brian Dunne, Carl Burnett, Jerry Brooks and
Falu, plus World Fusion Dancers Azhia and Dellaneira.

Miles added even more star power with very special guest Me'Shell
Ndegeocello, a singer and bassist who performed with John Mellencamp on his
hit single "Wild Night." Hailed by some as a redeemer of soul music,
Ndegeocello has had some cult hits of her own, including "If That's Your
Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)," from her 1993 debut release Plantation
Lullabies, an album that earned her three Grammy nominations.

Her eighth and latest album,The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams, was released last year.

Bernie Worrell is a master keyboardist known for his work with Parliament
Funkadelic and Talking Heads. Most recently, Brian Dunne has been touring
with the Average White Band (and just finished their most recent recording),
Chuck Loeb's Band and Sara Devine.

Cafe is a Brazilian percussion master. Jeff Coffin is the sax player for
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Christian Scott is a hot up and coming
trumpet star from New Orleans who has earned two Grammy nominations and
released his second Concord Records disc Anthem in 2007. Carl Burnett is the
guitarist from Branford Marsalis' old group Buckshot LeFonque and Down To
The Bone. Falu is an amazing, emerging singer from India.

The project came about in a very unusual way. While in Morocco for his Marvin Gaye tribute, he, along with his wife,Cathy, and DJ Logic went on to Marrakesh. Out of this unique, transforming experience came the real inspiration for the project, and the Global Noize CD, which will be released April 29.

Featured on the album are Meshell Ndegeocello, Billy Martin, Vernon Reid,
John Popper, Cyro Baptista, Bernie Worrell, Karl Denson and more.

"Even though this is a late show, we guarantee nobody will be falling
asleep," Miles said. "This is music to move to. If people want to dance, we
welcome that."

Other featured artists and shows at this year's festival include the return
of the ever-popular Guitars & Saxes featuring Gerald Albright, Peter White,
Jeff Golub and Jeff Lorber; jazz guitar great Pat Martino; blues legend
Buddy Guy; master guitarist Chuck Loeb; saxophonist Eric Marienthal; alto
saxophonist Candy Dulfer; the gifted and charismatic trumpeter Chris Botti;
guitarist Paul Brown, vocalist Kenny Rankin, fellow guitarist Marc Antoine
and saxman Eric Darius; Berks favorite and keyboardist Brian Culbertson;
trumpet great Rick Braun and saxman Richard Elliot; and guitarist Nick
Colionne with keyboardist Brian Simpson.

Additional marquee artists include popular keyboardist and vocalist Joe
McBride; the Caribbean Jazz Project featuring Dave Samuels with special
guest, reed player Paquito D'Rivera; saxman Euge Groove and keyboardist Alex
Bugnon; violinist Regina Carter in a quintet; the Jump Rhythm Jazz Project,
high-energy jazz dance performers; New York's Finest Jazz Band, an 18-member
group performing jazz and pop standards; Sherrie Maricle and the all-female
DIVA Jazz Orchestra; Simone, daughter of legendary singer Nina Simone, the
Rob Stoneback Big Band; the return of Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band; and
the considerable blues talents of Maria Muldaur, Bonerama, the Clarence
Spady Band, Campbell Brothers and Eric Bibb.

Jason Miles is bringing another special ensemble show to the Berks Jazz
Fest. Miles and an all-star roster will be Celebrating the Life & Music of
Grover Washington Jr., the late legendary saxman. The show, To Grover with
Love, brings together some of the top names in the business, including Patti
LaBelle, Walter Beasley, Everette Harp, Kim Waters, Maysa, Phil Perry, Chuck
Loeb, Will Lee, Buddy Williams and Ralph MacDonald.


To order tickets:
Visit the Sovereign Center Box Office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading
Visit the Sovereign Performing Arts Center Box Office, 136 N. Sixth St.,
Reading
Call Ticketmaster at 215-336-2000 or visit
www.ticketmaster.com.
Order online at berksjazzfest.com
For more information on the festival, including artist bios and archived
releases, click on www.berksjazzfest.com.

For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit organization
that promotes all the arts in an effort to enrich the quality of life in
Berks County, click on www.berksarts.org.

Major Ticketed Events
Thursday, March 27 -- Berks Jazz Fest Kickoff Concert: Andrew Neu Group
featuring the Bright & Tight Horns, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton
Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $10.

Friday, March 28 -- Brian Bromberg Band, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base,
Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $25
Friday, March 28 -- An Evening with Nancy Wilson, Sovereign Performing Arts
Center, 7:30 p.m., $47 and $41
Friday, March 28 -- Buddy Guy, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 10 p.m., $40
and $35
Friday, March 28 -- Kenny Blake Quartet, L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret,
Abraham Lincoln Hotel, 10 p.m., $15
Saturday, March 29 -- LA Chillharmonic featuring Brian Bromberg, Richard
Smith, Michael Paulo, Gregg Karukas, Greg Adams plus the Berks Jazz Fest
Horns, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 2 p.m., $39 and $34

Saturday, March 29 -- Simone and the Rob Stoneback Big Band, Gerald
Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $25

Saturday, March 29 -- Chris Botti, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30
p.m., $47 and $41
Saturday, March 29 -- Jump Rhythm Dance Project, Miller Center for the Arts,
8 p.m., $20
Saturday, March 29 -- Kenny Blake Quartet, L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret,
Abraham Lincoln Hotel, 10 p.m., $15
Saturday, March 29 -- Gerald Veasley and the WJJZ All-Stars Rick Braun,
Bobby Lyle, Chuck Loeb, Chris Farr and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, Sheraton
Reading Hotel, 10:30 p.m., $39 and $34

Sunday, March 30 -- Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead, Miller Center, 1:30 p.m., no
charge
Sunday, March 30 -- Paul Brown's Guitar Night featuring Kenny Rankin and
Marc Antoine plus saxophonist Eric Darius, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom,
2 p.m., $39 and $34

Sunday, March 30 -- Sweet Honey in the Rock, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 3
p.m., $45, $35, $25
Sunday, March 30 -- Celebrating the Life & Music of Grover Washington Jr. --
To Grover with Love: Patti LaBelle, Walter Beasley, Everette Harp, Kim
Waters, Maysa, Phil Perry, Chuck Loeb, Will Lee, Buddy Williams, Ralph
MacDonald, and musical director Jason Miles, Sovereign Performing Arts
Center, 7 p.m., $49 and $43

Monday, March 31 -- Michael Manring & David Cullen, Gerald Veasley's Jazz
Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $12
Tuesday, April 1 -- New York's Finest Jazz Band, Sheraton Reading Hotel,
7:30 p.m., $15
Wednesday, April 2 -- Bill Evans' Soulgrass with special guest Sam Bush,
Abraham Lincoln Hotel ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $32

Thursday, April 3 -- MusicReport with special guests Lynn Riley and Aaron
Graves, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $12

Thursday, April 3 -- Nick Colionne with special guest Brian Simpson, Abraham
Lincoln Hotel ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $32
Thursday, April 3 -- Berks All-Star Jazz Jam featuring Rick Braun, Chuck
Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Richard Elliot, Nick Colionne, Brian Bromberg, Pat
Martino, Joe McBride, Brian Simpson, Ricky Lawson, Andrew Neu and more,
Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 10 p.m., $35

Friday, April 4 -- Pat Martino Quartet, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton
Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $30
Friday, April 4 -- The Caribbean Jazz Project featuring Dave Samuels with
special guest Paquito D'Rivera, Abraham Lincoln Hotel ballroom, 7:30 p.m.,
$32

Friday, April 4 -- Rick Braun & Richard Elliot, Scottish Rite Cathedral,
7:30 p.m., $47 and $41
Friday, April 4 -- New Orleans Funky Friday: Maria Muldaur and Bonerama, Inn
at Reading, 7:30 p.m., $32
Friday, April 4 -- Joe McBride Trio, L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret, Abraham
Lincoln Hotel, 10 p.m., $15
Friday, April 4 -- Candy Dulfer, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 10:30
p.m., $39 and $34
Saturday, April 5 -- Euge Groove plus Alex Bugnon, Sheraton Reading Hotel
ballroom, 2 p.m., $39 and $34
Saturday, April 5 -- Sherrie Maricle & The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Abraham
Lincoln Hotel ballroom, 2 p.m., $28
Saturday, April 5 -- Tribute to Chet Baker: Rick Braun, Gerald Veasley's
Jazz Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $30

Saturday, April 5 -- Guitars & Saxes featuring Peter White, Gerald Albright,
Jeff Golub and Jeff Lorber, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $47 and $41

Saturday, April 5 -- Clarence Spady Band plus Campbell Brothers plus Eric
Bibb, Inn at Reading, 7 p.m., $37
Saturday, April 5 -- Regina Carter Quintet, Miller Center for the Arts, 7:30
p.m., $38
Saturday, April 5 -- Joe McBride Trio, L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret,
Abraham Lincoln Hotel, 10 p.m., $15
Saturday, April 5 -- World Premiere: Jason Miles/DJ Logic Global Noize
featuring Me'Shell Ndegeocello, Christian Scott, Jeff Coffin, Bernie
Worrell, Café, Brian Dunne, Carl Burnett, Jerry Brooks and Falu, plus World
Fusion Dancers Azhia and Dellaneira, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 10:30
p.m., $39 and $34

Sunday, April 6 -- Chuck Loeb with special guests Eric Marienthal, Tom
Scott, Will Lee, Carmen Cuesta, Lizzy Loeb, Rob Mounsey, Cafe, Cliff Almond
and more, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 2 p.m., $39 and $34

Sunday, April 6 -- Brian Culbertson, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $47
and $41

CONTACT:
Dana Hoffman
Co-Publicity Director
VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest
610-236-4744
610-371-5146 fax
dhoffman@readingeagle.com
or
Catherine Catanach, APR
Director of Development and Marketing
Berks Arts Council
5th fl., GoggleWorks Center for the Arts
Reading, PA
ph. 610-898-1930
www.berksarts.org
www.berksjazzfest.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 4:29 AM

January 30, 2008

Jazz Meets Bluegrass at the VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest

Latest release regarding the Berks Jazz Fest!

READING, PA -- January 29 -- The VF Outlet Berks Jazz fest is notable for its diversity of music and its innovative concepts.

That twin tradition will be emphatically upheld on Wednesday, April 2, when Jazz Meets Bluegrass: Bill Evans' Soulgrass with special guest Sam Bush at the Abraham Lincoln Hotel ballroom at 7:30 p.m.

Jazz saxophonist Bill Evans has had a distinguished career as a solo artist, one whose first full-time gig was a berth with the Miles Davis Band. But over the years he has explored a variety of such musical settings as hip-hop, fusion, reggae, Brazilian and slamming funk. He stepped into more adventurous territory with his 2006 release Soulgrass, collaborating on the project with numerous jazz fusion all-stars as well as famed bluegrass vocalist and mandolin master Sam Bush.

Now Evans and Bush are teaming up at the Berks Jazz Fest.

The 18th annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 28 through April 6 and offers fans a wide array of musical styles, including contemporary and traditional jazz, blues, big band and gospel. Shows are held at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Reading and Berks County, making it a truly unique festival.

Getting back to Evans and Bush, the question is what happens musically when
hipster marries hayseed?

"You get a marriage that really works," Evans says. "Jazz may be more intellectual, but the lines and rhythms can be exactly the same as bluegrass, and both are about improvisation."

Rounding the Soulgrass bluegrass-jazz fusion band at the festival will be banjo phenom Ryan Cavanaugh, fiddler/violinist Christian Howes, bassist Mark Egan and drummer Joel Rosenblatt.

It's a nervy merging of genres. While progressive bluegrassers have been experimenting with swing jazz elements for years, Evans is the first overtly modern jazz bandleader to move in a bluegrass direction. In 2006, Evans' Soulgrass album received a Grammy nomination in the contemporary jazz category.

"I can't afford to rest on my laurels with this band," said Evans, who has played with Herbie Hancock, Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, Mick Jagger and Willie Nelson when not touring extensively with his own band. "Nobody knows me on the grassroots scene. We have the best players, and a fresh musical vision. We cover all the bases, which I have to do to gain a new audience."

Everybody knows Sam Bush on the grassroots scene. Besides vocals and mandolin, he is a capable guitar and fiddle player. He was a founding member of the New Grass Revival and has been called a modern-day Bill Monroe. He is known as one of the liveliest performers at bluegrass festivals and released his first live concert DVD On The Road in 2007.

"The real definition of jazz is about growth, innovation and moving forward," Evans said. "So a hybrid like this is the essence of jazz."

And it's happening on April 2nd at the Berks Jazz Fest. Don't miss it!

Other featured artists at this year's festival include the return of the ever-popular Guitars & Saxes featuring Gerald Albright, Peter White, Jeff Golub and Jeff Lorber; jazz guitar great Pat Martino; blues legend Buddy Guy; master guitarist Chuck Loeb; saxophonist Eric Marienthal; alto saxophonist Candy Dulfer; the gifted and charismatic trumpeter Chris Botti; guitarist Paul Brown, vocalist Kenny Rankin, fellow guitarist Marc Antoine
and saxman Eric Darius; Berks favorite and keyboardist Brian Culbertson; trumpet great Rick Braun and saxman Richard Elliot; guitarist Nick Colionne with keyboardist Brian Simpson; and versatile bassist Brian Bromberg.

Additional marquee artists include popular keyboardist and vocalist Joe McBride; the Caribbean Jazz Project featuring Dave Samuels with special guest, reed player Paquito D'Rivera; saxman Euge Groove and keyboardist Alex Bugnon; violinist Regina Carter in a quintet; the Jump Rhythm Jazz Project, high-energy jazz dance performers; New York's Finest Jazz Band, an 18-member group performing jazz and pop standards; Kennedy Center presents Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead, featuring young emerging artists; Sherrie Maricle and the all-female DIVA Jazz Orchestra; Simone, daughter of legendary singer
Nina Simone, the Rob Stoneback Big Band; the return of Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band; and the considerable blues talents of Maria Muldaur, Bonerama, the Clarence Spady Band, Campbell Brothers and Eric Bibb.

Music director and keyboardist Jason Miles once again is bringing special ensemble shows to the Berks Jazz Fest. Miles and an all-star roster will be Celebrating the Life & Music of Grover Washington Jr., the late legendary saxman. The show, To Grover with Love, brings together some of the top names in the business, including Patti LaBelle, Walter Beasley, Everette Harp, Kim Waters, Maysa, Phil Perry, Chuck Loeb, Will Lee, Buddy Williams and Ralph MacDonald. The world premiere of Jason Miles/DJ Logic Global Noize features Christian Scott, Karl Denson, Bernie Worrell, Café, Brian Dunne, Carl Burnett and Tim LeFebvre.

###

To order tickets:

Visit the Sovereign Center Box Office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading

Visit the Sovereign Performing Arts Center Box Office, 136 N. Sixth St.,
Reading

Call Ticketmaster at 215-336-2000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com

Order online at berksjazzfest.com

For more information on the festival, including artist bios and archived
releases, click on www.berksjazzfest.com

For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit organization
that promotes all the arts in an effort to enrich the quality of life in
Berks County, click on www.berksarts.org.

Major Ticketed Events

Thursday, March 27 -- Berks Jazz Fest Kickoff Concert: Andrew Neu Group
featuring the Bright & Tight Horns, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton
Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $10.

Friday, March 28 -- Brian Bromberg Band, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base,
Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $25

Friday, March 28 -- An Evening with Nancy Wilson, Sovereign Performing Arts
Center, 7:30 p.m., $47 and $41

Friday, March 28 -- Buddy Guy, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 10 p.m., $40
and $35

Friday, March 28 -- Kenny Blake Quartet, L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret,
Abraham Lincoln Hotel, 10 p.m., $15

Saturday, March 29 -- LA Chillharmonic featuring Brian Bromberg, Richard
Smith, Michael Paulo, Gregg Karukas, Greg Adams plus the Berks Jazz Fest
Horns, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 2 p.m., $39 and $34

Saturday, March 29 -- Simone and the Rob Stoneback Big Band, Gerald
Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $25

Saturday, March 29 -- Chris Botti, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30
p.m., $47 and $41

Saturday, March 29 -- Jump Rhythm Dance Project, Miller Center for the Arts,
8 p.m., $20

Saturday, March 29 -- Kenny Blake Quartet, L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret,
Abraham Lincoln Hotel, 10 p.m., $15

Saturday, March 29 -- Gerald Veasley and the WJJZ All-Stars Rick Braun,
Bobby Lyle, Chuck Loeb, Chris Farr and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, Sheraton
Reading Hotel, 10:30 p.m., $39 and $34

Sunday, March 30 -- Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead, Miller Center, 1:30 p.m., no
charge

Sunday, March 30 -- Paul Brown's Guitar Night featuring Kenny Rankin and
Marc Antoine plus saxophonist Eric Darius, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom,
2 p.m., $39 and $34

Sunday, March 30 -- Sweet Honey in the Rock, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 3
p.m., $45, $35, $25

Sunday, March 30 -- Celebrating the Life & Music of Grover Washington Jr. --
To Grover with Love: Patti LaBelle, Walter Beasley, Everette Harp, Kim
Waters, Maysa, Phil Perry, Chuck Loeb, Will Lee, Buddy Williams, Ralph
MacDonald, and musical director Jason Miles, Sovereign Performing Arts
Center, 7 p.m., $49 and $43

Monday, March 31 -- Michael Manring & David Cullen, Gerald Veasley's Jazz
Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $12

Tuesday, April 1 -- New York's Finest Jazz Band, Sheraton Reading Hotel,
7:30 p.m., $15

Wednesday, April 2 -- Bill Evans' Soulgrass with special guest Sam Bush,
Abraham Lincoln Hotel ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $32

Thursday, April 3 -- MusicReport with special guests Lynn Riley and Aaron
Graves, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $12

Thursday, April 3 -- Nick Colionne with special guest Brian Simpson, Abraham
Lincoln Hotel ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $32

Thursday, April 3 -- Berks All-Star Jazz Jam featuring Rick Braun, Chuck
Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Richard Elliot, Nick Colionne, Brian Bromberg, Pat
Martino, Joe McBride, Brian Simpson, Ricky Lawson, Andrew Neu and more,
Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 10 p.m., $35

Friday, April 4 -- Pat Martino Quartet, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton
Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $30

Friday, April 4 -- The Caribbean Jazz Project featuring Dave Samuels with
special guest Paquito D'Rivera, Abraham Lincoln Hotel ballroom, 7:30 p.m.,
$32

Friday, April 4 -- Rick Braun & Richard Elliot, Scottish Rite Cathedral,
7:30 p.m., $47 and $41

Friday, April 4 -- New Orleans Funky Friday: Maria Muldaur and Bonerama, Inn
at Reading, 7:30 p.m., $32

Friday, April 4 -- Joe McBride Trio, L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret, Abraham
Lincoln Hotel, 10 p.m., $15

Friday, April 4 -- Candy Dulfer, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 10:30
p.m., $39 and $34

Saturday, April 5 -- Euge Groove plus Alex Bugnon, Sheraton Reading Hotel
ballroom, 2 p.m., $39 and $34

Saturday, April 5 -- Sherrie Maricle & The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Abraham
Lincoln Hotel ballroom, 2 p.m., $28

Saturday, April 5 -- Tribute to Chet Baker: Rick Braun, Gerald Veasley's
Jazz Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $30

Saturday, April 5 -- Guitars & Saxes featuring Peter White, Gerald Albright,
Jeff Golub and Jeff Lorber, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $47 and $41

Saturday, April 5 -- Clarence Spady Band plus Campbell Brothers plus Eric
Bibb, Inn at Reading, 7 p.m., $37

Saturday, April 5 -- Regina Carter Quintet, Miller Center for the Arts, 7:30
p.m., $38

Saturday, April 5 -- Joe McBride Trio, L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret,
Abraham Lincoln Hotel, 10 p.m., $15

Saturday, April 5 -- World Premiere: Jason Miles/DJ Logic Global Noize
featuring Christian Scott, Karl Denson, Bernie Worrell, Café, Brian Dunne,
Carl Burnett and Tim LeFebvre, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 10:30 p.m.,
$39 and $34

Sunday, April 6 -- Chuck Loeb with special guests Eric Marienthal, Tom
Scott, Will Lee, Carmen Cuesta, Lizzy Loeb, Rob Mounsey, Cafe, Cliff Almond
and more, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 2 p.m., $39 and $34

Sunday, April 6 -- Brian Culbertson, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $47
and $41

CONTACT:
Mike Zielinski
Co-Publicity Director
VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest
610-236-4747
610-371-5146 fax
mzielinski@readingeagle.com
Catherine Catanach
Director of Development and Marketing
Berks Arts Council
610-898-1930
ccatanach@berksjazzfest.com
www.berksjazzfest.com

Happy Jazzin' at the Berks Jazz Festival!!

Beverly J. Packard
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 2:41 AM

January 24, 2008

Blues acts promise to rock VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest

BuddyGuy.jpgThe VF Outlet Berks Jazz fest is, primarily, a celebration of jazz. However, the festival is also known for its diverse lineup, with a healthy dose of blues.

This year, Hall of Fame inductee Buddy Guy will rock the house at the Sheraton Reading Hotel on Friday, March 28, at 10 p.m.

The 18th annual Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 28 through April 6 and will offer fans a wide array of musical styles, including contemporary and traditional jazz, blues and big band, with some gospel and even bluegrass thrown in. Shows are held at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Reading and Berks County, making it a truly unique festival.

High-energy guitar histrionics and boundless on-stage energy have always been Guy trademarks, along with a tortured vocal style that's nearly as distinctive as his incendiary rapid-fire fretwork. The Louisiana native is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, a chief guitar influence to later legends Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Stevie Ray Vaughan, a pioneer of Chicago's West Side Sound and a living link to that city's halcyon days of electric blues.

Truly coming into his own and experiencing a great career Renaissance in his mid-50s, Guy's first three recordings for Silvertone in the early '90s earned Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary Blues Album. 2003's Blues Singer won for Best Traditional Blues Album.

There is no shortage of the blues at this year's fest. In addition to Buddy Guy, there are two big shows on the closing weekend -- a New Orleans Funky Friday with Maria Muldaur and Bonerama; and blues night with the Clarence Spady Band, Campbell Brothers and Eric Bibb.

MariaMuldaur.jpgBerks Jazz Fest celebrates the enduring spirit of the Crescent City with New Orleans Funky Friday, a special show featuring famed roots-folk and blues singer Maria Muldaur and New Orleans brass band Bonerama, on Friday April 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the Inn at Reading.

In 1974 Muldaur scored her most famous hit with the iconic, sultry "Midnight at the Oasis," which reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. Later in the decade, she joined the Jerry Garcia Band as a backing vocalist.

Well known in the blues genre, she has continued to perform, tour and record since her success in the mid-1970s, including a turn at the Teatro ZinZanni in 2001.

Bonerama.jpgWhen Bonerama struts onstage with its four-trombone frontline, the audience is immediately aware it's not quite like any rock band you've seen. When they tear into some vintage New Orleans funk, there's no questioning where they're from. And when those 'bones start ripping into Hendrix and Led Zeppelin licks, all stylistic bets are off.

Clarence Spady Band, Campbell Brothers and Eric Bibb promise a night of burning blues from three incredible performers on Saturday, April 5, at 7 p.m. at the Inn at Reading.

Clarence Spady has been an underground marvel since his initial and only worldwide release Nature of the Beast in 1996. He has a strong worldwide fan base and recently released his highly anticipated new album Just Between Us on Maryland-based Severn Records.

The Campbell Brothers present Sacred Steel: African-American gospel music with electric steel guitar and vocals that is both devoted and rocking.

Acoustic blues singer/songwriter Eric Bibb joined Robert Cray on two U.S. tours in 2001 and 2002 and opened for Bonnie Raitt and also Ray Charles in the summer of 2002. His 2005 release A Ship Called Love was nominated for Acoustic Album of the Year in the 2006 Blues Music Awards.

*****

Other featured artists at this year's festival include the return of the ever-popular Guitars & Saxes featuring Gerald Albright, Peter White, Jeff Golub and Jeff Lorber; jazz guitar great Pat Martino; master guitarist Chuck Loeb; saxophonist Eric Marienthal; alto saxophonist Candy Dulfer; the gifted and charismatic trumpeter Chris Botti; guitarist Paul Brown, vocalist Kenny Rankin, fellow guitarist Marc Antoine and saxman Eric Darius; Berks favorite, keyboardist Brian Culbertson; trumpet great Rick Braun and saxman Richard Elliot; guitarist Nick Colionne with keyboardist Brian Simpson; and versatile bassist Brian Bromberg.

Additional marquee artists include Bill Evans' Soulgrass with bluegrass vocalist and instrumentalist Sam Bush; popular keyboardist and vocalist Joe McBride; the Caribbean Jazz Project featuring Dave Samuels with special guest, reed player Paquito D'Rivera; saxman Euge Groove and keyboardist Alex Bugnon; violinist Regina Carter in a quintet; the Jump Rhythm Jazz Project, high-energy jazz dance performers; New York's Finest Jazz Band, an 18-member group performing jazz and pop standards; Kennedy Center presents Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead, featuring young emerging artists; Sherrie Maricle and the all-female DIVA Jazz Orchestra; Simone, daughter of legendary singer Nina Simone, and the Rob Stoneback Big Band; and the return of Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band.

Music director and keyboardist Jason Miles once again is bringing special ensemble shows to the Berks Jazz Fest. Miles and an all-star roster will be Celebrating the Life & Music of Grover Washington Jr., the late legendary saxman. The show, To Grover with Love, brings together some of the top names in the business, including Patti LaBelle, Walter Beasley, Everette Harp, Kim Waters, Maysa, Phil Perry, Chuck Loeb, Will Lee, Buddy Williams and Ralph MacDonald. The world premiere of Jason Miles/DJ Logic Global Noize features Christian Scott, Karl Denson, Bernie Worrell, Café, Brian Dunne, Carl Burnett and Tim LeFebvre.

###

To order tickets:

Visit the Sovereign Center Box Office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading

Visit the Sovereign Performing Arts Center Box Office, 136 N. Sixth St., Reading

Call Ticketmaster at 215-336-2000 or visit  www.ticketmaster.com

Order online at berksjazzfest.com

For more information on the festival, including artist bios and archived releases, click on berksjazzfest.com

For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes all the arts in an effort to enrich the quality of life in Berks County, click on www.berksarts.org.

*****

Major Ticketed Events

Thursday, March 27 -- Berks Jazz Fest Kickoff Concert: Andrew Neu Group featuring the Bright & Tight Horns, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7.pm., $10.

Friday, March 28 -- Brian Bromberg Band, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $25

Friday, March 28 -- An Evening with Nancy Wilson, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $47 and $41

Friday, March 28 -- Buddy Guy, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 10 p.m., $40 and $35

Friday, March 28 -- Kenny Blake Quartet, L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret, Abraham Lincoln Hotel, 10 p.m., $15

Saturday, March 29 -- LA Chillharmonic featuring Brian Bromberg, Richard Smith, Michael Paulo, Gregg Karukas, Greg Adams plus the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 2 p.m., $39 and $34

Saturday, March 29 -- Simone and the Rob Stoneback Big Band, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $25

Saturday, March 29 -- Chris Botti, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $47 and $41

Saturday, March 29 -- Jump Rhythm Dance Project, Miller Center for the Arts, 8 p.m., $20

Saturday, March 29 -- Kenny Blake Quartet, L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret, Abraham Lincoln Hotel, 10 p.m., $15

Saturday, March 29 -- Gerald Veasley and the WJJZ All-Stars Rick Braun, Bobby Lyle, Chuck Loeb, Chris Farr and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 10:30 p.m., $39 and $34

Sunday, March 30 -- Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead, Miller Center, 1:30 p.m., no charge

Sunday, March 30 -- Paul Brown's Guitar Night featuring Kenny Rankin and Marc Antoine plus saxophonist Eric Darius, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $39 and $34

Sunday, March 30 -- Sweet Honey in the Rock, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 3 p.m., $45, $35, $25

Sunday, March 30 -- Celebrating the Life & Music of Grover Washington Jr. -- To Grover with Love: Patti LaBelle, Walter Beasley, Everette Harp, Kim Waters, Maysa, Phil Perry, Chuck Loeb, Will Lee, Buddy Williams, Ralph MacDonald, and musical director Jason Miles, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7 p.m., $49 and $43

Monday, March 31 -- Michael Manring & David Cullen, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $12

Tuesday, April 1 -- New York's Finest Jazz Band, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7:30 p.m., $15

Wednesday, April 2 -- Bill Evans' Soulgrass with special guest Sam Bush, Abraham Lincoln Hotel ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $32

Thursday, April 3 -- MusicReport with special guests Lynn Riley and Aaron Graves, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $12

Thursday, April 3 -- Nick Colionne with special guest Brian Simpson, Abraham Lincoln Hotel ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $32

Thursday, April 3 -- Berks All-Star Jazz Jam featuring Rick Braun, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Richard Elliot, Nick Colionne, Brian Bromberg, Pat Martino, Joe McBride, Brian Simpson, Ricky Lawson, Andrew Neu and more, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 10 p.m., $35

Friday, April 4 -- Pat Martino Quartet, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $30

Friday, April 4 -- The Caribbean Jazz Project featuring Dave Samuels with special guest Paquito D'Rivera, Abraham Lincoln Hotel ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $32

Friday, April 4 -- Rick Braun & Richard Elliot, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $47 and $41

Friday, April 4 -- New Orleans Funky Friday: Maria Muldaur and Bonerama, Inn at Reading, 7:30 p.m., $32

Friday, April 4 -- Joe McBride Trio, L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret, Abraham Lincoln Hotel, 10 p.m., $15

Friday, April 4 -- Candy Dulfer, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $39 and $34

Saturday, April 5 -- Euge Groove plus Alex Bugnon, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 2 p.m., $39 and $34

Saturday, April 5 -- Sherrie Maricle & The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Abraham Lincoln Hotel ballroom, 2 p.m., $28

Saturday, April 5 -- Tribute to Chet Baker: Rick Braun, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $30

Saturday, April 5 -- Guitars & Saxes featuring Peter White, Gerald Albright, Jeff Golub and Jeff Lorber, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $47 and $41

Saturday, April 5 -- Clarence Spady Band plus Campbell Brothers plus Eric Bibb, Inn at Reading, 7 p.m., $37

Saturday, April 5 -- Regina Carter Quintet, Miller Center for the Arts, 7:30 p.m., $38

Saturday, April 5 -- Joe McBride Trio, L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret, Abraham Lincoln Hotel, 10 p.m., $15

Saturday, April 5 -- World Premiere: Jason Miles/DJ Logic Global Noize featuring Christian Scott, Karl Denson, Bernie Worrell, Café, Brian Dunne, Carl Burnett and Tim LeFebvre, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $39 and $34

Sunday, April 6 -- Chuck Loeb with special guests Eric Marienthal, Tom Scott, Will Lee, Carmen Cuesta, Lizzy Loeb, Rob Mounsey, Cafe, Cliff Almond and more, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 2 p.m., $39 and $34

Sunday, April 6 -- Brian Culbertson, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $47 and $41

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:41 PM

November 27, 2007

VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest Brings the Best and the Brightest

Following is the initial press release regarding the VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest 2008. Plan to come and enjoy all the musical talent. Please note that other artists will be added in the coming days and months before the festival, so keep checking the line-up! Tickets can be obtained by the public on December 8th.

READING, PA -- November 26 -- The 18th annual Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 28 through April 6 and will offer fans a wide array of musical styles, including contemporary and traditional jazz, blues and big band, with some gospel and even bluegrass thrown in. Shows are held at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Reading and Berks County, making it a truly unique festival.

The Berks Arts Council is proud to announce that VF Outlet is the title sponsor of the Berks Jazz Fest from 2008 through 2010. This announcement has particular meaning because VFOutlet helped launch the festival as title sponsor of the first three-day Berks Jazz Fest in 1991, and remained title sponsor through the 1995 festival. Thirteen years and countless shows later, the now 10-day festival has come full circle with its title sponsorship.

Featured artists at this year's festival include legendary song stylist Nancy Wilson; always-rocking blues guitarist and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nductee Buddy Guy; the return of the ever-popular Guitars & Saxes featuring Gerald Albright, Peter White, Jeff Golub and Jeff Lorber; jazz guitar great Pat Martino; alto saxophonist Candy Dulfer; the gifted and charismatic trumpeter Chris Botti; guitarist Paul Brown, vocalist Kenny Rankin, fellow guitarist Marc Antoine and saxman Eric Darius; Berks favorite, keyboardist Brian Culbertson; trumpet great Rick Braun and saxman Richard Elliot; guitarist Nick Colionne with keyboardist Brian Simpson; versatile bassist Brian Bromberg; Bill Evans' Soulgrass with bluegrass vocalist and instrumentalist Sam Bush; popular keyboardist and vocalist Joe McBride; the Caribbean Jazz Project featuring Dave Samuels with special guest, reed player Paquito D'Rivera; saxman Euge Groove and keyboardist Alex Bugnon; and violinist Regina Carter in a quintet.

There is no shortage of the blues at this year's fest. In addition to Buddy Guy, there are two big shows on the closing weekend -- a New Orleans Funky Friday with Maria Muldaur and Bonerama; and blues night with the Clarence Spady Band, Campbell Brothers and Eric Bibb.

Among the more unconventional shows this year are the Jump Rhythm Jazz Project, high-energy jazz dance performers; the NYPD Big Band, an 18-member group performing jazz and pop standards; Kennedy Center presents Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead, featuring young emerging artists; Sherrie Maricle and the all-female DIVA Jazz Orchestra; Simone, daughter of legendary singer Nina Simone, and the Rob Stoneback Big Band; and the return of Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band.

Music director and keyboardist Jason Miles is once again bringing very special ensemble shows to Berks.
Miles will bring together an all-star roster to join him in Celebrating the Life & Music of Grover Washington Jr., the late legendary saxman. The show, To Grover with Love, brings together some of the top names in the business, including Patti LaBelle, Walter Beasley, Everette Harp, Kim Waters, Maysa, Phil Perry, Chuck Loeb, Will Lee, Buddy Williams and Ralph MacDonald.

For the world premiere of his show Global Noize, Jason Miles will be joined by Christian Scott, DJ Logic, Karl Denson, Cafe, Billy Martin, Sherrod Barnes, Bernie Worrell and Tim LeFebvre. Miles has dubbed the group a "global groove band."

Must-see special group shows are one of the big draws at the Berks Jazz Fest, and this year is no exception. There is the LA Chillharmonic, a cool all-star ensemble spearheaded by smooth jazz guitarist Richard Smith and bassist Brian Bromberg. They will be joined by Michael Paulo, Gregg Karukas, Greg Adams and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns.

Gerald Veasley and the WJJZ All-Stars will be the third live television event for the Berks Jazz Fest, broadcast live by WFMZ-TV Channel 69, and will feature Bobby Lyle, Rick Braun, Chuck Loeb, Chris Farr and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns.

A perennial late-night favorite, guaranteed to wake up any sleepy fans, is the Berks All-Star Jazz Jam. This year's jam artists include Rick Braun, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Richard Elliot, Nick Colionne, Brian Bromberg, Pat Martino, Joe McBride, Brian Simpson, Ricky Lawson, Andrew Neu and more.

Chuck Loeb, well known to any Berks Jazz Fest fan, will be joined by special guests Eric Marienthal, Tom Scott, Will Lee, wife Carmen Cuesta, daughter Lizzy Loeb and more for a special show.

This year's festival is packed with must-see artists and unforgettable ensembles, offering cool smooth jazz, hot rockin' blues, soulful singing, rousing tributes and so much more.

Tickets go on sale Saturday, Dec. 8, at 10 a.m.

To order tickets:
~~Visit the Sovereign Center Box Office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading

~~Visit the Sovereign Performing Arts Center Box Office, 136 N. Sixth St.,
Reading

~~Call Ticketmaster at 215-336-2000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com

~~Order online at berksjazzfest.com

For more information on the festival, including artist bios and archived releases, click on www.berksjazzfest.com

For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes all the arts in an effort to enrich the quality of life in Berks County, click on www.berksarts.org.

Major Ticketed Events

Friday, March 28 -- Brian Bromberg Band, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base,
Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $25

Friday, March 28 -- An Evening with Nancy Wilson, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $47 and $41

Friday, March 28 -- Buddy Guy, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 10 p.m., $40 and $35

Friday, March 28 -- Kenny Blake Quartet, L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret, Abraham Lincoln Hotel, 10 p.m., $15

Saturday, March 29 -- LA Chillharmonic featuring Brian Bromberg, Richard Smith, Michael Paulo, Gregg Karukas, Greg Adams plus the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 2 p.m., $39 and $34

Saturday, March 29 -- Simone and the Rob Stoneback Big Band, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $25

Saturday, March 29 -- Chris Botti, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30p.m., $47 and $41

Saturday, March 29 -- Jump Rhythm Dance Project, Miller Center for the Arts, 8 p.m., $20

Saturday, March 29 -- Kenny Blake Quartet, L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret, Abraham Lincoln Hotel, 10 p.m., $15

Saturday, March 29 -- Gerald Veasley and the WJJZ All-Stars Bobby Lyle, Rick Braun, Chuck Loeb, Chris Farr and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 10:30 p.m., $39 and $34

Sunday, March 30 -- Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead, Miller Center, 1:30 p.m., no charge

Sunday, March 30 -- Paul Brown, Kenny Rankin and Marc Antoine plus Eric Darius, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $39 and $34

Sunday, March 30 -- Celebrating the Life & Music of Grover Washington Jr. -- To Grover with Love: Patti LaBelle, Walter Beasley, Everette Harp, Kim Waters, Maysa, Phil Perry, Chuck Loeb, Will Lee, Buddy Williams, Ralph MacDonald, and musical director Jason Miles, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7 p.m., $49 and $43

Tuesday, April 1 -- NYPD Big Band, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7:30 p.m., $15

Wednesday, April 2 -- Bill Evans' Soulgrass with special guest Sam Bush, Abraham Lincoln Hotel ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $32

Thursday, April 3 -- MusicReport with special guests Lynn Riley and Aaron Graves, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $12

Thursday, April 3 -- Nick Colionne with special guest Brian Simpson, Abraham Lincoln Hotel ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $32

Thursday, April 3 -- Berks All-Star Jazz Jam featuring Rick Braun, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Richard Elliot, Nick Colionne, Brian Bromberg, Pat Martino, Joe McBride, Brian Simpson, Ricky Lawson, Andrew Neu and more, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 10 p.m., $35

Friday, April 4 -- Pat Martino Quartet, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $30

Friday, April 4 -- The Caribbean Jazz Project featuring Dave Samuels with special guest Paquito D'Rivera, Abraham Lincoln Hotel ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $32

Friday, April 4 -- Rick Braun & Richard Elliot, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $47 and $41

Friday, April 4 -- New Orleans Funky Friday: Maria Muldaur and Bonerama, Inn at Reading, 7:30 p.m., $32

Friday, April 4 -- Joe McBride Trio, L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret, Abraham Lincoln Hotel, 10 p.m., $15

Friday, April 4 -- Candy Dulfer, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $39 and $34

Saturday, April 5 -- Euge Groove plus Alex Bugnon, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 2 p.m., $39 and $34

Saturday, April 5 -- Sherrie Maricle & The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Abraham Lincoln Hotel ballroom, 2 p.m., $28

Saturday, April 5 -- Tribute to Chet Baker: Rick Braun, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $30

Saturday, April 5 -- Guitars & Saxes featuring Peter White, Gerald Albright, Jeff Golub and Jeff Lorber, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $47 and $41

Saturday, April 5 -- Clarence Spady Band plus Campbell Brothers plus Eric Bibb, Inn at Reading, 7 p.m., $37

Saturday, April 5 -- Regina Carter Quintet, Miller Center for the Arts, 7:30 p.m., $38

Saturday, April 5 -- Joe McBride Trio, L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret, Abraham Lincoln Hotel, 10 p.m., $15

Saturday, April 5 -- World Premiere: Global Noize featuring Jason Miles, Christian Scott, DJ Logic, Karl Denson, Cafe, Billy Martin, Sherrod Barnes, Bernie Worrell and Tim LeFebvre, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $39 and $34

Sunday, April 6 -- Chuck Loeb with special guests Eric Marienthal, Tom Scott, Will Lee, Carmen Cuesta, Lizzy Loeb, and more, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 2 p.m., $39 and $34

Sunday, April 6 -- Brian Culbertson, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $47 and $41

Press release provided by:
Catherine Catanach, APR
Director of Development and Marketing
Berks Arts Council


Happy Jazzin' and I hope to see you at the festival!

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 4:00 AM

August 23, 2007

VF Outlet Named as New Sponsor for Berks Jazz Festival

BerksJazzFest_Logo2008.jpgFollowing is a press release given August 23rd in Reading, Pennsylvania regarding new sponsorship of the Berks Jazz Festival. With members of the Berks Arts Council present, Berks Jazz Fest manager John Ernesto, various media people (including radio), as well as jazz artists Gerald Veasley, Chieli Minucci and Nelson Rangell, Connie Leinbach, Berks Arts Council President, made the announcment.

READING, Pa. - VF Outlet, Inc. has become the title sponsor for the Berks Jazz Fest for 2008 through 2010, presented by the Berks Arts Council.

"The Berks Jazz Fest is an important musical, cultural and economic event that has become a vital part of Greater Reading," says Steve Fritz, President of VF Outlet, Inc., about the collaboration. "VF Outlet is thrilled to be a part of this long standing tradition."

In fact VF has come full circle since it helped launch the festival in 1991, as the title sponsor.

The Berks Arts Council has presented the Berks Jazz Fest since 1991, when it began as a weekend event with about two dozen events. It has been a 10-day event since 2000, and has burgeoned into a world-class event featuring more than 130 events and attracting an audience of more than 45,000.

"During Jazz Fest, the streets, shops, hotels and restaurants are filled with jazz patrons, all of whom spend an estimated $6 million in Berks County in just 10 days," says Connie Leinbach, Executive Director of the Berks Arts
Council. "With VF's partnership, both of our organizations will reach new fans and customers."

GPU and its successor company FirstEnergy had been the title sponsor since 1999.

"We are grateful for FirstEnergy's support of this event since 2003 and are pleased that they will continue to be a major sponsor of the festival," Leinbach adds.

The 18th edition of the festival runs from Friday, March 28, through Sunday, April 6, 2008. Major ticketed acts will be announced December 2. Current information is located on the web at www.berksjazzfest.com.

Berks Arts Council's mission is to encourage and promote all of the arts, to develop an appreciation of the arts and to enrich and enhance the quality through education, collaborations and presentation with other arts
organizations. The Arts Council presents the VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, Berks Movie Madness Film Festival, Bandshell Concert Series, the Pagoda Awards, the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts re-granting program, the Music Composition Program, and provides art exhibition opportunities for member artists. For more information about Berks Arts Council call (610) 898-1930, or visit www.berksarts.org .

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 8:33 PM

August 20, 2007

Dave Koz and Friends At the Movies for Christmas Tour

31EtedHXhLL._AA115_%5B1%5D.jpg

Dave Koz and Friends are At the Movies for this year's Smooth Jazz Christmas tour! Here's the latest press release from the Berks Arts Council.

READING, PA -- The Berks Jazz Fest promises to jazz up Christmas with the return of Dave Koz and pals, making a stop in Reading during their Dave Koz and Friends, A Smooth Jazz Christmas At The Movies, With Special Guests Jonathan Butler, Wayman Tisdale and Kimberley Locke, of American Idol fame. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Dave Koz and Friends Smooth Jazz Christmas, and the show's third appearance in Reading.

Join the holiday fun on Wednesday, Nov. 28, at 7:30 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in West Reading. Reserved tickets are $55 and $49.

Multi-Grammy nominee and pop instrumentalist/saxophonist extraordinaire Koz always is treated like music royalty during his Berks Jazz Fest appearances. Concertgoers on Nov. 28th will be treated to the artists' hits, as well as Christmas and holiday standards. Koz also will be covering a selection of music from his new release, At The Movies. Koz and friends will be joined by musical director Brian Simpson, a Rendezvous Recording Artist.

Koz's latest work, At The Movies, showcases the timeless melodies from American and foreign cinema, including "Over The Rainbow," "Moon River," "The Pink Panther," "The Way We Were," "It Might Be You," and more.

Rendezvous artist Jonathan Butler, a gifted singer, two-time Grammy-nominated songwriter, guitarist and producer, released Brand New Day in June. As a teenager, the South African native broke racial barriers in his native country with his first single on the Jive Records label. Over the years, Butler solidified his presence in the 1990s with a body of music that crossed color and age lines.

Wayman Tisdale is a former NBA star, Olympic gold medalist and popular jazz bassist whose latest CD, Way Up, is one of this year's best-selling jazz releases, debuting at No. 1, and spending 30 weeks in the Top 10 on
Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Chart. His current radio single, the title track "Way Up," on its way to the top, is currently at No. 2 on R&R's Smooth Jazz chart.

Tisdale suffered a leg injury after a fall in February; it was then discovered that the injury was due to a cancerous cyst in his leg. Tisdale is on the road to recovery and is working on a new album, titled Rebound.

Kimberley Locke's name may ring a few bells. The second runner-up on the second season of "American Idol" in 2003, this singer later released her Curb Records debut album, One Love, and has had five consecutive top 10 Adult Contemporary hits, including two No. 1 songs, "8th World Wonder," and a holiday recording of "Up On The Housetop." She's also a model and has been involved in several television projects and Disney recordings. Locke's sophomore album, Based on a True Story, the follow-up to One Love, came out last fall on Curb Records.

This year's Dave Koz and Friends Christmas show promises to get the audience in the holiday spirit, so we hope you join in the fun!

To order tickets:
Visit the Sovereign Center Box Office, 7th & Penn streets, Reading
Visit the Sovereign Performing Arts Center Box Office, 136 N. 6th St.,
Reading
Call Ticketmaster at 215-336-2000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com
For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit organization
that promotes all the arts in an effort to enrich the quality of life in
Berks County, click on www.berksarts.org

Plan now for a Happy Jazzin' Christmas!

KozBeverly%5B1%5D.jpgBeverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
MyGirlSunday22@aol.om

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 2:29 PM

March 26, 2007

Berks Jazz Fest 2007: Guitars & Saxes

Berks07_GuitarsSaxes.jpgThe final show of the festival took place at the Scottish Rite Cathedral Sunday evening with Guitars & Saxes, combining the talents of sax players Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum and guitarists Jeff Golub and Tim Bowman. They had a stellar band featuring Ricky Lawson on drums, Nate Phillips on bass and Marlon McClain on guitar plus keyboards. This band came here to play and you could feel the energy and fun they created. The show was kicked off with each of the main artists stepping to the stage playing a short sample of one of their hits segueing into the next song, instantly creating a good vibe. Kirk Whalum played several songs from the Babyface songbook and his current #1 song "Give Me The Reason", while Jeff Golub performed some songs from his brand new release Grand Central which was released only a few weeks ago, delving deeply into Blues territory. Gerald Albright played his favorites "So Amazing" and "My, My, My" to the delight of the crowd, one woman even brought him a bouquet of flowers to the stage which touched him visibly. Tim Bowman for me was a most welcome addition to the band, his Wes-styled playing is outstanding and his hit song "Summer Groove" - being a favorite of mine - was a great musical moment to hear live. Then they slowed down things a little with an unplugged segment of the show where they sat on stools next to each other playing their instruments imaging they were sitting in someone's living room just having a good time, among the songs played was a great version of "Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay" and the great "Mojito" from Jeff Golub's new CD. Towards the end of the show hit was following hit, but they relied exclusively on cover versions completely ignoring their own catalog of music, virtually turning into a "Greatest-Hits-Music-Review" which was okay with the crowd who were all up, clapping, dancing and singing, bringing a truly great festival to an end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:06 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2007: Chuck Loeb & Friends

Berks07_Loeb.jpgSunday afternoon it was WJJZ 97.5's turn to host a Fan Appreciation Concert featuring Chuck Loeb plus Gerald Veasley and Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters and Steve Cole (who appeared the previous night as the Sax Pack), once more supported by the great Berks Jazz Fest Horns. The concert was well attended and Chuck Loeb opened the concert just with his band featuring drummer Josh Dion, keyboardist Matt King and bass. Chuck settled comfortably into some of his compositions, among them "E-Bop" and "Presence" from the current CD, displaying his great skills on guitar. He kept things soft and low with his great rendition of James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Lonely Tonight", on this song drummer Josh Dion played in the most subtle and sensitive fashion I have seen, later adding some of his soulful singing bringing the song to a rousing end. During the first half of the show special guest and local hero Gerald Veasley came to the stage to play a truly heartfelt rendition of his own "Forever", a song dedicated to his wife having special meaning for him, a fact you could feel! His bass playing was just great and his appearance a welcome addition to this concert. After a short intermission some considerable sax power was added to the show with Kim Waters, then Jeff Kashiwa and lastly Steve Cole stepping on the stage to perform one of their songs, raising the level of energy considerably. All of them are outstanding players and stage personalities, again they couldn't help but making jokes and pulling each others legs, creating a good vibe. During one song the Berks Jazz Fest Horns got their round of solos, especially Mike Anderson on sax stood out proving that he is an artist in his own right. While these artists delivered a high energy show as the Sax Pack the previous night, during this afternoon they showed their softer sides, which yielded some great solos, especially Jeff Kashiwa played a tremendously smooth and heartfelt solo during one of Chuck Loeb's tunes. The last track "Bounce" (from Steve Cole's True album) reunited all artists for a great finale, ending another great show of first rate artists.

(Sorry for the bad picture, but I sat in the back and this was the best I could achieve)

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:00 PM

March 25, 2007

Berks Jazz Fest 2007: Brian Culbertson All-Star Smooth Jazz Cruise Jam II

Berks07_AllStarCruiseJam.jpgAfter the Sax Pack show at 1am the Brian Culbertson All-Star Smooth Jazz Cruise Jam II hosted by Nick Colionne at the Sheraton was due, a promotional event to tease people into joining the All-Star Cruise. All you had to do to get in was to buy a raffle ticket (giving you the chance to win a cabin on that cruise), giving you access to this show, which is always a lot of fun and full of surprises. Host Nick Colionne was dressed in a red suit and hat and ready to lead many artists through a loose jam night. On stage were parts of his band (Dave Hiltebrand on bass, his keyboarad player and drummer), with the additional help of several fellow artists, some of them exclusively appearing at this show. First guest was Alvin Fisher on flute, then on came Jackiem Joyner on sax delivering some great solos, then bass player Gerald Veasley stepped on the stage giving us some serious bass playing. Then sax player Andrew Neu showed up again, helped out by a local guy claiming to be the best mandolin player of Berks County, they played Grover Washington Jr.'s "Winelight" for us with the mandolin player - obviously not exactly playing the style of music he is used to - delivering a totally spaced-out solo on the mandolin, while Andrew Neu turned out to be a true top-shelf player. Then the lovely Althea Rene on flute appeared displaying some serious chops, then bass player Michael Manson stepped on the stage soloing fiercly, then Maysa appeared having come of the Soul Summit show settling into a beautiful version of "Summertime" with lots of scatting and vocal improvisations (having her performance at the Soul Summit pale in comparison), then bass players Gerald Veasley and Scott Ambush (from Spyro Gyra, having sneaked in too) gave us a veritable battle on their basses, before returning the song gently to Maysa to end it. Steve Oliver was there too adding his flashy guitar playing contributing further highlights to this concert. Alan Hewitt played some keyboards and vibes, while another local sax player (who was a little overwhelmed by all the star power around him) got his solo spots too. Nick Colionne directed the proceedings by calling artists to the stage and selecting songs, additionally he played some great guitar solos. The night was concluded with Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon" reuniting all artists on stage for the rousing finale. This was the best concert of the festival, not only because of the tremendous star power but most of all because of the truly impromptu setting and the loose way these artists could play and express themselves. At 2am who cares, just let's have some fun!

Here is a short sample of the action on stage:

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:07 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2007: Sax Pack

Berks07_SaxPack.jpgLate Saturday evening the great The Sax Pack, featuring Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters and Steve Cole, were scheduled to appear at the Sheraton. These three artists belong to the absolute best smooth jazz sax players on the scene and their energetic shows are always a treat, besides their styles merge well. They were joking, pulling each others legs and having just fun on stage. Each of these artists played songs from his catalog, some songs were done together, some individually. Kim Waters played his hit song "Waterfall" in his smooth and sexy style, while Steve Cole delivered several songs from his latest release True, among them "Just A Natural Thang" and - as I had hoped - the gorgeous "Curtis" which gave him the opportunity to express himself on the tenor sax. Jeff Kashiwa announced a new release to come out in June, he played two songs from that making us look forward to hear it soon. All off the artists made their strolls into the audience, sometimes together, which stirred quite some heart. The band was grooving hard, among them were bass player Dave Hiltebrand, keyboard player Mike Richiutti and guitar player Jerry Johnson. This great concert was concluded with Jeff Kashiwa's radio hit "Hyde Park (the "Ah, Oooh" song)" giving the audience a change to contribute the vocal part. This was another top notch concert full of fun and energy by three really outstanding sax players.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:56 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2007: Soul Summit

Berks07_SoulSummit.jpgSaturday evening another one of those concerts you can only experience at Berks was due with Soul Summit, a star-studded event dedicated to Soul music celebrating an important part of American heritage. Jason Miles assembled some musical legends and some outstanding current players. Among the legends were bass player Bob Babbit and guitar player Reggie Young, who both have played on many unforgettable classics. Both must be in their 70ies, so Bob Babbit preferred to do the performance sitting. The world class band was completed by Steve Ferrone on drums, Sherrod Barnes on guitar, Jason Miles on keyboards and a horn section consisting of David Mann on sax, Karl Denson on flute and saxes and Barry Danielian on trumpet. They kicked off the show with an instrumental featuring David Mann on sax, before playing "Memphis 2000" from Jason Miles, followed by Herbie Mann's "Memphis Underground" featuring Karl Denson on flute, a track which featured Reggie Young back in the day. Later vocalists Mike Mattison (from the Derek Trucks Band) and Susan Tedeschi came to the stage to sing a few songs, among them "Song Of A Preacher Man", which was done justice by Susan Tedeschi who admittedly was a bit reluctant to tackle this giant classic song. The great songstress Maysa gave us "What A Man", then surprise artist Richard Elliot came to the stage infusing lots of energy into the show playing "Chicken & Waffles" (from the Jason Miles CD Mr. X which featured the late Grover Washington Jr. on the album) and a great version of Junior Walker's "Shotgun". Another outstanding artist was the great Karl Denson who contributed several powerful solos on the saxophone and helped to raise the bar a notch. At the end of the show a tribute to James Brown was due in the form a medley covering songs like "I Feel Good" and "Sex Machine" with Karl Denson taking the JB part bringing a memorable performance to its end. This was another special evening and Jason Miles has to be applauded for pulling such events off. I look forward to what he has in store for us at next year's festival.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:29 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2007: Warren Hill & Nick Colionne

Berks07_WarrenHill.jpgSaturday early afternoon people gathered for The Groove Boutique's Rafe Gomez Hosts Warren Hill and Nick Colionne, a double bill of two full length concerts by two very popular artists. The afternoon was hosted by radio DJ Rafe Gomez who played some well selected music before and in between concerts.

Saxophone player Warren Hill had to fight some obstacles to bring his music to us, three of his band members were stuck in LA because their flight was overbooked, so he had to recruit the guitar player from the Sax Pack and the drummer from the Nick Colionne band filling in on short notice to complete his band, which otherwise consisted of Andre Berry on bass (who was touring with Mindi Abair concurrently) and keyboard player Ron Reinhardt. They had to improvise a little but this even added to the fun of the afternoon, Warren Hill was in a relaxed mood and entertained the crowd with witty comments and stories in between songs, yielding some good laughs. He kicked off his show with the Beatles classic "Come Together", then he continued with a great rendition of Grover Washington Jr.'s "Mr. Magic", which he segued into "Winelight", breaking it down nicely giving me goose-bumps! Then he played "Light My Fire" showing tremendous sensibility and a knack for soft and smooth grooves. The crowd just loved it! The whole band did a great job, and Warren Hill had the audience in the palm of his hand. One of the highlights was his version of "Play This Funky Music" having him to walk in the audience and playing his sax standing on chairs amidst the clapping crowd. This was a musically satisfying, very entertaining concert by one of the greatest smooth jazz artists out there.

Berks07_Colionne.jpgThen it was time for the unique Nick Colionne, who was dressed all in white and was ready to give us a good time. Nick knows how to work the crowd, he is a consummate artist, and his witty comments and great rapport with the audience resulted in another very entertaining concert. He played some of his hit songs, among them "High Flyin'" and "Arrival", showing tremendous skills on the guitar, backed by a competent and seriously grooving band. I had forgotten how good this guy actually is and was completely blown away by his flashy runs on the guitar and his Wes-inclined playing, he definitely is up to par with George Benson! Often he broke it down and played it softly and smooth, just to build it up again, he also made more than one strolls into the audience addressing several (mostly female) fans personally. One highlight was his heartfelt rendition of the song "A Rainy Night In Georgia", his low voice gave me a fuzzy feeling and his sensuous playing on the guitar topped it all. Nick Colionne has risen to the absolute top within the smooth jazz genre and I look forward to hear more from this gifted and very likable artist.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:22 PM

March 24, 2007

Berks Jazz Fest 2007: Steve Oliver

Berks07_Oliver.jpgWhile David Sanborn and Pat Martino were having their performances at the Sheraton the inimitable Steve Oliver was scheduled to appear at the Wyndham in a non-ticketed event which took place in the club-like setting of L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret. Steve Oliver appeared just with the great percussion player Humberto Vela, who added many grooves and colors to the proceedings, while Steve relied on his guitar (which triggered a multitude of synths) and vocals. The duo created a surprisingly full sound and Steve Oliver was just happy to play and perform songs from his vast catalog of music. Outstanding moments of the concert were the uptempo "Chips & Salsa" with some first-rate guitar playing and a vocal where he added sounds in the spirit of Bobby McFerrin, accompanied by his guitar synth, which left the audience in awe. Other highlights were his hit songs "High Noon" featuring some flashy guitar playing and vocal ad-libs, the great song "Cool" and the yet unrecorded vocal "Fearless", which will be part of an upcoming all-vocals album. His show was much appreciated, Steve Oliver is one of the greatest talents on the scene and I always look forward to hear more music of this truly original and constantly developing artist.

Here is a snippet of the action (sorry for the low light conditions):

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:11 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2007: Rick Braun & Friends

Berks07_BraunFriends.jpgSaturday evening we were in for a treat by Rick Braun & Friends giving a special concert to celebrate the 17th anniversary of the festival. The friends Rick brought with him were Ron Reinhardt on keyboards, Stanley Sargeant on bass, Rayford Griffin on drums, Dwight Sills on guitar and a horn section consisting of his brother Ross Braun and Nick Lane on trombones, Jimmy Roberts on sax and an additional trumpet player. Rick opened the concert with his proven habit to wander to the stage from the back of the audience playing his instrument this way creating an instant rapport with the crowd, the first song featured a great solo by saxophonist Jimmy Roberts. Then saxophone player Richard Elliot entered the stage raising the bar a notch with his muscular playing, before the great Jonathan Butler gave us a beautiful rendition of his song "Sarah, Sarah" which created enthusiastic responses from the audience. Rick Braun was the party man cheering the crowd, his cover of Bill Withers' classic "Use Me" with some audience participation was a highlight of the concert. Another cool part was the battle of the trombones having Ross Braun and Nick Lane duelling on their horns, after all fun and entertainment was the order of the evening! This was also true for Richard Elliot's version of "People Make The World Go Round" having the saxophonist cowering just emitting growling sounds from his instrument, which was fun to watch. Saxophonist Jackiem Joyner is the latest addition to the roster of Artizen Records, the label run by Rick Braun and Richard Elliot, and therefore got an opportunity during the concert to be introduced to the fans. Jackiem Joyner played a great song from his upcoming release Babysoul and won the hearts of the crowd with his soulful and smooth playing. At the end of the concert Richard Elliot gave us a heartfelt version of his signature song "When A Man Loves A Women" which brought him again to his knees, then Jonathan Butler came to the rescue, helped him up and finished the song with a rousing vocal, which was truly mesmerizing. The crowd cheered for more so Jonathan Butler performed his hit song "Lies" which brought a very entertaining evening to its end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:07 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2007: Dave Brubeck - Ankle injury sidelines legend

Brubeck concert reset for April 27

The Dave Brubeck Quartet had been scheduled to open the 17th annual FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest.

Now the acclaimed group will be performing in Reading a month after the festival has concluded its 10-day run.

The Berks Arts Council announced today that the 86-year-old Brubeck suffered a setback over the weekend in his recovery from surgery for a blood clot and infection that were triggered by a recent ankle injury.

Consequently, he and his quartet now will perform on Friday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $46 and $39.

All tickets will be honored on that date for the show, which first was scheduled for Friday, March 16, and then first rescheduled for Wednesday, March 21.

Brubeck's setback over the weekend forced his doctors to be even further protective of his infection situation.

Hence, the switch of the concert to its own special BJF date on April 27.

Dave Brubeck Quartet
Friday, April 27
Sovereign Performing Arts Center
7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $46 and $39

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:13 PM

March 23, 2007

Berks Jazz Fest 2007: Berks All-Star Jazz Jam

Berks07_AllStarJazzJam.jpgThe traditional Berks All-Star Jazz Jam was held at the Sheraton late Friday evening and was a star-studded event of the highest order. Sometimes the stage was almost a little overcrowded making one wonder if less might be more. But anyway, the pairing of these artists in this impromptu setting made way for some great moments of music. The evening was put together by guitar player Chuck Loeb who led this bunch of artists through a selection of mainly standards. On stage were at times 6 sax players, 4 guitarists, 2 bassists, 1 violinist, 1 trumpet player, 1 keyboardist and 1 drummer, giving some of the artists a hard time to be heard, the sound man at the mixing console seemed not always being able to keep up with the proceedings on stage. This quibbles aside those involved put all their hearts into their performances, we had sax players Jackiem Joyner, Warren Hill, Richard Elliot, Keith McKelley, Andrew Neu and Mindi Abair, guitar players Pat Martino, Nick Colionne, Chuck Loeb and Steve Oliver, bass players Brian Bromberg and Gerald Veasley, violinist John Blake, trumpet player Rick Braun, keyboardist Joe McBride and drummer Rayford Griffin. With the exception of the first and last songs the artists played together in various smaller combinations, the songs played ranged from "Caravan" giving Rick Braun a chance to show his tremendous improvisational skills and chops on trumpet, the slower "All Blues" featuring a great Mindi Abair (backed by the legendary Pat Martino) to "Summertime", which marked the highlight of the concert for me. This song featured Mindi Abair on sax and Steve Oliver on vocals and guitar giving both artists ample room to play this great tune, Steve Oliver's vocal artistry was outstanding, reminding me of Bobby McFerrin and Al Jarreau, complemented by his first rate guitar playing. This guy is a huge talent who gets better and better each time I see him. Newcomers like the great Jackiem Joyner, Andrew Neu or Keith McKelley (member of Joe McBride's band) were welcome additions to the roster of seasoned stars having one to look forward to the future of the format. The show was concluded with the Crusaders classic "Put It Where You Want It" reuniting all artists of the evening giving Richard Elliot one more opportunity to dazzle the crowd with his gutsy saxophone playing. I always like the All-Star Jam, because it is full of surprises with artists willing to take a few risks, yielding some magical moments, and this Jam was no exception.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:23 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2007: Mindi Abair

Berks07_Abair.jpgThursday evening the pace of the festival started to pick up again with several major acts to come. The beautiful Mindi Abair appeared at the Wyndham Hotel ballroom with her youthful and seriously grooving band. Despite her georgeous looks the lady definitely can blow and knows how to throw a party, she and her band mates seemed to have a good time on stage with lots of joking and laughing. She gave us some great renditions of her hit songs like "Flirt", "Remember" and the smoking "It Just Happens That Way" which offered the bass player Andre Berry an opportunity to play a funky bass solo which left the audience in awe. Her music was oscillating between rock, pop, funk and jazz resulting in a delicious mix, to loosen up things she performed a few pop vocals, spiced up with her hot soprano playing. Being known as an artist mainly performing self-written material, the exception to this rule was her cover of Cannonball Adderley's "Walk Tall". She ended the show with her signature song "Lucy's" which went down very well with the crowd which was in happy partying mood. This was another entertaining evening by a consummate artist.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:08 PM

March 22, 2007

Berks Jazz Fest 2007: Joe McBride

Berks07_McBride.jpgWednesday night the great Joe McBride & The Texas Rhythm Club gave a concert at the Peanut Bar in Reading, this was a non-ticketed event in a restaurant, providing an intimate setting to the music. All the tables were booked and we were staying at the bar enjoying the show. The current lineup of The Texas Rhythm Club consists of Keith McKelley on sax, Walter Barns on bass and additional keys, and Rob Hubbard on drums. The band was crowded together on the small stage delivering a strong vibe, they kicked their show off with the Ronnie Laws classic "Always There", then continued with songs from Joe's various albums and a share of well selected covers, among them a groovy version of Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon" which promted several members of the audience to dance in front of the stage. Joe McBride was great as always playing keys, singing and joking in between songs providing his unmistakable brand of music, while sax player Keith McKelley turned out to be a huge talent with his expressive playing, getting a lot of shouts of appreciation from the audience. Drummer Ron Hubbard delivered a steady beat, while bassist Walter Barns stepped out more than once to give us some funky slapping on the bass. This was a great and very entertaining evening, heads bopping, folks dancing, everybody having a good time.

Here is a small sample of what you have missed:

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:34 PM

March 20, 2007

Berks Jazz Fest 2007: Celebrating the Life & Music of Luther Vandross

Berks07_LutherTribute1.jpgSunday evening it was time for one of the true highlights of the festival: the star-studded Celebrating the Life & Music of Luther Vandross, put together by Jason Miles realizing another "once in history" event summoning artists who have played and worked for years with the late Luther Vandross, resulting in an evening which really deserved naming himself to be a Luther tribute. Present in the audience was Luther's mother, a fact which made it even more special and personal. The band consisted of long-time members of Luther's band, among them the long time musical director and keyboard player Nat Adderley, Jr, drummer Buddy Williams, bass player Tinker Barfield, percussionist Steve Kroon, guitarist Doc Powell and last but not least Jason Miles on keyboards, who worked with Luther for many years as well. The band played two instrumentals, one featuring the smooth guitar playing of Doc Powell, before the saxophonist Walter Beasley came to the stage to give us his renditions of "So Amazing" and "Creepin'". Then it was James "D Train" Williams who has a similar voice like Luther singing a heartfelt version of"You Turn Me On", followed by Sharon Bryant singing the touching "Dance With My Father", followed by Doc Powell again, you could feel the bond all of them had with Luther. Several of the artists shared some insightful stories about their time with Luther shedding some light on him as a person. One of the highlights of the concert was the appearance of saxophonist extraordinaire Kirk Whalum who played "Give Me The Reason" to great effect. Later he adressed the problem of diabetes and stroke - the cause of Luther's untimely death - and asked to support the Power To End Stroke campaign. Next highlight was the appearance of living legend Dionne Warwick who sang "What The World Needs Now", “Anyone Who Had a Heart” and the Luther classic "A House Is Not A Home", resulting in a very memorable performance by a true icon of American culture. Next was Cissy Houston, being in the 70ies also, giving us her takes of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and "Amazing Grace" accompanied by the gospel-drenched piano of Nat Adderley, Jr. Later Jason Miles got the chance to shine on his hammond organ before the concert was concluded with a reunion of all artists involved for the rousing finale of a truly memorable evening.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:24 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2007: Joyce Cooling and Nelson Rangell & Philippe Saisse Acoustique Trio

Sunday afternoon we were ready to receive two full length concerts under the banner of Smooth Jazz 92.7 Fan Appreciation Concert featuring Joyce Cooling and Nelson Rangell & Philippe Saisse Acoustique Trio. The event took place at the Sheraton and was well attended.

Berks07_Cooling.jpgThe show was opened by the lovely Joyce Cooling and her band featuring her long time partner Jay Wagner on keys, along with longtime drummer Billy Johnson and a great bass player. Joyce Cooling looks back on a catalog spanning 7 CDs - a thing she admitted not to have expected at the beginning of her career - allowing her to draw from a lot of material. Among the songs they played was the catchy "Daddy-O", the nice "Savannah" and the heartfelt and very personal "Revolving Door" from her current CD for which she sat down on the edge of the stage. Having her brother suffering from mental illness she decided to make people aware of this problem, thus partnering with the National Alliance on Mental Illness and donating parts of the proceeds from her CD and merchandise sales to them, besides the title of her latest CD refers to this topic. The band was in fine form and Joyce played it hot and cool, showing considerable chops and sense for melody and groove. A little samba-style percussion interlude created quite some heat and added some spice, while the solo performance of Joyce just singing and playing her guitar to express her appreciation for the support of the audience for her music made a special impression. This was a solid set by a seasoned band that knows how to please a crowd.

Berks07_SaisseRangell.jpgAfter a short intermission the stage was ready for Nelson Rangell, backed by the great Philippe Saisse Acoustique Trio featuring David Finck on acoustic bass and Scooter Warner on drums. Obviously Nelson Rangell was called for the gig and asked Philippe Saisse to back him up, admittedly playing together for the first time. The pairing of Nelson Rangell and Philippe Saisse worked very well together, the trio providing the flexible backdrop for Nelson to play his flute and sax to great effect. Nelson Rangell is an incredible player constantly striving for perfection in all aspects of his art. Each time I hear him he blows me away with his chops and sound, truly a world class player. The selection of songs ranged from "Dolphin" featuring flawless flute playing by Nelson, the EWF classic "September", both from Philip Saisse's The Body And Soul Sessions, while Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing" and Hampton Hawes' "Sonora" were from Rangell's My American Songbook, Vol. 1. The latter song was a true highlight of the concert having Nelson Rangell whistling the song in the most subtle and intense way, adding some great piccolo flute playing in the end - pure magic! While Philippe Saisse was a bit more in the background, he delivered some great acoustic piano playing and anchored the top notch band, who also shone on their instruments delivering some outstanding solos on acoustic bass and drums respectively. I wonder what the future holds for these two artists who both seem to work very well together. This was a superlative concert by two underrated players.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:12 PM

Dave Brubeck Quartet FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest Concert Reset For Friday, April 27

Dave_Brubeck.jpgREADING, PA -- March 19 -- The Dave Brubeck Quartet had been scheduled to open the 17th annual FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest. Now the acclaimed group will be performing in Reading a month after the festival has concluded its 10-day run.

The Berks Arts Council announced today that the 86-year-old Brubeck suffered a setback over the weekend in his recovery from surgery for a blood clot and infection that were triggered by a recent ankle injury. Consequently, he and his quartet now will perform on Friday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $46 and $39.

All tickets will be honored on that date for the show, which first was scheduled for Friday, March 16, and then first rescheduled for Wednesday, March 21. Brubeck's setback over the weekend forced his doctors to be even further protective of his infection situation. Hence, the switch of the concert to its own special BJF date on April 27.

Brubeck, of course, has the sort of legendary stature that makes his twice-delayed Berks Jazz Fest appearance well worth waiting for. He has evolved over five decades into the major figure in the history of jazz as a pianist and composer. The first jazz figure ever to make the cover of Time magazine, he is the leader of perhaps the most widely known and well-traveled quartet in the history of jazz.

In 1959 the Dave Brubeck Quartet released Time Out, which quickly went platinum. The quartet followed its success with several more albums in the same vein, including Time Further Out, Time in Outer Space and Time Changes.

Brubeck continues to write new works, including orchestrations and ballet scores. He tours about 80 cities each year. His last major release, 2005's London Flat, London Sharp, met with wide critical acclaim.

Regarding refunds, patrons can get a refund for the Dave Brubeck concert at the "point of purchase." All refund requests MUST BE made prior to the rescheduled date.

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 1:26 AM

March 18, 2007

Berks Jazz Fest 2007: Boney James

Berks0_BoneyJames1.jpgSaturday evening the ever reliable Boney James was scheduled to appear at the Sovereign Performing Arts centre. The house was packed and the show seemed to be sold out. The sax player came with a young band of great players who weren't familiar to me but delivered a solid foundation of phat grooves for Boney to ride on. Boney James has found his voice on the instrument and is easily recognizable, his unique style allows him to communicate through his instrument freely and evoke fond reactions in his fans, many of them female who didn't hide their appreciation of the music. The mood of the music was mostly laid back but the inner fire in Boney's playing generated quite some intensity, sometimes even with a touch of Gato Barbieri. He played several songs from his current release Shine, among them the beautiful "In The Rain" or the gentle bossa nova of "Aquas De Marco (Waters Of March)" where his soprano interplayed nicely with the keys. A great moment of the concert was during the song "Stone Groove" when all the band members exited, leaving the stage to Boney and his drummer who engaged in a very inspired and improvisational interplay, delivering the jazziest moment of the festival for me so far - pure bliss! Boney did also his famous strolls into the audience, once to serenade a lovely woman with his saxophone, and later to visit even the people in the back and on the balcony. The extremly palatable mix of jazz and urban elements delivered by one of the greatests talents on the sax yielded another great evening leaving the capacity crowd in a happy and satisfied state.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:26 PM

March 17, 2007

Berks Jazz Fest 2007: Heads Up All-Stars

Berks07_Veasley.jpgSaturday afternoon it was An Afternoon of Heads Up, an all-star event featuring the roster of the Heads Up label. The concert was opened by Pieces Of A Dream which served as the backing band for the rest of the afternoon. Their opening piece gave each member of the band the chance to solo extensively and show their skills, on stage were founders James Lloyd on keyboard and Curtis Harmon on drums, David Dyson on bass and a second keyboard player (regular sax player Eddie Baccus Jr. unfortunately was not present). They played "Wake Up Call" from their latest album Pillow Talk, before the first guest came to the party. It was bass player Gerald Veasley who approached the bandstand from the audience playing his version of "Valdez In The Country" showing his tremendous skills. Then it was the crowd pleaser "Sugar Time" (to be found on his Live At The Jazz Base CD) where he took the lead, while David Dyson took the bass part.

Berks07_Powell.jpgNext was Doc Powell on guitar playing some nice songs from his latest self titled album, among them "Me, Myself & Rio", the Carole King classic "It's Too Late" (where he invited some ladies from the audience to take care of the vocal part) and a great piece called "Circumstances" featuring his Wes-inclined playing. For one song the familiar Berks Jazz Fest horns were added to the proceedings.

Berks07_HeadsUp.jpgThen Joe McBride was brought to the stage to sing a couple of songs, one of them the Norah Jones hit "Don't Know Why", with a sax solo by Marion Meadows and just accompanied by bass, guitar and soft drums. Next was a Bob Marley song "One Love" which went down well with the audience.

After that piano player Bobby Lyle sat at the grand piano and played a beautiful version of Sade's "The Sweetest Taboo", then a gospel-drenched version of "Minute By Minute" and a three-handed piano-version of "A Night In Tunisia" together with the Pieces keyboard players shuffling positions giving each player the chance to shine.

Berks07_Zonjic.jpgAfter that flute player Alexander Zonjic had his share of the afternoon which he used to great effect. He played songs from his last album Seldom Blue, among them the title track which was written by James Lloyd. Alexander Zonjic raised the level of excitement a notch and turned out to be a great instrumentalist and entertainer.

Next star was sax player Marion Meadows who looked as cool as always and played songs from his last two albums Player's Club and Dressed To Chill, his laid-back and sexy grooves were definitely appreciated by the crowd. The rousing finale featured all artists joining together bringing a great afternoon of first rate music to an end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 10:08 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2007: Brian Bromberg

Berks07_Bromberg.jpgDue to the fact that the concert of Dave Brubeck had to be postponed because of health problems it was Brian Bromberg and band to open this year's 17th annual Berks Jazz Festival. It was snowing outside, the roads were covered with snow and driving conditions were difficult, this led to a late arrival of the band who were driving all day down from Boston to Reading. This led to a considerable delay, but the friendly crowd was patiently waiting in the lobby of the Sheraton hanging around, having a drink and chatting with friends. Past 11pm the band was set up, sound check done and ready to play. Brian Bromberg exclusively played his upright acoustic bass for the night, but this didn't mean that we had to do without some groovy and funky playing. The leader held his stellar band together and provided a great selection of tracks from his current album Downright Upright, many of them covers of classic jazz tunes like Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon" and "Cantaloupe Island", Joe Zawinul's "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" or Eddie Harris' "Cold Duck Time". The band was tight, especially outstanding was drummer Dave Weckl who never missed a beat and impressed with some complex and varied playing. On keyboards was Jeff Lorber who did well in the more straight ahead context of this set on acoustic piano and keyboards, I especially liked the smooth "Slow Burn" with its laid back groove. Legendary Randy Brecker on trumpet and Gary Meek on sax completed the lineup, both delivered great solos and tight horn lines. The concert was brought to an end with the composition "Shag Carpet" giving the band ample room to deliver the good stuff. This was a satisfying concert and a great start of this year's festival which holds many more highlights to come.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:04 PM

March 16, 2007

Berks Jazz Festival: Additional tickets available for both Heads Up shows, Cooling/Rangell concert at Sheraton this weekend

If you were looking for tickets to the two Heads Up concerts Saturday and the Joyce Cooling-Nelson Rangell-Philippe Saisse concert on Sunday at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, you are in luck.

Tickets are now available for the previously sold-out concerts.

The Sheraton has made the entire ballroom available to the festival this weekend, allowing space for the additional reserved seating.

"An Afternoon of Heads Up" is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

"An Evening of Heads Up" is scheduled for 10:00 p.m. Saturday night.

Both Heads Up concerts feature an all-star lineup of Pieces of a Dream, Marion Meadows, Bobby Lyle, Alexander Zonjic, Gerald Veasley, Doc Powell and a few special surprises.

Tickets are $38 and $33.

The co-bill of Joyce Cooling and Nelson Rangell, Philippe Saisse is scheduled for Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Tickets are $25 for the Smooth Jazz 92.7 Fan Appreciation Concert. These tickets will go fast. So get your tickets today by visiting the local box offices or calling Ticketmaster.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:03 PM

March 15, 2007

Dave Brubeck Quartet Berks Jazz Fest Concert Postponed

Update 19/3: The Berks Arts Council announced today that the 86-year-old Brubeck suffered a setback over the weekend in his recovery from surgery for a blood clot and infection that were triggered by a recent ankle injury. Consequently, he and his quartet now will perform on Friday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $46 and $39.

All tickets will be honored on that date for the show, which first was scheduled for Friday, March 16, and then first rescheduled for Wednesday, March 21. Brubeck's setback over the weekend forced his doctors to be even further protective of his infection situation. Hence, the switch of the concert to its own special BJF date on April 27.

*******

READING, PA -- March 15 -- The Berks Arts Council announced today that the opening night FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest concert with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, scheduled for this Friday night at 7:30 at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center, has been postponed until Wednesday, March 21.

All tickets will be honored at the rescheduled date, also set for the Sovereign Performing Arts Center at 7:30. Tickets are $46 and $39.

The 86-year-old Brubeck injured his ankle recently, which triggered a blood clot on his ankle. On Monday he underwent minor surgery at Yale University Hospital near his Connecticut home to ensure there was no infection.

Russell Gloyd, Brubeck's road manager, said Thursday that doctors are being protective of possible infection and do not want Brubeck traveling for a few days.

"Dave is in fine health otherwise and is disappointed he had to postpone the date," Gloyd said. "But he's looking forward to playing the Berks festival Wednesday."

After Monday's surgery, Brubeck told his manager and the doctors he was committed to doing the concert on Friday. Consequently, Berks Arts Council and Berks Jazz Fest officials stayed the course until Brubeck's medical team on Thursday forced them to alter plans.

Brubeck has evolved over a half of a century into the major figure in the history of jazz as a pianist and composer. The first jazz figure ever to make the cover of Time magazine, he is the leader of perhaps the most widely known and well-traveled quartet in the history of jazz.

In 1959 the Dave Brubeck Quartet released Time Out, which quickly went platinum. The quartet followed its success with several more albums in the same vein, including Time Further Out, Time in Outer Space and Time Changes.

Brubeck continues to write new works, including orchestrations and ballet scores. He tours about 80 cities each year. His last major release, 2005's London Flat, London Sharp, met with wide critical acclaim.

The Berks Jazz Fest, which runs March 16 through 25, features an abundance of great artists, a plethora of wonderfully intimate venues, a schedule of staggering scale and exquisite ensemble concerts.

As usual, the festival features a marvelous medley of musical styles -- contemporary jazz, traditional jazz, big band, blues and more -- and does so with an abundance of great artists, a plethora of wonderfully intimate venues, a schedule of staggering scale and exquisite ensemble concerts.

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 8:52 PM

March 12, 2007

Rachel Z, Tim Price Set For Shows at L'Arte della Vita

As released on the BerksJazzFest.com site, the Abraham Lincoln Hotel will be one of the "hot spots" for late-night jazz during the Berks Jazz Fest. The Lincoln management will transform the L'Arte della Vita restaurant into a jazz cabaret on both weekends of the festival, featuring top-notch entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights starting at 10 p.m.

Headlining on March 16 and 17 will be outstanding pianist Rachel Z and Berks County saxophonist Tim Price, who will team up with Rachel Z's trio for some great late-night jazz. No strangers to Berks Jazz, these two have given us marvelous shows at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base in recent years.

RachelZ_piano.jpgThrough the course of her career, Rachel Z has always managed to have it both ways. On the one hand, her recorded work presented an accomplished piano stylist with a gift for improvisation; on the other she marketed herself with the savvy of a rock performer. That is hardly surprising given her other gig as keyboardist to innovative rock artist Peter Gabriel. Z managed to present the music of Wayne Shorter and Joni Mitchell on successive albums in a way that gave equal musical weight to each and which matched its musical voice to its subject completely.

TimPrice.jpgIn the last few years, Tim Price has had the good fortune to have bands of his own featuring world-class players like Lew Tabackin, Rachel Z, Allison Miller, and Scott Lee. His stature at the North Sea Jazz Festival couldn't have been more prestigious with a backup band of Bennie Green on piano, Ray Drummond on bass, and Carl Allen on drums. Tim's special guest that night at the end of his set was Dutch superstar tenor titan Hans Dulfer.

Make your reservations now. Call 610-372-3700.

To learn more about these fantastic artists, please visit:

www.rachelz.com
www.timpricejazz.com

To learn more about the Berks Jazz Fest, visit www.berksjazzfest.com

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
MyGirlSunday@aol.com

Photos courtesy of : Michael Packard and the Berks Jazz Fest

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 1:26 AM

Berks Jazz Fest's Big Band Saturday

The FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest promises to bring back the vibe of the swinging '40s with its Big Band Saturday on March 24.

The first of two shows, Ladies of Jazz featuring Toni Lynne, Sharon Bailey, Suzie Ernesto with The Last Big Band, will be at 1 p.m. in The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom.

Later that evening, Trumpet Summit featuring Dave Stahl & His Big Band with special guest trumpeters Brian Lynch, Scott Wendholt and Alex Sipiagin takes the stage in the Abraham Lincoln ballroom at 8 p.m. Both shows are WEEU 75th Anniversary Celebration Concerts.

Tickets for the Ladies of Jazz show are $20; Trumpet Summit tickets are $25.

The Ladies of Jazz will take the audience on a musical journey of the great American songbook. Lynne was the recipient of the 2006 Frank Scott Award, presented by the Berks Arts Council. She's been singing for more than 40 years. Bailey is a freelance vocalist who leads several of her own ensembles. Her most recent CD, It Never Entered My Mind, was released in 2005 and has been getting great reviews. Ernesto and cousin, guitarist Ed McCartan, formed Relatively Speaking and released a CD titled Relatively Speaking & Friends, which includes bassist Gerald Veasley as a special guest.

The Last Big Band is a perennial favorite at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base. Trombonist Jim Zoller and trumpeter Roger Morgan have assembled 17 of the area's top musicians for this first-rate jazz orchestra. Along with the old chestnuts from the classic swing era, the band's repertoire includes contemporary big band charts, plus outstanding original charts from the band's own arrangers.

On saxes and woodwinds: Mike Solick, Ken Blekicki, Henry Frecon, Bob Fanelli, Chris Heslop, Phil Forlano; on trombone: H. Lee Southall, James Zoller, John Loos, Bill Schaller; on trumpet: Joe LoBalbo, Roger Morgan, Rick Lacey, Gene Umbenhouer; Dave Heck on piano; Bob Carl on bass; John Rozum on drums; and Mike Byrne on guitar. H. Lee Southall is the musical director.

The Trumpet Summit will be a high-energy show headed up by Berks County's Dave Stahl and his big band, sharing the stage with world-class trumpeters Lynch, Wendholt and Sipiagin. Stahl has performed as lead trumpet and as a soloist with many of the top bands in America. He reformed his own big band in 2001.

Lynch won the Best Latin Jazz Album 2006 Grammy award for Simpático, The Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project.

Wendholt is an articulate, passionate, and lyrical trumpeter who approaches music with energy and spirit. As a soloist, Sipiagin has seven recordings to his credit. Today, Sipiagin regularly performs, records and tours worldwide with Dave Holland, the various Mingus groups, and the Monday Michiru Band.

Don't miss these fun, high-energy shows at this year's Berks Jazz Fest.

To order tickets:
Visit the Sovereign Center Box Office, 7th & Penn streets, Reading
Visit the Sovereign Performing Arts Center Box Office, 136 N. 6th St., Reading
Call Ticketmaster at 215-336-2000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com
Order online at berksjazzfest.com
For more information on the festival, including artist bios, click on www.berksjazzfest.com
For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes all the arts in an effort to enrich the quality of life in Berks County, click on www.berksarts.org

Major ticketed events
Friday, March 16 -- Dave Brubeck Quartet, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $46 and $39
Friday, March 16 -- Downright Upright All-Stars featuring Brian Bromberg, Randy Brecker, Jeff Lorber, Gary Meek and Dave Weckl, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $32

Saturday, March 17 -- An Afternoon of Heads Up featuring Pieces of a Dream, Bobby Lyle, Marion Meadows, Alexander Zonjic, Gerald Veasley and Doc Powell, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $38 and $33

Saturday, March 17 -- Gerald Veasley's Electric Mingus Project featuring Gerald Veasley, John Swana, Chris Farr, Tony Miceli, Butch Reed and Pablo Baptista plus special guest John Blake Jr., Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $20

Saturday, March 17 -- Boney James, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $46 and $39
Saturday, March 17 -- An Evening of Heads Up featuring Pieces of a Dream, Bobby Lyle, Marion Meadows, Alexander Zonjic, Gerald Veasley and Doc Powell, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $38 and $33

Sunday, March 18 -- Nelson Rangell and Philippe Saisse plus Joyce Cooling, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 1:30 p.m., $25

Sunday, March 18 -- The annual Skip Norcott Concert, presented by the Reading Pops Orchestra, with special guest guitarist David Cullen, Kutztown University's Schaeffer Auditorium, 4:30 p.m., $20.

Sunday, March 18 -- Celebrating the Life & Music of Luther Vandross: Dionne Warwick, Kirk Whalum, Walter Beasley, Cissy Houston, Doc Powell, James "D Train" Williams, Paulette McWilliams, Buddy Williams, Tinker Barfield, Cindy Mizell and music directors Jason Miles and Nat Adderley Jr., Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7 p.m., $46 and $39.

Tuesday, March 20 -- Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band plus Berks High School All-Star Band, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $18 and $10 for students with ID.

Wednesday, March 21 -- The Rolling Stones Project featuring Tim Ries, Mike Davis, Bernard Fowler and Ben Monder, Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $30

Thursday, March 22 -- Greg Hatza ORGANization, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $12
Thursday, March 22 -- Mindi Abair, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $30
Thursday, March 22 -- Berks All-Star Jazz Jam featuring Rick Braun, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Richard Elliot, Nick Colionne, Warren Hill, Joe McBride, Steve Oliver, Rayford Griffin, Mindi Abair and Brian Bromberg, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $30

Friday, March 23 -- Pat Martino Quartet, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $28
Friday, March 23 -- Ann Hampton Callaway plus Denis DiBlasio Quintet, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, 7 p.m., $30
Friday, March 23 -- Keb' Mo' Band, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $40 and $34
Friday, March 23 -- 17th Anniversary Concert: Rick Braun & Friends featuring Richard Elliot, Jonathan Butler, Jackiem Joyner and Rayford Griffin, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $46 and $39

Friday, March 23 -- Bettye LaVette and Frank Bey & The Swing City Blues Band, Inn at Reading, 9:30 p.m., $28
Friday, March 23 -- Pat Martino Quartet, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 10:30 p.m., $28

Friday March 23 -- The David Sanborn Group, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $38 and $33

Saturday, March 24 -- Ladies of Jazz featuring Toni Lynne, Sharon Bailey and Suzie Ernesto with The Last Big Band, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, 1 p.m., $20

Saturday, March 24 -- "The Groove Boutique's" Rafe Gomez hosts Warren Hill and Nick Colionne, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 1:30 p.m., $38 and $33.

Saturday, March 24 -- Tribute to Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane: Kevin Mahogany featuring saxophonist David Liebman, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $28

Saturday, March 24 -- World Premiere Concert: Soul Summit featuring Jason Miles, Steve Ferrone, Bob Babbitt, Reggie Young, Sherrod Barnes, Barry Danielian, David Mann plus special guests Susan Tedeschi, Maysa Leak, Richard Elliot, Mike Mattison and Karl Denson, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $46 and $39

Saturday, March 24 -- Smokin' Joe Kubek featuring Bnois King plus Billy Price Band plus Deanna Bogart, Inn at Reading, 7 p.m., $35

Saturday, March 24 -- Trumpet Summit featuring guest trumpeters Brian Lynch, Scott Wendholt and Alex Sipiagin and Dave Stahl and his Big Band, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, 8 p.m., $25

Saturday, March 24 -- Tribute to Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane: Kevin Mahogany featuring saxophonist David Liebman, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 10:30 p.m., $28

Saturday, March 24 -- The Sax Pack featuring Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters and Steve Cole, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $38 and $33

Sunday, March 25 -- Chuck Loeb featuring the Berks Jazz Fest Horns plus the WJJZ All-Stars Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters, Steve Cole and Gerald Veasley, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 1:30 p.m., $25

Sunday, March 25 -- Guitars & Saxes featuring Gerald Albright, Tim Bowman, Jeff Golub and Kirk Whalum, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $46 and $39


Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 1:18 AM

February 25, 2007

Trio of Concerts Climaxes Berks Jazz Festival

A blockbuster trio of concerts climaxes the March 16-25 First Energy Berks Jazz Fest

The 10-day groove in Greater Reading climaxes with a trio of great shows -- An Evening With The Sax Pack featuring Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters and Steve Cole on Saturday, March 24, at 10:30 p.m. at the Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom; Chuck Loeb featuring The Berks Jazz Fest Horns plus the WJJZ All-Stars Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters, Steve Cole and Gerald Veasley on Sunday, March 25, at 1:30 p.m., also at the Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom; and An Evening With Guitars & Saxes featuring Gerald Albright, Tim Bowman, Jeff Golub and Kirk Whalum on Sunday, March 25, at 7 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Cathedral.

SaxPack.jpgThe Sax Pack ensemble of Kashiwa, Waters and Cole definitely puts the funk into teamwork. Kashiwa is one of the most energetic saxophone presences in smooth jazz. He is celebrated for his inventiveness with the sax. Waters also has had a robust solo career, selling close to half a million records. Through almost 20 years as a recording artist he remains the epitome of sexy, romantic cool. Cole, who rocketed to fame via his several-year side gig with Brian Culbertson, is one of contemporary jazz's hottest saxophonists.

ChuckLoeb_Promo.jpgChuck Loeb's gig featuring The Berks Jazz Fest Horns plus the WJJZ All-Stars is a particularly poignant event because it is the WJJZ Smooth Jazz 97.5 Fan Appreciation Concert. Thousands of smooth jazz listeners in the greater Philadelphia area were ecstatic when WJJZ came back on the air at 97.5 FM in November of last year after a three-month hiatus due to a format change by its previous station's management.

And who better to be the headliner for this special celebration than Loeb, the brilliant guitarist, renowned producer, master educator and perennial Berks Jazz Fest fan favorite? Kashiwa, Waters, Steve Cole and acclaimed bassist Gerald Veasley (another popular Jazz Fest staple) comprise the WJJZ All-Stars and undoubtedly will be joined by others by the time the concert hits the Sheraton stage. Proving that homegrown talent definitely can be big league are The Berks Jazz Fest Horns -- Bill Miller on trombone, Rob Diener on trumpet and Mike Anderson on sax.

The festival's closing concert features one of the most enduring but ever evolving all-star shows in the smooth jazz genre -- Guitars & Saxes. With the lineup the past 10 years rotating seemingly more frequently than the globe, the concept stays fresh because every year the four artists bring their own unique vibe, groove and musicianship to the ensemble.

Saxophonists Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum are two of contemporary jazz's most soulful and dynamic performers. Both spent several years touring with Jeff Lorber as part of the ongoing Groovin' for Grover phenomenon, paying tribute to the Philadelphia sax legend whose brilliant blend of pop, soul and jazz laid the foundation for the popular genre.

Jeff Golub's signature guitar sound is one of funky, blues-drenched smooth jazz. Fellow guitarist Tim Bowman, the brother of gospel star Vickie Winans, is equal parts smooth jazz and gospel. The musical director of The Winans in the 1980s, he segued to smooth jazz a decade ago and the genre is richer for it.

Among the other headliners at this year's festival are the Luther Vandross tribute featuring Dionne Warwick; the world premiere Soul Summit concert; Boney James; David Sanborn; Rick Braun; Richard Elliot; Jonathan Butler; Pieces of a Dream; Marion Meadows; Doc Powell; Dave Brubeck; Nelson Rangell; Philippe Saisse; Joyce Cooling; Pat Martino; Mindi Abair; Ann Hampton Callaway; Denis DiBlasio Quintet; Gerald Veasley’s Electric Mingus Project with John Blake Jr.; Kevin Mahogany; David Liebman; Warren Hill; Nick Colionne; Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band; The Rolling Stones Project featuring Tim Ries, Mike Davis, Bernard Fowler and Ben Monder; and the Berks All-Star Jazz Jam.

To order tickets:
Visit the Sovereign Center Box Office, 7th & Penn streets, Reading
Visit the Sovereign Performing Arts Center Box Office, 136 N. 6th St., Reading
Call Ticketmaster at 215-336-2000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com
Order online at berksjazzfest.com
For more information on the festival, including artist bios, click on www.berksjazzfest.com
For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes all the arts in an effort to enrich the quality of life in Berks County, click on www.berksarts.org

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 10:44 PM

February 24, 2007

Bromberg's 'Downright Upright All-Stars' show celebrates CD release

downright-cover-lg.jpgBrian Bromberg will be making his second appearance at the Berks Jazz Fest. And he will be bringing an exciting new project - The Downright Upright All-Stars.

The outstanding ensemble features Bromberg on acoustic bass, Dave Weckl on drums, Randy Brecker on trumpet, Jeff Lorber on keyboards and Gary Meek on saxophone. Now that's a hot band!

The concert is set for Friday, March 16, 10 p.m. at the Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom.

The concert celebrates the release of Brian's latest CD project Downright Upright which features Brian's return to the acoustic upright bass. The new CD is a project that Bromberg says will please the casual smooth jazz fans and the jazz purists.

Already released in Japan, Downright Upright is a return to the acoustic upright bass for Bromberg, which he last featured on the 2006 Wood II. But this record represents a unique progression from that lauded CD, which was laced with Bromberg’s innocent humor and embellished with solo Paul McCartney and Earth, Wind and Fire covers.

Once a drummer following the footsteps of his brother and father, a cellist until convinced to take up the bass during junior high orchestra practice, Brian Bromberg has become one of the most well-respected virtuoso bass players in jazz, thanks to his A-list studio and touring status as sideman, producer and leader of such diverse stylistic range.

The CDs will be available during the festival.

www.brianbromberg.net

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:55 AM

February 13, 2007

Berks Jazz Fest Update

The FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest offers one-of-a-kind shows to expand jazz lovers' horizons and touch their souls. Presented by the Berks Arts Council, the festival runs March 16-25 and features an abundance of great artists, more than 130 venues large and small, a schedule of staggering scale and amazing ensemble concerts. Featured here are just a few of the highlights you may not know about:


SOUL SUMMIT ENSEMBLE

This year brings another world-premiere show in Soul Summit on Saturday, March 24 at 7 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. This dazzling tribute to America's music has some of the hottest names in soul. The concert is being produced by music director and keyboardist Jason Miles, who is no stranger to producing unforgettable ensemble shows for the Berks Jazz Fest.

02_Susan%20Tedeschi%207684.jpgAlong with Miles, Soul Summit features vocalist/guitarist Susan Tedeschi; vocal artist Maysa Leak; saxophonist Richard Elliot; Derek Trucks Band vocalist Mike Mattison; funky saxman Karl Denson; trumpeter Barry Danielian; drummer Steve Ferrone; bassist Bob Babbitt; guitarist Reggie Young; guitarist Sherrod Barnes; saxophonist David Mann; and turntablist DJ Logic.

The concert finale will be a rousing tribute to the late James Brown, the Godfather of Soul. "It's only fitting that we close the concert with the music of James Brown," said Miles. "With these incredible musicians all on stage at the same time, it's going to be one heckuva finale. We also will be paying tribute to the late Herbie Mann and his legendary Memphis Underground project."

Miles' shows at the Berks Jazz Fest are always special, from “Miles to Miles: In the Spirit of Miles Davis” to last year’s all-star shows “The Music of Marvin Gaye and Motown” and “The Music of Ivan Lins.”

Known as “The Time Keeper,” legendary drummer Steve Ferrone has worked with an incredibly diverse group of artists, from Chaka Khan and Tom Petty to AWB, Duran Duran, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, David Sanborn, Scritti Politti and Jaco Pastorius.

Bassist Bob Babbitt established his name in the annals of R&B as a member of the legendary Funk brothers who played on so many of the great Motown hits by such legends as Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and Smokey Robinson.

With appearances on such legendary hits as “Son Of A Preacher Man,” “Slip Away,” “Suspicious Minds” and “In The Ghetto,” Reggie Young is arguably the most recorded guitarist in the history of music.

DJ Logic is the turntable master who has successfully mixed the turntable culture of hip-hop with classic jazz and soul. In addition to three solo CDs, he has also played with John Mayer, John Popper, Medeski Martin and Wood and others.

One of the funkiest guitarists on the planet, Sherrod Barnes’ resume as player and producer boasts two eras of soul divas with Roberta Flack and Beyonce.

Guest artists who will also join Soul Summit include famed smooth jazz saxophonist Richard Elliot (once called “The James Brown of Contemporary Jazz” by Jazziz Magazine); Grammy-winning guitarist Susan Tedeschi; R&B singer Maysa Leak (a longtime member of the U.K. soul collective Incognito who has several solo recordings to her credit); and Mike Mattison, best known as a lead singer of The Derek Trucks Band. He also has his own band called Scrapomatic.

Trumpeter/producer-arranger Barry Danielian has more than 15 years experience as a versatile sideman. David Mann will lend his expertise on the saxophone to this collaborative concert. Saxman Karl Denson is the leader of Tiny Universe, a highly energized funk band. He played with Lenny Kravitz before launching his solo career in 1992.

The show promises to be a brilliant tribute to soul, an original American art form born in the Mississippi Delta.

Continue reading about other one of a kind highlights to the Berks Jazz Fest, including Gordon Goodwin & the Big Phat Band, The Rolling Stones Project, and David Sanborn.

GORDON GOODWIN & THE BIG PHAT BAND

Montage-Web_000.gifThe FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest has always been dedicated to jazz education as well as entertainment. Each year, the festival's education committee arranges clinics, workshops and performances with world-renowned jazz musicians for local jazz students.

This year, the committee is pleased to present Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, whose dynamic sound has refocused the national spotlight on big bands. Goodwin is a champion promoter of the big-band sound on high school and college campuses, and his high-energy fusion Phat Band isn't your mother's big band.

They will be joined by the Berks High School All-Star Band for the Music Educators of Berks County Night, Tuesday, March 20, at 7 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. Tickets are $18, and $10 for students with ID. In keeping with their philosophy on educational outreach, Goodwin and his band will host a workshop before the concert. The Berks Jazz Fest places a strong emphasis on educational outreach. There will be at least five other educational workshops conducted by various artists throughout the festival.

Goodwin and his 18-member Big Phat Band will propel the listener on a journey through a myriad of styles: Latin, blues, swing classical, hard-hitting jazz and even a homage to Looney Tunes. The group has two Grammy-nominated albums out and The Phat Pack currently hitting the charts.

Goodwin is a three-time Emmy Award winner, a five-time Grammy nominee and recent winner of a 48th annual Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement for his arrangement of "The Incredits" from Pixar's "The Incredibles."

Members of the Big Phat Band have distinguished themselves as recording artists and soloists in the jazz field, including Eric Marienthal, Wayne Bergeron (also a Grammy nominee), Andy Martin, Bob Summers, Luis Conte, Bernie Dresel and Grant Geissman.

The Phat Band is: saxes - Eric Marienthal, Sal Lozano, Brian Scanlon, Jeff Driskill, Jay Mason; trumpets - Wayne Bergeron, Dan Fornero, Bob Summers, Dan Savant; trombones - Andy Martin, Alex Iles, Charlie Morillas, Craig Ware; drums - Ray Brinker, Bernie Dressel; AC & EL Bass - Rick Shaw; guitar - Grant Geissman,Carl Verheyen; percussion - Luis Conte, Brad Dutz; leader - Gordon Goodwin.

THE ROLLING STONES PROJECT

The Rolling Stones are coming to the FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest. To be more precise, The Rolling Stones Project featuring Tim Ries, Mike Davis, Bernard Fowler and Ben Monder is coming to The Abraham Lincoln Ballroom in downtown Reading on Wednesday, March 2,1 at 7:30 p.m.

TimRies.jpgRies, a veteran saxophonist who has been on several world tours with the Stones, and his band mates put a jazz touch to the Stones' classic rock songs. Ries is basking in an abundance of critical acclaim for his 2005 Concord Jazz CD debut The Rolling Stones Project. The 11-song collection not only salutes the Stones but also illustrates how fertile their songs are for jazz interpretations." I was shocked that this album came together the way it did, " Ries said. "To get all these performers and to put a jazz touch on the Stones’ songs, well, I've got to say that this project was a miracle.”

The CD featured guest spots by vocalists Sheryl Crow, Lisa Fischer, Norah Jones and Luciana Souza; jazz guitar icons Bill Frisell and John Scofield; keyboardist Larry Goldings; and Wayne Shorter's bass-drum team of John Patitucci and Brian Blade. There were also performances by Rolling Stones members Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ron Wood, who contributed the album cover art. Berks Jazz Fest fans will be fortunate enough to see this miracle of an album come to life at The Abraham Lincoln Ballroom when Ries takes center stage with three other jazz vets who made key contributions to the project -- trombonist Mike Davis, vocalist Bernard Fowler and guitarist Ben Monder -- to create a live experience called The Stones Meet Jazz.

Ries, who's also a composer, has extensive jazz roots. He has collaborated with such jazz artists as Phil Woods, Tom Harrell, Al Foster, John Patitucci, Dave Liebman, Danilo Perez, Maynard Ferguson and Red Garland. His other recording and performance credits include work with Donald Fagen, Paul Simon, Sheryl Crow, Lyle Lovett, Stevie Wonder, Incognito, Blood Sweat & Tears, Bob Belden and David Lee Roth.

Davis has also worked extensively with the Stones, in addition to performing and/or recording with Sheryl Crow, Keb’ Mo’, Lyle Lovett and The Bob Mintzer Big Band. Fowler also has been part of the Stones' experience, having done backing vocals on many of their recordings in addition to those by Herbie Hancock, Bonnie Raitt, Herb Alpert and George Clinton. Monder is one of most identifiable and sought-after stylists on the progressive jazz scene, an heir to the ethereal yet edgy approach of players such as John Abercrombie and Bill Frisell. Monder has been active as a sideman since 1984, working with Jack McDuff, Marc Johnson, David Binney, Paul Motian, Lee Konitz and Toots Thielmans.


DAVID SANBORN

david-sanborn.jpgDavid Sanborn, the six-time Grammy winning jazz/funk saxophonist, returns to the FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest for a third time, this time with The David Sanborn Group.

Sanborn’s sizzling funk-edged alto -- one of the most identifiable and often imitated sax timbres in contemporary music -- has influenced an entire generation of sax players, from Dave Koz to Euge Groove and Mindi Abair, and created a body of work that spans the genres of rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, pop and jazz

See the legendary saxman Friday, March 23, at 10:30 p.m., at the Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom. Tickets are $38 and $33.

Sanborn is experiencing something of a renaissance in the genre these days, thanks to the radio success of his 2003 Verve debut Time Again (his first release after a four-year hiatus) and 2005’s Closer, an ambitious disc featuring bassist Christian McBride, guitarist Russell Malone, Larry Goldings on electric piano and organ, vibist Mike Manieri and drummer Steve Gadd. He also reconnected with his smooth jazz audience via his participation on last fall’s Dave Koz And Friends At Sea cruise.

David Sanborn is both musician and artist - that rare breed of popular recording star as eager today as he was in his youth to continue pushing boundaries and to continue making music that challenges the mind as it rewards the heart and soul.

We hope to see you during this happy ten days known as the Berks Jazz Fest!

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 11:47 PM

Berks Jazz Fest Ticketed Events and Ticket Sales

The great thing about a ten day festival is the sheer number of shows and musical artists who can be a part of it, not to mention the staggering number of fans who will grace us with their presence from March 16th through 25th. As you can see by the listing, there are so many producers/composers/players -- musicians with roots in early jazz who have evolved and grown over the years to carefully blend the old and the new in innovative and exciting ways, as well as younger talent constantly arriving on the jazz scene.

MAJOR TICKETED EVENTS

Friday, March 16 -- Dave Brubeck Quartet, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $46 and $39

Friday, March 16 -- Downright Upright All-Stars featuring Brian Bromberg, Randy Brecker, Jeff Lorber, Gary Meek and Dave Weckl, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $32

Saturday, March 17 -- An Afternoon of Heads Up featuring Pieces of a Dream, Bobby Lyle, Marion Meadows, Alexander Zonjic, Gerald Veasley and Doc Powell, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $38 and $33

Saturday, March 17 -- Gerald Veasley's Electric Mingus Project featuring Gerald Veasley, John Swana, Chris Farr, Tony Miceli and Butch Reed plus special guest John Blake Jr., Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $20

Saturday, March 17 -- Boney James, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $46 and $39

Saturday, March 17 -- An Evening of Heads Up featuring Pieces of a Dream, Bobby Lyle, Marion Meadows, Alexander Zonjic, Gerald Veasley and Doc Powell, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $38 and $33

Sunday, March 18 -- Nelson Rangell and Philippe Saisse plus Joyce Cooling, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 1:30 p.m., $25

Sunday, March 18 -- Celebrating the Life & Music of Luther Vandross: Dionne Warwick, Kirk Whalum, Walter Beasley, Cissy Houston, Doc Powell, James "D Train" Williams, Paulette McWilliams, Buddy Williams, Tinker Barfield, Cindy Mizell and music directors Jason Miles and Nat Adderley Jr., Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7 p.m., $46 and $39.

Tuesday, March 20 -- Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band plus Berks High School All-Star Band, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $18 and $10 for students with ID.

Wednesday, March 21 -- The Rolling Stones Project featuring Tim Ries, Mike Davis, Bernard Fowler and Ben Monder, Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $30

Thursday, March 22 -- Greg Hatza ORGANization, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $12

Thursday, March 22 -- Mindi Abair, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $30

Thursday, March 22 -- Berks All-Star Jazz Jam featuring Rick Braun, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Richard Elliot, Nick Colionne, Warren Hill, Joe McBride, Steve Oliver, Rayford Griffin, Mindi Abair and Brian Bromberg, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $30

Friday, March 23 -- Pat Martino Quartet, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $28

Friday, March 23 -- Ann Hampton Callaway plus Denis DiBlasio Quintet, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, 7 p.m., $30

Friday, March 23 -- Keb' Mo' Band, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $40 and $34

Friday, March 23 -- 17th Anniversary Concert: Rick Braun & Friends featuring Richard Elliot, Jonathan Butler, Jackiem Joyner and Rayford Griffin, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $46 and $39

Friday, March 23 -- Bettye LaVette and Frank Bey & The Swing City Blues Band, Inn at Reading, 9:30 p.m., $28

Friday, March 23 -- Pat Martino Quartet, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 10:30 p.m., $28

Friday March 23 -- The David Sanborn Group, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $38 and $33

Saturday, March 24 -- Ladies of Jazz featuring Toni Lynne, Sharon Bailey and Suzie Ernesto with The Last Big Band, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, 1 p.m., $20

Saturday, March 24 -- "The Groove Boutique's" Rafe Gomez hosts Warren Hill and Nick Colionne, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 1:30 p.m., $38 and $33.

Saturday, March 24 -- Tribute to Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane: Kevin Mahogany featuring saxophonist David Liebman, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $28

Saturday, March 24 -- World Premiere Concert: Soul Summit featuring Jason Miles, Steve Ferrone, Bob Babbitt, Reggie Young, Karl Denson, DJ Logic, Sherrod Barnes, Barry Daniellan, David Mann plus special guests Susan Tedeschi, Maysa Leak, Richard Elliot, Mike Mattison and Karl Denson, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $46 and $39

Saturday, March 24 -- Smokin' Joe Kubek featuring Bnois King plus Billy Price Band plus Deanna Bogart, Inn at Reading, 7 p.m., $35

Saturday, March 24 -- Trumpet Summit featuring guest trumpeters Brian Lynch, Scott Wendholt and Alex Sipiagin and Dave Stahl and his Big Band, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, 8 p.m., $25

Saturday, March 24 -- Tribute to Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane: Kevin Mahogany featuring saxophonist David Liebman, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 10:30 p.m., $28

Saturday, March 24 -- The Sax Pack featuring Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters and Steve Cole, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $38 and $33

Sunday, March 25 -- Chuck Loeb featuring the Berks Jazz Fest Horns plus the WJJZ All-Stars Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters, Steve Cole and Gerald Veasley, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 1:30 p.m., $25

Sunday, March 25 -- Guitars & Saxes featuring Gerald Albright, Tim Bowman, Jeff Golub and Kirk Whalum, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $46 and $39

To order tickets: Visit the Sovereign Center Box Office, 7th & Penn streets, Reading Visit the Sovereign Performing Arts Center Box Office, 136 N. 6th St., Reading Call Ticketmaster at 215-336-2000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com Order online at berksjazzfest.com For more information on the festival, including artist bios, click on www.berksjazzfest.com For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes all the arts in an effort to enrich the quality of life in Berks County, click on www.berksarts.org

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 9:36 PM

January 19, 2007

Acclaimed Soul Vocalist Bettye LaVette Joins FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest Lineup

Critically acclaimed soul singer Bettye LaVette will join Frank Bey & The Swing City Blues Band for a rousing blues show during the 17th annual FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest.

Detroit native LaVette, lauded as one of the greatest soul singers in American music history, will bring her powerfully expressive voice and stage presence on Friday, March 23, at the Inn at Reading at 9:30 p.m. She will be replacing Tab Benoit, who developed a scheduling conflict. Tickets are $28.

Frank Bey, aka The Southern Gentleman of the Blues, is a natural at crowd pleasing. His rich and exquisite style is presented with such feeling that each member of the audience can relate to his or her own experience. He’s renowned for taking his audience on a trip down memory lane with a repertoire that includes such Blues and R&B classics as “Down Home Blues,” “The Blues is All Right,” “Tore Down,” “Ain’t That Loving’ You,” “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” and “A Change is Gonna Come.”

The Berks Jazz Fest runs March 16-25 at multiple venues throughout Berks County, and is presented by the Berks Arts Council.

The festival already features amazing star power in urban jazz saxophonist Boney James; legendary saxophonist David Sanborn; the ever-popular Guitars & Saxes featuring saxophonists Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum and guitarists Jeff Golub and Tim Bowman; esteemed pianist/composer/bandleader Dave Brubeck; saxophonist Nelson Rangell; keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist Philippe Saisse; guitarist Joyce Cooling; guitarist Pat Martino; saxophonist Mindi Abair; guitarist Chuck Loeb; singer/songwriter Ann Hampton Callaway; the Denis DiBlasio Quintet; bassist Gerald Veasley’s Electric Mingus Project with special guest violinist John Blake Jr.; vocalist Kevin Mahogany; saxophonist David Liebman; the Sax Pack featuring Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters and Steve Cole; saxophonist Warren Hill; guitarist Nick Colionne; mix master Rafe Gomez; Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band; and the Berks All-Star Jazz Jam featuring Rick Braun, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Richard Elliot, Nick Colionne, Warren Hill, Joe McBride, Steve Oliver and Rayford Griffin.

bettye-lavette-mitchell.jpgBettye LaVette has spent most the last four decades as a performer as something of a secret among soul aficionados. She's had minor hits: "My Man -- He's a Loving Man" in the '60s and "Right in the Middle of Falling in Love" in the early '80s -- but never reached the level of acclaim of Aretha Franklin or Diana Ross. But that may be changing.

The release of her 2005 album, I've Got My Own Hell to Raise, a collection of 10 covers by an eclectic range of contemporary female singer/songwriters, has garnered her praise for her soul-jarring vocal ability.

Recently nominated for two WC Handy Blues Awards in 2007, for B.B. King Entertainer of the Year and Soul Blues Female Artist of the Year, she was previously honored with a WC Handy Blues Award in 2004 for A Woman Like Me as Blues Comeback Album of the Year.
LaVette may be from Detroit, but the singers she most closely resembles are Southerners such as James Carr or Otis Redding -- powerful yet tender, and a little rough around the edges. She's aided by her four-piece band, which provides her with perfectly understated backup.

To order tickets:
Visit the Sovereign Center Box Office, 7th & Penn streets, Reading
Visit the Sovereign Performing Arts Center Box Office, 136 N. 6th St., Reading
Call Ticketmaster at 215-336-2000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com
Order online at berksjazzfest.com
For more information on the festival, including artist bios, click on www.berksjazzfest.com
For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes all the arts in an effort to enrich the quality of life in Berks County, click on www.berksarts.org

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 12:43 AM

January 16, 2007

An Afternoon and An Evening of Heads Up to sizzle on March 17th at the First Energy Berks Jazz Fest

The FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest and Heads Up International have been associated throughout the festival's run. Riding in tandem has produced a remarkable journey, one that reaches its zenith this year.   

The 17th annual Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 16-25 and features the best in contemporary jazz, traditional jazz, big band and blues at more than 130 events at venues, large and small, throughout Reading and Berks County.

An incredible day and night during that magical 10-day riff transpires on Saturday, March 17, with both An Afternoon and An Evening of Heads Up featuring Pieces of a Dream, Bobby Lyle, Marion Meadows, Alexander Zonjic, Gerald Veasley and Doc Powell. There will be two shows that Saturday at 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. at the Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom. Tickets are $38 and $33.

Doc Powell, a gifted guitarist, is the latest addition to this star-studded concert, rearranging his schedule to add even more juice to a high-energy endeavor. Powell also will be performing in the festival’s special tribute concert to Luther Vandross on Sunday, March 18, at 7 p.m. at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center.

Heads Up label president Dave Love is excited about showcasing a number of his high-profile artists in one spectacular Saturday setting at the Sheraton. "These are artists who rarely perform together in any other context, which promises an eclectic and exciting afternoon and evening of jazz," Love said. "The Berks Jazz Fest has provided the Heads Up label with the creative platform -- and the programming latitude -- to experiment with various styles and shades of the rich and multi-dimensional jazz spectrum."

And what Heads Up artists Love has to work with at the Berks Jazz Fest.

Doc Powell, a member of Luther Vandross' touring and recording band for many years, recently released his third CD project on Heads Up. Over the years he has traversed from one genre to another without losing a beat. He has contributed to over 125 recordings with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Teddy Pendergrass. He also has performed with such jazz greats as Lonnie Liston-Smith, Bob James, Grover Washington Jr. and Stanley Clark and with such gospel superstars as Shirley Caesar, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, Ce Ce Winans, Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin and Kirk Franklin.    

Pieces of a Dream is one of the most popular and enduring recording and touring ensembles in contemporary jazz. Its 15th and most recent album is 2006's Pillow Talk.

Pianist Bobby Lyle is a versatile songwriter, producer, arranger, musical director, music publisher, bandleader, sideman and tops all of that off by being a world-class performer. Lyle made jazz history with 2004's Straight and Smooth, the first CD ever to chart on Billboard's Jazz and Contemporary Jazz charts at the same time. He made his Heads Up debut in 2006 with Hands On.

Flutist Alexander Zonjic performs in over 100 shows a year and still finds the time to be a part owner of a Detroit nightclub and host of a popular five-day-a-week morning show on Detroit's Smooth Jazz V98.7. His latest Heads Up CD is 2004's star-studded Seldom Blues.

Saxophonist Marion Meadows has one of smooth jazz's hottest solo careers and also has been a celebrated sideman with Brook Benton, Eartha Kitt, Phyllis Hyman, The Temptations, Michael Bolton and Will Downing. His latest Heads Up work is 2006's Dressed To Chill

Gerald Veasley, one of contemporary's jazz's most prolific and versatile bassists, founded Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel. He launched his career with the late, legendary Grover Washington Jr. and has recorded for Heads Up since 1992's Look Ahead. He recorded At The Jazz Base! at the club in November 2004.

Among the other headliners at this year's festival are Boney James; David Sanborn; Guitars & Saxes featuring Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, Jeff Golub and Tim Bowman; Dave Brubeck; Nelson Rangell; Philippe Saisse; Joyce Cooling; Pat Martino; Mindi Abair; Chuck Loeb; Ann Hampton Callaway; Denis DiBlasio Quintet; Gerald Veasley’s Electric Mingus Project with John Blake Jr.; Kevin Mahogany; David Liebman; the Sax Pack featuring Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters and Steve Cole; Warren Hill; Nick Colionne;  Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band; and the Berks All-Star Jazz Jam.

Two very special ensemble concerts being produced for the festival by music director and keyboardist Jason Miles are:

Celebrating the Life and Music of Luther Vandross, the late, multi-talented singer/songwriter, will be Jason Miles, Doc Powell, co-music director Nat Adderley Jr., Dionne Warwick, Kirk Whalum, Walter Beasley, James "D Train" Williams, Cissy Houston, Lisa Fischer; Paulette McWilliams, Buddy Williams, Tinker Barfield and Cindy Mizell.

The world premiere Soul Summit concert, with a rousing tribute finale to the late James Brown, features Jason Miles along with Susan Tedeschi, Maysa Leak, Richard Elliot, Mike Mattison, Karl Denson, Barry Danielian, Steve Ferrone, Bob Babbitt, Reggie Young, Sherrod Barnes, David Mann and turntablist DJ Logic.

Another major ensemble event is the 17th Anniversary Concert, Rick Braun & Friends, featuring Richard Elliot, Jonathan Butler, Jackiem Joyner and Rayford Griffin.

Blues headliners include the Keb' Mo' Band, Bettye LaVette, Frank Bey & The Swing City Blues Band, Smokin' Joe Kubek, Bnois King, Billy Price and Deanna Bogart.

Indeed, the FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest has something special for everybody.

More infos at the Berks Jazz Fest site.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 12:31 PM

November 25, 2006

Berks Jazz Festival Announces 2007 Line-Up

BerksJazzFest_Logo.jpgFor most people, the chilly nip in November air signals that winter is just around the corner, but for jazz enthusiasts it means that spring can't be far off. For us, spring is synonymous with Berks Jazz Fest. Just as spring breathes new life into our surroundings, Berks Jazz Fest breathes new life in the form of music into our souls. As we eagerly anticipate the arrival of our music, we're reminded how dependent we are on this yearly renewal we call Berks.

Artists seem to enjoy returning to Berks as often as they can, making it fair to say that they, too, take something very special with them to last the whole year through. The festival dates are set for March 16 0- 25th, 2007, giving artists and fans alike yet another opportunity to renew friendships and add new fans, artists and experiences to their lists of treasured memories.

The line-up has been announced, and with the predictability of leaves tumbling to the ground in fall, some of us in the Jazz Circle began lining up at 8 AM (some before that) to purchase tickets at the Sovereign Center and the Sovereign Performing Arts Center in downtown Reading. Yes, it was a chilly morning, but it was worth the wait to get some good seats from which to listen and enjoy the music at the various venues featured this year. Others in the Jazz Circle were busily ordering tickets online or dialing into Ticketmaster. (Note: Jazz Circle membership is open to all. You can join during the festival or at other times throughout the year to enjoy the privilege of early ticket ordering as well as other membership features.)

Note: Jazz Circle Members began ordering tickets Saturday, November 25th. Tickets go on sale to the public on December 2nd at 10 AM. Ticket information and a link to artist profiles, written by our own Jonathan Widran, appear at the end of this article, as well as the dates of the major ticketed events.

Click below to read an excerpt from the Berks Jazz Fest website itself, giving a preview of artists and venues for ticketed events:

You don’t have to sift through a lot of clues to figure out why the FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest owns a timeshare among the world’s elite music festivals. The 17th annual Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 16-25, 2007, and features an abundance of great artists, a plethora of wonderfully intimate venues, a schedule of staggering scale and exquisite ensemble concerts.

As usual, the Berks festival features a marvelous medley of musical styles -- contemporary jazz, traditional jazz, big band, blues and more -- at more than 130 events at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Reading and Berks County. Once again, its star power could populate a good-sized galaxy.

DavidSanborn_BNL.jpg Among the spectacular featured artists are urban jazz saxophonist Boney James; legendary saxophonist David Sanborn; the ever-popular Guitars & Saxes featuring saxophonists Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum and guitarists Jeff Golub and Tim Bowman; esteemed pianist/composer Dave Brubeck; saxophonist Nelson Rangell; keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist Philippe Saisse; guitarist Joyce Cooling; guitarist Pat Martino; saxophonist Mindi Abair; guitarist Chuck Loeb; singer/songwriter Ann Hampton Callaway; the Denis DiBlasio Quintet; bassist Gerald Veasley’s Electric Mingus Project with special guest violinist John Blake; vocalist Kevin Mahogany; saxophonist David Liebman; the Sax Pack featuring Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters and Steve Cole; saxophonist Warren Hill; guitarist Nick Colionne; Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band; and the Berks All-Star Jazz Jam featuring Rick Braun, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Richard Elliot, Nick Colionne, Warren Hill and Joe McBride.

Then there are such soul-drenching blues artists as the Keb' Mo' Band; guitarist Tab Benoit; Frank Bey & Swing City Blues Band; electric guitarist Smokin' Joe Kubek featuring guitarist/singer Bnois King; vocalist Billy Price and his band; and pianist/saxophonist Deanna Bogart.

RickBraun_BNL.jpg A marquee attraction is the 17th Anniversary Concert, Rick Braun & Friends, that features the explosive trumpeter with powerhouse saxman Richard Elliot; gifted singer/guitarist Jonathan Butler; soulful saxophonist Jackiem Joyner; and dynamic drummer Rayford Griffin.

Now for the very special ensemble concerts being produced by music director and keyboardist Jason Miles:
DionneWarwick_BNL.jpg Celebrating the Life and Music of Luther Vandross, the late, multi-talented singer/songwriter, are Miles, co-music director and keyboardist Nat Adderley Jr.; legendary vocalist Dionne Warwick; guitarist Doc Powell; saxophonist Kirk Whalum; saxophonist Walter Beasley, vocalist James "D Train" Williams; vocalist Cissy Houston; vocalist Lisa Fischer; vocalist Paulette McWilliams; drummer Buddy Williams and bassist Tinker Barfield.

The world premiere Soul Summit concert features Miles along with vocalist/guitarist Susan Tedeschi; vocal artist Maysa; saxophonist Richard Elliot; Derek Trucks Band vocalist Mike Mattison; trumpeter Barry Danielian; saxophonist Andy Snitzer; drummer Steve Ferrone; bassist Bob Babbitt; guitarist Reggie Young; guitarist Sherrod Barnes and turntablist DJ Logic.

And there are even more special group concerts.

Both an Afternoon and an Evening of Heads Up features legendary Philadelphia-based super group Pieces of a Dream; pianist Bobby Lyle; saxophonist Marion Meadows; flutist Alexander Zonjic and bassist Gerald Veasley.

DavidBromberg_BNL.jpg The Downright Upright All-Stars feature bassist Brian Bromberg; drummer Dave Weckl; keyboardist Jeff Lorber; saxophonist Gary Meek; and trumpet and flugelhorn master Randy Brecker.

Tim Ries’ The Rolling Stones Project showcases Ries, the Stones’ saxophonist, playing Stones’ classics with a jazz interpretation along with trombonist Mike Davis, vocalist Bernard Fowler and guitarist Ben Monder.

The Trumpet Summit showcases a trinity of terrific trumpeters in Brian Lynch, Scott Wendholt and Alex Sipiagin performing with Dave Stahl, Reading's own esteemed trumpeter, and his Big Band.

So, as you can see, once again the FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest features a delicious smorgasbord of music!

Major ticketed events:

Friday, March 16 -- Dave Brubeck Quartet, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $46 and $39

Friday, March 16 -- Downright Upright All-Stars featuring Brian Bromberg, Randy Brecker, Jeff Lorber, Gary Meek and Dave Weckl, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $32

Saturday, March 17 -- An Afternoon of Heads Up featuring Pieces of a Dream, Bobby Lyle, Marion Meadows, Alexander Zonjic and Gerald Veasley, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $38 and $33

Saturday, March 17 -- Gerald Veasley's Electric Mingus Project with special guest John Blake, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $20

Saturday, March 17 -- Boney James, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $46 and $39

Saturday, March 17 -- An Evening of Heads Up featuring Pieces of a Dream, Bobby Lyle, Marion Meadows, Alexander Zonjic and Gerald Veasley, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $38 and $33

Sunday, March 18 -- Nelson Rangell and Philippe Saisse plus Joyce Cooling, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 1:30 p.m., $25

Sunday, March 18 -- Celebrating the Life & Music of Luther Vandross: Dionne Warwick, Kirk Whalum, Walter Beasley, Cissy Houston, Doc Powell, James "D Train" Williams, Lisa Fischer, Paulette McWilliams, Buddy Williams, Tinker Barfield and music directors Jason Miles and Nat Adderley Jr., Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7 p.m., $46 and $39.

Tuesday, March 20 -- Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band plus Berks High School All-Star Band, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $18 and $10 for students with ID.

Wednesday, March 21 -- The Rolling Stones Project featuring Tim Ries, Mike Davis, Bernard Fowler and Ben Monder, Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $30

Thursday, March 22 -- Greg Hatza ORGANization, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $12

Thursday, March 22 -- Mindi Abair, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $30

Thursday, March 22 -- Berks All-Star Jazz Jam featuring Rick Braun, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Richard Elliot, Nick Colionne, Warren Hill and Joe McBride, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $30

Friday, March 23 -- Pat Martino Quartet, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $28

Friday, March 23 -- Ann Hampton Callaway plus Denis DiBlasio Quintet, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, 7 p.m., $30

Friday, March 23 -- Keb' Mo' Band, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $40 and $34

Friday, March 23 -- 17th Anniversary Concert: Rick Braun & Friends featuring Richard Elliot, Jonathan Butler, Jackiem Joyner and Rayford Griffin, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $46 and $39

Friday, March 23 -- Tab Benoit and Frank Bey & Swing City Blues Band, Inn at Reading, 9:30 p.m., $28

Friday, March 23 -- Pat Martino Quartet, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 10:30 p.m., $28

Friday March 23 -- David Sanborn, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $38 and $33

Saturday, March 24 -- Ladies of Jazz featuring Toni Lynne, Sharon Bailey and Suzie Ernesto with The Last Big Band, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, 1 p.m., $20

Saturday, March 24 -- Warren Hill plus Nick Colionne, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 1:30 p.m., $38 and $33.

Saturday, March 24 -- Tribute to Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane: Kevin Mahogany featuring saxophonist David Liebman, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $28

Saturday, March 24 -- World Premiere Concert: Soul Summit featuring Jason Miles, Steve Ferrone, Bob Babbitt, Reggie Young, DJ Logic and Sherrod Barnes plus special guests Susan Tedeschi, Maysa, Richard Elliot, Mike Mattison, Barry Danielian and Andy Snitzer, 7 p.m., $46 and $39

Saturday, March 24 -- Smokin' Joe Kubek featuring Bnois King plus Billy Price Band plus Deanna Bogart, Inn at Reading, 7 p.m., $35

Saturday, March 24 -- Trumpet Summit featuring guest trumpeters Brian Lynch, Scott Wendholt and Alex Sipiagin and Dave Stahl and his Big Band, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, 8 p.m., $25

Saturday, March 24 -- Tribute to Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane: Kevin Mahogany featuring saxophonist David Liebman, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 10:30 p.m., $28

Saturday, March 24 -- The Sax Pack featuring Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters and Steve Cole, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $38 and $33

Sunday, March 25 -- Chuck Loeb featuring the Berks Jazz Fest Horns plus the WJJZ All-Stars Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters and Steve Cole, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 1:30 p.m., $25

Sunday, March 25 -- Guitars & Saxes featuring Gerald Albright, Tim Bowman, Jeff Golub and Kirk Whalum, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $46 and $39

To Read Artist Bios:
Visit http://berksjazzfest.com/artistsprofiles.asp

To Order Tickets:
Purchase online at www.berksjazzfest.com
Sovereign Performing Arts Center Box Office, 136 N. Sixth St., Reading, PA 19601
Sovereign Center Box Office, Seventh and Penn Streets, Reading, PA 19602

I hope to see you in March at the 17th Annual Berks Jazz Festival!!

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 7:54 PM

August 8, 2006

Brian Culbertson returning to home of Berks Jazz Fest for a Fall Concert

BrianCulbertson.jpgBrian Culbertson plans to return to Reading, Pennsylvania on October 28th for a special First Energy Berks Jazz Fest Fall Concert

When Brian Culbertson was an introverted 20-year-old just kick-starting his contemporary jazz career with his debut album Long Night Out, few would have imagined that he soon would become an extroverted showman known for his electrifying concerts.

His sensuous, melodic and high-energy style has forged eight hit albums and 20 No. 1 Radio & Records airplay singles in the ensuing 13 years. And he's smooth jazz's golden boy at the box office. His tickets sales are even hotter than his riveting live acts.

Consequently, Culbertson has been the darling of FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest audiences over the years. And the good news is that Culbertson is coming back to Reading for a special FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest Fall Concert.

"An Evening With Brian Culbertson" will be held Saturday, October 28th, at 8 p.m. at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 136 North Sixth Street.

Culbertson the live performer is a visual as well as an audio delight. At times he's swaying sensuously around his keyboards, simultaneously seducing his keys and the women in the audience. At other times he's bouncing around the stage with dynamic energy as he jams with the band. And then there are times when he grabs the trombone and blows hot and heavy with his horn section.

His latest album, It's On Tonight, was unabashedly produced to be a true "instrumental makeout record." Which triggered Jazziz magazine to rave, "With this album, which most effectively transfers that soothing eroticism to disc, he is officially become the Barry White of smooth jazz."

Actually, Brian Culbertson very much remains uniquely himself. And that one and the same Brian Culbertson is certain to enchant and entertain Sovereign Performing Arts Center patrons on October 28th.

Tickets are $39 and $34
Tickets can be purchased by:
Call TicketMaster at 215-336-2000. Press "1" for an automatic purchase. Press "0" to speak with an operator, who will complete your real-time transaction.

Stop by the Sovereign Center box office at 7th & Penn streets, Reading, Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Order online at www.ticketmaster.com

Hope to see you at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center!

Photo Credit: Lisa Taylor


Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 8:18 PM

July 30, 2006

Janita: The Whole Package

by Beverly Packard

SeasonsofLifeJanita.jpgOften a musical artist has a great voice, whether his own or the way he plays his instrument of choice; often there is a talent to compose compelling music, or write memorable lyrics that speak easily to your heart. Some artists are physically attractive and/or have just the right threads (think Nick Colionne, for instance), and some have a stage presence you want to bask in long after the concert has ended, so unparalleled is their ability to connect with the audience and provide a captivating visual affect by their movements and expressions. Only rarely would I expect to find all these things in the person of one artist.

I first met Janita through her publicist, who asked me to review her latest CD. Listening to the CD a couple of times, I realized the voice, the compositions and the memorable lyrics were all there. She sings clearly with a good range and at times a more breathy, sensual style that fits her songs perfectly. Besides singing words, she uses her voice quite effectively as an instrument, as well. Upon seeing her in concert twice – once at Zanzibar Blue in Philadelphia and once in downtown Manhattan at the J & R Music Festival, I saw that the stage presence, punctuated with her sweet countenance, attractive appearance, and genuine appreciation to be before us, rounded out the picture. Finally, having conducted a recent interview with her (below), the maturity and insight she demonstrates confirm my impression that she is a rather unique artist, and has the whole package.

A Finland-born singer who became a phenomenon in her own country by the time she was a teen, Janita settled in New York City ten years ago and has been working hard ever since, hoping, as every artist does, for that moment when the chance comes to touch the lives of many with her music. I believe her moment has arrived.

Her latest CD, Seasons of Life, is a well-blended variety of songs and moods. The songs have a wistful feel, beautifully expressing so many things felt by many women in their ‘seasons of life.’ (Perhaps by men, too, but I won’t speak for them.) She gives words to many things we feel but seldom express, so you’ll find yourself singing along to those songs that particularly catch you where you are in life. She captures not only the longings and discoveries women make along their journeys, but her lyrics also capture differences in men and women and how they typically approach relationships. Just reading the song titles gives you an idea this CD has been borne of the common kind of poignancy we all experience during our own seasons of hope and change.

Watching Janita perform was a pleasant and exciting experience for me after becoming familiar with her music. She sang two full sets at Zanzibar Blue, a well-known jazz club in Philadelphia with great cuisine and ambiance. She was obviously very happy to be there and perform; she was eager to sing as many songs as she could share with us that evening, and it was easy to see the crowd was mesmerized by her. The set list included, ‘That’s How Life Goes,’ ‘No Words,’ ‘I’ll Be Fine,’ ‘Enjoy the Silence,’ a favorite of many which has climbed onto the Radio and Record chart, ‘I Miss You,’ ‘I Can’t Get Enough of You,’ ‘I Only Want You,’ ‘More Than Fantasy,’ ‘Give Me A Sign,’ ‘Let Me Love You,’ ‘Heaven,’ ‘Bear With Me,’ ‘Angel Eyes.’ Band members were Jonathan Maron, bass; Daniel Sadownick, percussion; John Deley, keyboard; Tomi Sachary, guitar; and Tobias Ralph, drums.

Janita-NYC1.jpgThe show at the J & R Music Festival in New York City (shown in pictures here) featured many of these songs, and the only change in the band was bass player Nicholas D'Amato. Despite the oppressive heat of that day in June, Janita and band members showed no sign of wanting to slow down and the crowd only kept growing as her music drew people in. Janita shares easily with her audience in between songs, and one example was her telling us how thrilled she was to realize she was there, right now, at this festival, singing to us, that it was really happening!

Read on to see the interview and what Janita says about her early success, her impressions of the music scene in the states, her own development as an artist and her future hopes.

BJP: Welcome to SmoothVibes, Janita! You were successful in your singing career from teenage years in Finland. What made you want to come to the USA and is it all you hoped it would be?

Janita: By the time I was 16 I had already toured around Finland twice. It's a small country, so you end up performing at the same venues year after year... I guess I had always dreamed of an international singing career and was ready for a new challenge at 17. I am a pretty realistic person and have always been down to earth, so I didn't expect to be a success here in the States straight away. I was ready to work at perfecting my craft as an artist and I'm still a work in progress. I'm sure though that I've evolved way more in the New York environment than I ever would have in Finland -- the motivation to be as good as I can be is just that much higher, when there are so many other amazing artists around you. Moving to NY was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Janita-NYC2.jpgBJP: What are the main differences you find here as compared to Finland, especially in the world of music?

Janita: The biggest difference is the enormity of the music business in the States. There's so much money to be had if you make it big, that there's a lot of people in the business for the wrong reasons. In Finland on the other hand it's almost impossible to get rich as an artist -- you make a good living, that's it. In a way it's good that way, so you can't be motivated by the fortune and fame.

BJP: Who would you say influenced you most in your own musical development -- both important people in your life and also musicians you grew up with?

Janita: Tomi Sachary, my musical collaborator has definitely influenced me a great deal, since he's been involved in every song I've ever recorded. But in terms of people I've idolized, Michael Jackson was probably my biggest hero growing up. I was in LOVE with him: I had the life-size MJ bedspread and everything. Kinda iffy, now that I think of it... Musically I have also been influenced by Meshell Ndegeocello, Bill Withers, Astrud Gilberto, Prince, Stevie Wonder. Really, I think the list is endless.

BJP: Has your band been with you from the start here in the US or have they joined you more recently in your career?

Janita: My band is from the States and has been formed during the years I've spent in NY. It's still not a permanent entity, it changes depending on who happens to be in town and available for gigs, but I do have a couple of main-stays: Danny Sadownick, my percussionist, who's played with the likes of Maxwell and Incognito, Jonathan Marron, my bass-player, who's played with Meshell Ndegeocello and India.Arie and Tomi Sachary, my guitarist, who has worked with me since the beginning of my career.

Janita1.jpgBJP: From reading about you, I realize part of the transition you've gone through is to put your own poetry and writings to music. Can you tell us more about that transition?

Janita: I was a very shy girl at 13 when I first started my career and it never would have occurred to me then to show my lyrics or compositions to anyone. And as I gained more confidence through performances and being in the public eye, I guess I became even more introverted about my inner workings. I always knew that I wanted to write my own music, but I just couldn't bring myself to open up for the longest time. It took an accident, a scaffolding falling on me one day in NY to realize that life is fragile and I have to do what I want to do in life, now. We never know what life throws our way, so we have to be brave and put ourselves out there, so as not to regret not having done it later. Shyness is such a waste of energy!

I started writing songs immediately after that and have now realized that I can't live without that outlet for my emotions.

Janita3.jpgBJP: I find the lyrics and themes of your songs to speak so well to how, especially women, feel in various stages of a loving (or not so loving, as the case may be) relationship -- simple, direct, poignant words that say so many of the things I've thought and felt, but didn't put into words as easily as you have or to music as beautifully as you have. Do you find others telling you how they appreciate the way you truly have captured these 'seasons of life?'

Janita: Thank you for the compliment! Yes, love is something that truly inspires me to write, those emotions have always been the strongest for me. I'm very sensitive and I suffer from it sometimes, but feeling things so intensely is helpful for me in what I do. So I can't complain...

I have always admired Joni Mitchell for using metaphors so beautifully to express emotions, but I find that what works for me is being more direct about what I'm trying to say. It feels more honest for me to just say it like it is. People have certainly expressed to me that they have felt the same exact emotions as I have felt, which of course is the best compliment; that people have been able to relate. We are not so different after all!

BJP: You are the first singer since Basia that has left such an impression on me with the uniqueness of your voice and the way you use your voice as an instrument, as she often does. Is that mostly improvisation on your part when you're performing, or do you have most of that phrasing figured out ahead of time? (It always sounds great.)

Janita: Thank you again. : ) I tend to analyze some things in my life to the point of unhealthiness, but singing is something that has always come natural. I do it all day pretty much everywhere I go, which is why my voice is becoming something that's directly connected to whatever I'm feeling at whatever moment. I think it's the same with any musician who is completely obsessed with their instrument and play it all the time. It just becomes something you rarely think about, you just do it. I still have a long way to go, before I'm where I want to ultimately be as a singer, but the compliment you just gave me sure makes me feel good.

Janita2.jpgBJP: I haven't yet heard you're other CD, but I'm anxious to hear that, too. (I think it's called, I'll Be Fine?) How are the two CDs different?

Janita: I consider I'll Be Fine more upbeat than Seasons of Life -- it has a younger energy. I'm proud of both albums, but there is more maturity in my voice and lyrics on Seasons of Life. I'm constantly growing as a person and as an artist, which of course is natural for everyone and anyone... The changes that I'm going through now will probably be obvious when I do my next project. Albums are like footnotes and it's nice to be able to see so clearly where you've come, where you've been and where you're going as an artist. That's how I think of these two albums, they are representative of the emotions and thoughts I was feeling at the time.

BJP: What is happening now as a result of more people getting to hear you and the Seasons of Life CD? What opportunities are you getting these days?

Janita: I've been traveling a lot this year and have been busy with shows and interviews, which I thoroughly enjoy. I'm in the beginning now with promoting this album and feel like this is the first fair chance in 10 years to get my voice heard in this country. It's been a struggle to get ahead and I know I'm really lucky to have gotten this far. There are so many awesome artists that I know, who are as deserving of what I'm experiencing now as me. I'm certainly going to do my best to enjoy all of these experiences to the fullest, and with this album pave the way for all my future projects. Lots of interesting opportunities are in the air and every time we do a show, something new pops up. There is no short-cut, everything is happening very organically, but right now, I wouldn't have it any other way.

BJP: What are your hopes for the future? Are you continuing to write your poetry with an eye to putting it to music? Do you write the melody lines or how do you collaborate with band members to write the songs?

Janita: I'd like to keep doing what I'm doing, hopefully increasingly successfully. Helen Keller said: "Life is either daring adventure or nothing at all." I have certainly experienced both sides of life, but right now I'm living just the right amount of adventure and I'd like to keep it that way.

I've been writing actively for some time now and have lots of ideas for a new album. I almost feel like I've gone backwards a little, that I'm not as mature as I used to be, which I find kinda weird. I guess life works that way sometimes. All of this will be going into the new project, which I will likely be writing with Tomi Sachary, my guitarist and long-time collaborator. I write the lyrics and together we work out the melody lines.

Janita-NYC3.jpgBJP: You're very comfortable on stage and your dancing and movements complement the music very well. How do you get yourself ready for a performance and what are you thinking when you're on stage? Does someone in the band help keep you focused on where you're going next in the performance?

Janita: We have great chemistry as a band and I love hanging out with the boys before and after the show. There's lots of joking around and I'm often laughing hysterically at their antics. We are way more serious on stage and I know my band-mates want to be as good as they can possibly be, I never have to worry about them. I guess all I really have to worry about on stage is doing the best I can to relate the song to the audience and hopefully make them feel like they understand what I'm saying. When I go and see performances of other artists, I'm always impressed most by the ones that make you feel like you've bonded with them on some level. That's what I'm hoping to do too.

Also, one of the most important things about performing is that you have to be in the moment -- you can't be thinking about what you're gonna have for dinner, cause otherwise you lose your energy and your intensity.

BJP: What kind of music do you find yourself listening to in your life now?

Janita: All my life I've listened to a lot of soul, R&B and hip hop, but right now I find myself listening to a lot of rock and folk music, which indeed can be very soulful too. I for example have Death Cab for Cutie, Travis, Neil Young, The Weepies, Patty Griffin and Gnarls Barkley on heavy rotation in my iPod. I know they are all very different from the music that I make, but I'm also hoping to be influenced by all of them in some way. Meaningful and interesting lyrics and heartfelt songs is what all these artists have in common. My taste in music is very broad these days.

On a personal note, I want to spread the word about Milton Nascimento, (listen to Tudo Voce Podia Ser) who is someone I only discovered recently, though he's been around for a while. I think that his is some of the most emotional music I've ever heard, even though I don't even understand the lyrics. Just beautiful!

BJP: That is so interesting -- I'll definitely look him up, it reminds me of how I feel about Amedeo Minghi from Italy -- beautiful music, and even though I have no idea what he's singing, it doesn't matter!

BJP: Before we stop, is there anything you'd like to communicate to your fans?

Janita: Yes. : ) My album Seasons of Life is in stores now and I'll be doing shows around the States to promote it. Fans of my music can sign up on my website www.janita.com to receive advance notification of my upcoming performances in their area. Peace of mind and happiness to all!

BJP: It’s been great talking with you, Janita and I wish you the very best in all your future projects, and I’ll be watching for them!

Janita: Thank you so much for your kind comments, I really appreciate it.

Janita%26Beverly2006.jpgHappy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Photos of Janita compliments of Janita.com
Concert photos credits: Rachel Henry

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 11:50 PM

July 20, 2006

Rippington's 20th Anniversary Tour Coming to Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base

RussFreeman.jpgIf you've never heard the Rippingtons up close and personal, here is a great opportunity to do just that! What a great venue in which to hear a band that has helped set the standard for innovative and dynamic music in jazz over the last two decades. Tickets will go fast, so don't delay!

The Rippingtons 20th Anniversary Tour featuring original band members Russ Freeman, Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Reid, Kim Stone, Bill Heller and Dave Karasony is coming Saturday, August 19th to Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel.

The Ripps will be performing two spectacular shows on that special evening at 7 and 10 p.m. Tickets are $30 per show. Seating is limited to 140 per show.

The Rippingtons, founded by Russ Freeman in 1987, pioneered the smooth jazz landscape and have been a dominant presence in contemporary music ever since.

Their groundbreaking album, Moonlighting, was voted the No. 1 Most Influential Contemporary Jazz Album of all time by Jazziz magazine.

But Moonlighting was only the beginning of memorable Rippington music. Such hit recordings as Kilimanjaro, Tourist in Paradise, Welcome to the St. James Club, Curves Ahead, Weekend In Monaco, Live in L.A., Sahara, Brave New World, Black Diamond, Topaz, Live Across America, Life in the Tropics, Let It Ripp! and Wild Card kept embellishing their legacy one disc at a time.

To mark their 20th anniversary milestone, Freeman, true to his creative and innovative spirit as a composer and producer, opted not to merely crank out a greatest hits package. Instead, he concocted the exciting idea of an all-star Ripps class reunion.

So in addition to a celebratory tour, he came up with a remarkable new CD/DVD package that includes a CD of all news Ripps music and a DVD featuring a colorful retrospective as well as exciting videos from over the years. He gathered all Rippingtons recording and touring members past and present to alternate on 10 brand new compositions and a sizzling medley featuring newly recorded snippets of nine classic Ripps cuts. The end result is a marvelous medley of music simply but aptly entitled The Rippingtons 20th Anniversary.

Performing at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base will be a Ripps reunion group featuring such accomplished artists as Freeman on guitar, saxophonist Jeff Kasahiwa, percussionist Steve Reid, bassist Kim Stone, keyboardist Bill Heller and drummer Dave Karasony.

When Freeman started the band, he vowed it would never break up -- that it would survive the inevitable personnel changes and evolve its sound naturally over time. He didn't break that vow.

So Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel on August 19th promises to be hosting a magic moment in time when patrons can savor where The Rippingtons have been and rejoice that they still are vibrant, creative and excited about the future.

Tickets are $30 each show. Seating is limited to 140 per show.

Tickets can be purchased by:

Calling CD Exchange at 610-777-2310 to order by phone.
Stopping by the CD Exchange, 360 E. Wyomissing Ave., Mohnton, PA, during regular business hours Tuesday through Saturday.
Stopping by Thursday nights at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel.
Ordering online at www.berksjazzfest.com

We hope to see you at the show! The Jazz Base is sure to become one of your favorite venues, if it isn't already!

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsyvania

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:15 PM

April 26, 2006

A Night With Chieli Minucci and Special EFX:

An Interview With Chieli Minucci About His New DVD.

ChieliDVDCover.jpgThe first ever DVD of Chieli Minucci live with Special EFX is scheduled for release May 2nd, 2006. Filmed at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre in Toronto, Canada, Shanachie record company refers to it as ‘a tour-de-force live performance from contemporary jazz guitarist-extraordinaire and Special EFX founder Chieli Minucci.' The DVD features Chieli Minucci and the full Special EFX band, with Chieli on electric and acoustic guitars; Jerry Brooks on bass, Lionel Cordew on drums, Jay Rowe on keyboards, Philip Hamilton on vocals and percussion, and David Mann on saxophones and flute.

I caught up with Chieli as he was laying down three guitar tracks for Roger Smith, recording artist, songwriter, producer and keyboard player for Tower of Power, an exciting project! We soon settled into the interview, focusing on the rewards of having at last recorded a live performance, start to finish, of the full Special EFX band.

Chieli talked about what motivated him to do this DVD. “We’ve been trying to do this for 22 years! Back then, when we almost had a chance at recording a live performance, the record company actually backed down at the last minute, because they felt the music wouldn’t be consistent with what people wanted to hear on radio.”

“ I wanted to do the DVD for the fans, of course, and also for promotional reasons. Right now we’re trying to get group work in Europe, where they’re more inclined to book you if your music is more straight ahead or jazz fusion; they’re not inclined toward ‘smooth jazz.’ Having the DVD is a way to show them what a band like Special EFX is all about, that we’re contemporary instrumental music and we can deliver what they’re looking for.”

Chieli and Special EFX, along with Pamela Williams and Kim Waters, were given an opportunity by Black Entertainment Television to record in this studio, located on Toronto Inner Harbor on Lake Ontario. The Harbourfront Centre Theatre has as its vision ‘a vibrant home for the culture of our time, inspiring people through the magic of the creative spirit.’ Its mission is ‘to nurture the growth of new cultural expressions, stimulate Canadian and international interchange and provide a dynamic, accessible environment for the public to experience the marvels of the creative imagination.'

Chieli said, “Basically, it’s a ‘no frills’ performance in that it doesn’t include things like interviews, but it’s nicely done, and beautifully filmed. It’s a basic performance and a good way to show what Special EFX is about.” Indeed, the studio has a striking ambiance; the lighting and camera work enhance the show immensely. The superimposed images and the effective movement between the players demonstrates the work of seasoned professionals.

Chieli explained how doing a DVD is different and more challenging than doing a CD. “It’s totally different, in that, on the DVD, it’s simply us performing live. You get something reflecting your performance that day. In CD production, you have more control, in that you can change and tweak things.”

I wondered how each song was played, whether it was all in the order shown on the DVD, and whether or not there was an audience. Chieli explained, “Well, there were about six people in the audience -- just the tech crew! We were followed by Pamela Williams, and we got a late start because our equipment wasn’t quite ready and so we played straight through, from ‘Courageous Cats’ to the last one, ‘Cruise Control.’ We’d play two songs and then take about a fifteen minute break, and then continue with two more songs. We intended to include ‘Kickin’ It Hard’ at the end, but simply ran out of time.”

EFXband.jpgChieli started off with exquisite lead-in solo guitar work on both 'Courageous Cats' and then on 'Speak to Me,' each eventually finding its way to the familiar sounds of these two favorites of Special EFX fans. They continued with 'Daybreak,' a breathtaking song from earlier days of Special EFX which features Philip Hamilton’s awesome vocals and percussion, which began in dim light, then gradually brightened, for an engaging effect.

'Body Beat' contained simply amazing solos on the part of each player. It was captivating the way the band punctuated Lionel Cordew’s drum solo, which was impressive. Chieli says it was “decided on the spot that these solos would be done, just improvisation from one musician to the other.” Besides this highlight of the performance, Chieli’s work with Philip Hamilton on ‘Speak to Me,’ where Chieli’s guitar and Philips vocals speak back and forth was so enjoyable and entertaining to watch.

'Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers,' by now a Chieli signature song (composed by Stevie Wonder), was, as always, hauntingly beautiful, especially with the way Chieli can make the guitar cry. 'Still Waiting' showcased the raw musicianship of each performer with its complexity. The popular radio hit 'Cruise Control,' which by now has evolved into an extremely high energy number, was a terrific ending to the entire performance.

David Mann and Jay Rowe each added so much to the performance with exhiliarating solos, and the rest of the band, as usual, came through with steady and solid playing throughout the performance. Each song had an outstanding ending. Watching the way images of each player were superimposed on each other made each song so fascinating. One of my favorite shots was of Chieli's guitar playing superimposed on a shot of Jerry Brooks' talented bass-playing -- that was a stunning section of the DVD.

Watching Chieli’s face was, in itself, a highlight of the show. He communicates that intense effort, the sheer concentration, the feeling of confidence/triumph when he knows he’s playing just the way he wants to play. I wondered if it feels like a lot of pressure or is it just plain fun? “It’s what I do, it’s what we do as musicians. We’re just out there playing the songs, letting them take us where they take us. We have cues to each other that aren’t obvious to most people who would be in the audience, so we know where we’re at.”

I wondered how Chieli felt after the performance, and whether he realized the band had delivered a truly superb performance on everyone’s part? “I felt comfortable that we performed well,” he commented. Chieli didn’t see the show right away, having to be whisked off to another performance. “Later, I went through it with a fine-toothed comb to be sure it was ready for release, and although there were a few things to fix (i.e. an electronic noise that came from ‘somewhere,’ which had to be replaced with a more fitting instrumental sound), basically the DVD is intact as it was recorded.”

Chieli is pleased with the DVD and sees this live performance recording as be a steppingstone to a follow up Chieli Minucci with Special EFX CD which promises to feature the same level of improvisational style that’s on the recording. A goal of Chieli’s is to have the record company be able to focus on Chieli’s name in the context of the Special EFX name. This is a change from the time Special EFX was associated with George Jinda, percussionist extraordinaire and former partner in Special EFX, who passed away in 2002.

One of the most interesting things I learned about Chieli during our interview is that, contrary to what I thought, he does not have that ‘perfect plan’ for each song driving the performance, being so careful and making sure everything is ‘just right.’ Instead, he’s happy to have the initial plan and then go with that and see where it takes him and the members of the band, being admittedly vulnerable while reaching to the limits of their capabilities. “Some songs are played as they’re written,” he said, “but then there are embellishments that are added, and as they’re played, we keep making changes as we go along.” That leaves me with only one conclusion as to how a performance such as this can appear so perfectly orchestrated: Chieli and Special EFX are simply that good at what they do.

Projects that are coming up for Chieli include participating in fellow Special EFX band member Jay Rowe’s ‘Smooth Jazz for Scholars,’ to be held on April 29th in Milford, Connecticut. “It’s been a successful fundraiser and a lot of fun, and many other artists are also participating: Marion Meadows, Jeff Kashiwa, Nelson Rangell, Rohn Lawrence and others.”

chielicruise.jpgChieli will also have the pleasure of having his son Gianluca join him in playing bass on a number with the band on May 5th at the Intermedia Arts Center in Huntington, New York. In addition to other shows that are scheduled (please visit www.chielimusic.com to check them out!), the most exciting thing coming up is the ‘Chieli Minucci and Musicians for a Cause' November cruise, sailing out of Miami, to benefit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The cruise, hosted by Chieli himself, will feature artists Jay Beckenstein (leader of Spyro Gyra), Kim Waters, Gerald Veasley, Phil Perry, and Slow Train Soul.

And as if he’s not busy enough, fans can begin to anticipate that, as Chieli says, “during the summer, I’ll be writing and recording my next CD, Chieli Minucci with Special EFX." Doesn’t that sound like the Chieli we all know?

To learn more about Chieli Minucci and Special EFX, and to order the DVD for yourself, go to www.chielimusic.com.

To visit the location of the DVD recording studio, go to www.HarbourfrontCentre.com

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Photos Compliments of Chieli Minucci

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 10:17 PM

April 4, 2006

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: All Star Jam

Berks2006_AllStarJam.jpgThe First Energy Berks Jazz Fest All Star Jazz Jam lived up to its reputation once again this year. Arranger and producer of the event is the multi-talented guitarist Chuck Loeb, a regular at Berks who can be counted on to take the all star jam to the limit of every jazz fan's wildest imaginations. This year he had nothing less than the most outstanding musicians on stage. And as usual, the blending of the musicianship and personality of each player translated into total captivation for fans. The way the songs flowed seamlessly one into the other was quite impressive. It seemed this group of players have been playing together every week, but the ability to come together for a short period of time and put on such a great performance as this one is simply a testimony to the talent of each player invited to join the All Star Jam.

Berks2006_AllStarJam2.jpgMany of the performers are seen each year at this show along with Chuck Loeb -- people like keyboardist Joe McBride, saxophonist Kenny Blake, bassist Gerald Veasley, trumper player Rick Braun. The rest of the players are drawn from others who are in town for their own shows, and this year we were fortunate to have well known talent Richard Elliot and rising star Eric Darius on saxophone, the very talented Nelson Rangell on flute (absolutely awesome on piccolo) as well as saxophone, favorites Chieli Minucci and Ken Navarro on guitar, keyboard great Tom Koster along with Vital Information-mate Steve Smith, widely acclaimed as one of the top drummers in the world. Talented Special EFX keyboard player Jay Rowe also sat in for part of the evening. Singer Kurt Elling joined the group for a great rendition of Bye Bye Blackbird. Of course, Joe McBride always sings at least one song, and this time it was My Funny Valentine.

Berks2006_AllStarJam3.jpgThere were so many highlights the show. Artists were paired together out front, soon joined by others, for familiar songs and always there were those opportunities to get everyone involved in improvisational playing which took the songs over the top. It's truly amazing to watch what each artist is going to do when it is his turn to solo. There were no disappointments!

There were great renditions of Tequila, which was a lot of fun with the audience participating by shouting out 'Tequila' at the appropriate times. Other favorites played were Sugar, Chameleon, Grover Washington, Jr.'s beloved Mr. Magic, Sonny, ending with Now's The Time.

What a great night of music and how thrilling to see the favorites of so many of us all on stage together. It's a memory that will linger for a long time to come, no doubt until the next Berks All Star Jazz Jam 2007 memory takes its place.

If you've never been to the All Star Jam, don't miss it next year. It's always on Thursday evening of the Berks Jazz Fest, and you can get a combined ticket to cover the Jam, a Meet the Artists event, as well the earlier show of the evening which always features great headliners, such as this year's show with Chieli Minucci and Special EFX, featuring Ken Navarro and Nelson Rangell.

The latest CDs of all the artists are:

Chuck Loeb, When I'm With You

Kenny Blake, Tom's Diner
Rick Braun, Yours Truly
Eric Darius, Just Getting Started
Richard Elliot, Metro Blue
Kurt Elling, Live in Chicago Out Takes
Tom Koster, Vital Information
Joe McBride, Texas Hold 'Em
Chieli Minucci, Got It Goin' On
Ken Navarro, Love Colored Soul
Nelson Rangell, Soul to Souls (not yet released)
Jay Rowe, Red Hot & Smooth
Steve Smith, Vital Information
Gerald Veasley, At the Jazz Base

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Photo Credits: Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 7:42 PM

March 27, 2006

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Tribute To Wes Montgomery

Berks2006_WesTributeChuckLo.jpgThe festival was concluded by the star-studded Tribute To Wes Montgomery concert, celebrating the music of the late great Wes Montgomery. The evening was put together by guitar player Chuck Loeb and featured a stunning array of world class guitar players. Lined up for the first song were Russell Malone, Paul Jackson Jr., Pat Martino, Chuck Loeb, Jimmy Bruno, Earl Klugh and Larry Carlton - pretty impressive, isn't it? They were backed by Wolfgang Haffner on drums, Will Lee on bass and Matt King on keys. All players had a personal relationship with Wes Montgomery, often having met him personally. Needless to say, the playing of all those artists was profoundly influenced by this seminal player. Especially Pat Martino, who met Wes at the tender age of 14 for the first time, this being an encounter which had an impact on his professional life, then meeting a second time a few years later, after a nightclub show together with Grant Green, George Benson, Les Paul who were standing outside discussing - so you know where this music is coming from! It almost felt like a history lesson in music by people who were personally involved. Additionally, Chuck Loeb managed to track down Montgomery’s family, and his son Robert came to the stage, speaking a few touching words about his father whom he lost much too early. All the players chose their favorite songs from the Wes library and brought their renditions, each with his own spin and style of playing. Most of the players were straight ahead players, especially Jimmy Bruno, Pat Martino and Russell Malone strutting their stuff, while Paul Jackson Jr. proved to be an accomplished jazz guitarist, retaining his crossover appeal. Larry Carlton couldn't help but play a blues number, while Earl Klugh delivered a beautiful song on acoustic guitar showing masterful playing of the highest level. Chuck Loeb held it all together and proved to be a very consummate musician which I hold in high esteem. Another superlative show which was one of its kind and a special opportunity to witness.

Berks2006_WesTribute.jpg

Posted by Peter Böhi at 2:13 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Bona Fide, Slim Man

Berks2006_SlimMan.jpgBona Fide is a group which revolves around Tim Camponeschi, aka Slim Man, a singer and bass player. The band includes George Hazelrigg on keys, John E. Coale on drums and Kevin Levi on sax. All vocal numbers were tagged as Slim Man, while all instrumentals where played under the banner of Bona Fide, a funky outfit which records for HeadsUp Records. Slim Man started his career a long time ago and his romantic songs have graced the airwaves for quite a while. Bona Fide was founded in 1999, starting out with Joe Ercole on keys who was replaced with young George Hazelrigg since the last CD. They were alternating between Slim Man songs and Bona Fide instrumentals which turned out to be a good mix to provide an entertaining show. Bittersweet songs like "Angela" and "End Of The Rainbow" received an enthusiastic response from the audience, while the instrumental songs featuring great keyboard and sax soloing over the funky foundation of bass and drums proved that Bona Fide is not a short lived side project of Slim Man. Slim Man turned out to be a witty guy as well entertaining the crowd with his dry humor with a love for good red wine which was consumed by all band members during the show, also to celebrate the birthday of George Hazelrigg, who was nicknamed "Birthday Boy" that day. The club setting was great for this band and I enjoyed this concert thoroughly.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 1:53 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Paul Jackson, Jr.

Berks2006_PaulJackson2.jpgSunday morning the WJJZ Smooth Jazz Sunday Brunch at the Sheraton Hotel was on. This event includes a brunch with a rich buffet, with people seated at tables which hold 10 people. After all have eaten the show takes place; it’s always a good way to meet and greet people. This year guitar player Paul Jackson Jr. was responsible to entertain us and he did a good job as always. He was supported by his top notch touring band and played a string of hits from his previous albums. He is a witty guy and his "back in the day" rap went down very well with the crowd who obviously could relate to what he was saying. His musical reference to these days gone by with covers of great R&B classics delighted the audience and his fluid guitar playing was a joy to hear. I love the way he brings out a melody, improvises around it never losing sight of the original song, with nice dynamics making it interesting and entertaining. Of the three keyboard players he had in the band two turned out to be great sax players as well contributing solos on the alto and tenor sax respectively. This was an outstanding show by one of the premier guitar players of our time. Unfortunately, I had to miss the encore to catch the next show which started right over at the Jazz Base.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 1:50 PM

March 26, 2006

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Late Nite Jam

Berks2006_LateNiteJam.jpgDuring the festival a raffle was held to support the Berks Arts Council, with the winner getting four tickets for the upcoming Brian Culbertson cruise. All people holding a raffle ticket were admitted to this show which started at 1am at the Sheraton and was hosted by guitar player Nick Colionne, backed by the band of Brian Culbertson which just had finished their show an hour earlier. Nick is not only a superb guitar player but also a witty person and funny guy to boot. This show was a lot looser and destined to be more wild than any show before it. Nick kicked off the concert with some flashy playing over a funky groove laid down by the band before surprise guest artists started to drop in. One of them was Brian Culbertson who played mainly the trombone, then unexpectedly Alan Hewitt showed up and played one of his songs at the keyboard, before other people came to the stage. One of them was sax player Kim Waters, who played the drunken man with a bottle of beer in his hands, which was critically examined and passed around by the other band members, before he went to the keyboard to play. Shows that Kim Waters is a dedicated keyboard player and despite the state he was in played some nice notes there leaving his sax at home. Eric Darius showed up as well, playing some cool sax, and Gerald Veasley, delivering a great bass solo, so we received a superlative and above all a funny, not too serious show which was utterly entertaining.

Photo credit: Michael Packard

Posted by Peter Böhi at 1:43 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Triad feat. Steve Oliver, Michael Paulo, Gerald Veasley

Unfortunately I was not able to attend the show by Triad consisting of Steve Oliver on guitar, Michael Paulo on sax and Gerald Veasley on bass because it collided with other shows. At least I was able to catch the last two songs of their show which took place at the Jazz Base, a cozy club in the Sheraton Hotel, being the musical home base of Gerald Veasley. They played Grover's "Mr. Magic" as an encore which was just great. Steve Oliver did some scatting and singing in a way which reminded me of Bobby McFerrin - I am eager to see how this talent of his will develop in the future. Besides, he played a cool guitar solo employing a few different effects giving the song a cool twist before the sax of Michael Paulo kicked in again to bring the song to an end. The audience didn't want to let them go, and the players seemed to be in the mood to continue, so they were asking for guest artists in the audience to sit in with the band. Trumpet player Rick Braun volunteered to join the band, and together they played another song which brought an apparently outstanding concert to its end. Too bad I couldn't attend it during its full length.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 1:35 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Brian Culbertson, Eric Darius

Berks2006_CulbertsonDarius.jpgAfter the Ivan Lins show we rushed over to the Sheraton where more great music was waiting for us. Crowd pleaser Brian Culbertson with special guest Eric Darius on sax were on. I arrived just in time for the start of the concert and they grooved right away. Brian Culbertson has such a great sense for melodies and knows how to deliver a song. His touring band is first rate and like a well oiled machine. They were hitting us with some great music. This year rising star Eric Darius on sax was part of his show, along with his dad Jim on trumpet who must be proud of his offspring. They gave us many great songs with Brian's playing being as outstanding as ever, either breaking it down and playing it soft or building it up to a great climax. Eric Darius blended well with his fiery solos and spirited playing, being another darling of the crowd. On top of all this, there were parts of the show when Brian switched from the keyboard to the trombone, joining trumpet and sax for a horn frenzy playing funky songs running around on stage to the delight of the crowd. I always like the part of the show when they bring some music for all the lovers in the crowd being soft and sensual and bearing all the Culbertson trademarks. Asking the guitar player (and music director) to bring an old school vibe, we also got some great covers of old R&B classics showing where they were coming from and where their musical heart lies. This show was not very different from previous shows I saw but very entertaining as always. The whole show by the way was broadcasted on 69-WFMZ-TV and hosted by Cameron Smith (Smooth Jazz TV) and Michael Tozzi (WJJZ Philadelphia).

Photo credit: Michael Packard

Posted by Peter Böhi at 1:25 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Ivan Lins & Friends

Berks2006_RussellBraun.jpgSaturday night another highlight of the festival was due with the show dedicated to Ivan Lins. This Brazilian songwriter, singer and keyboarder has been long recognized as one of the greatest talents to have emerged from this culturally rich country. As an individual artist, he always stayed a bit out of the spotlight, but his songs, recorded by superstars like George Benson, Sting, Brenda Russell and others, have been heard around the world. The venerable Jason Miles accepted the challenge to put together a star-studded event to celebrate the man and his music. The core players were Ivan Lins on keys and vocals, Jason Miles on keys, Brazilian guitar players Leonard Amuedo and Romero Lubambo, Josh Dion on drums and vocals, Will Lee on bass, Café on percussion and an endless array of guests to bring Ivan Lins' music to life.

Berks2006_JasonMiles.jpgSinger Brenda Russell, who collaborated with Ivan Lins for over a decade, sang a couple of songs. In a funny story we were told that Brenda was asked to write the lyrics almost overnight for the song "She Walks The Earth Alone" (which won a Grammy) in order to have it sung by Sting on the CD. During the concert Will Lee, the bass player who dares to sing, handled the song quite well. Another song was done by Mike Mattison from the Derek Truck Band, who was also doing background vocals with Brenda Russell. Brazilian pianist Eliane Elias played some beautiful acoustic piano with some spirited soloing, singing along with Ivan Lins. Candy Dulfer and Rick Braun - filling in for Tom Harrell who didn't make it to the show - added a contemporary element blending well and showing lots of respect for the music of Ivan Lins with their tasteful playing. Singer Jane Monheit interpreted two songs beautifully, the second one was counted off in the wrong tempo so they had to restart the music which showed the subtleties of Brazilian music, an incident which was quite revealing to me. Ivan Lins was the center of the show, his "Comecar de novo" - allegedly his most recorded song - being a highlight of the concert for me. In addition, his percussion playing on an jewel box while others were playing was a novelty for me. Towards the end of the 3 hour concert, Chuck Loeb added some spicy playing on electric guitar while drummer Josh Dion got the chance to sing a funky song. This show was a kaleidoscope of Brazilian music and a great testament to the music of Ivan Lins, all put together by the great producer Jason Miles who has to be applauded for all the work he puts into such a project. I look forward to hearing the next all-star project under his direction at next year's festival.

Berks2006_IvanLins2.jpg

Posted by Peter Böhi at 12:56 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Larry Carlton

Berks2006_LarryCarlton.jpgSaturday afternoon Larry Carton and his Blue Sapphire Band were on, the band consisting of a four piece horn section, his son Travis Carlton on bass, drums, and venerable buddy Greg Mathieson on keyboards. The played a few blues numbers from their last two CDs, the latest one called Firewire. He then switched to his acoustic guitar for some of his best known songs "Minute By Minute" and "Smiles and Smiles To Go" before returning to his electric guitar. Each member of the horn section also had their solo spots, proving that each of them is an accomplished jazz musician. Son Travis anchored the music with his bass and turned out to be a very good player during his solo part where he could slap his bass and groove around. Larry Carlton finished his concert with his classic "Sleepwalk" from the album of the same name.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 12:22 PM

March 25, 2006

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Shilts, Najee, Alex Bugnon

Berks2006_BraunElliot.jpg

Berks2006_BraunShilts.jpgWith the weekend approaching there were the first major concerts due starting Friday night with Rick Braun and Richard Elliot, both on their own ARTizen label with newly signed label mate Shilts from Down To The Bone being added to their show. As they often did in earlier shows they started to play from within the audience with the trumpet of Rick Braun and the sax of Shilts coming out of the dark to unite later on stage for the first high-energy song showing some great playing by Shilts. Chatting between songs Shilts' British accent was quite likeable and gave rise to some laughs. Richard Elliot joined Rick Braun with the second song and both feeded off the energy of the other to lead us to one highlight after the other. Rick played his hit "Notorius" while Richard Elliot played the Stylistics classic "People Make The World Go 'Round" boasting his muscular tenor sound. Then it was Rick Braun's turn with some songs from his latest CD playing some nice renditions of EWF's "Shining Star" seguing into Barry White's "Love Theme". They were supported by a great band consisting of Nate Phillips on bass, Ron Reinhart on keys, Rayford Griffin on drums and Dwight Sills on guitar. Later Shilts got the chance to play the single from his upcoming new album which was picture perfect and very groovy smooth jazz whetting our appetite to hear the final product soon. The show was concluded by Richard Elliot's trademark song "When A Man Loves A Woman" employing the full range of his instrument to the delight of the crowd. A superlative concert by some of the genre's best artists who get better and better all the time.


Berks2006_NajeeBugnon.jpgWe headed over to the Sheraton to the late night show of sax player Najee with special guest Alex Bugnon on keys. The career of Najee spans over 20 years now and with his latest album My Point Of View he has another winner on the market. Supported by a great band he played songs ranging from his classic "Najee's Theme" to the current "2nd 2 None". Alex Bugnon came to the stage for a few songs - among them "Naima" and "107 Degrees In The Shade" - and added a great element of soulfulness and grooviness to the proceedings which was very well recieved by the capacity crowd. Najee proved to be an excellent player on soprano sax and flute often breaking the music down and exploring some subtler nuances before building it up again. Singer Lomon provided two great songs, one being the beautiful ballad "Fallin' In Love With You" where he even incorporated seamlessly an old EWF song before returning back to the original song. Lomol is a great talent to be watched in the future and a nice person to boot. For the finale of the show not only Alex Bugnon was summoned on the stage but also Joe McBride who was in the audience to give us a great and groovy jam with Najee on flute bringing a truly memorable and soulful concert to an end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:14 PM

March 23, 2006

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Joe McBride

Berks2006_JoeMcBride.jpgJoe McBride and his Texas Rhythm Band were due Wednesday evening for a high profile non-ticketed concert called Texas Hold ‘Em Night at the Peanut Bar Restaurant in Reading, PA. With fellow Smoothvibes contributor Jonathan Widran just having flown in from LA we were ready for some food and good music and Joe McBride didn't disappoint, this guy just loves to play! Crammed onto the the small stage the band was grooving right away and gave us one great song after the other with "Sarah Smile" featuring Joe's heartfelt singing being a standout track of the evening. Supported by sax, guitar, bass and drums Joe could shine and the concert was warmly received by those in attendance. By the way next to all the major concerts there are many non-ticketed events taking place across town during the festival which are held in restaurants and clubs so there is plenty to see and do while you are visiting. You find more infos at the festival's official website.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:04 PM

March 22, 2006

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Miles of Motown

Berks2006_Horns.jpgFans come from miles away to see the talented group of artists who descend upon Reading each year during the Berks Jazz Festival. And sometimes they come not only FROM miles away, but TO SEE Miles -- Jason Miles, that is, leader extraordinnaire of musicians who enjoy rallying around themes of musical memories honoring musical icons of the past. Last year it was Miles to Miles, a tribute to Miles Davis. This year, a tribute to the best of Motown and Marvin Gaye, and what a great line-up players Miles brought together for this endeavor.

Headliners in the show were guitarists Nick Colionne, Peter White, saxophone players Jay Beckenstein and Candy Dulfer, singers Bobby Caldwell, Guide De Palma, Kevin Mahogany, rising talent Dominick Farinacci on trumpet, and Brazililan keyboardist Cesar Camargo Mariano. Added to this group were backup singers Mike Mattison (who sang out front for great renditions of "Please Don't Leave Me" and "Heavy Love Affair") and Emily Bindiger. Miles, of course, was on keyboard, and his house band for the night included Sherrod Barnes on guitar, Jonathan Maron on bass guitar, drummer Gene Lake, and Bashiri Johnson as percussionist.

Berks2006_NickColionne.jpgThroughout the night were various combinations of artists and as the night went on, we learned that quite a few of the songs had been immediately claimed by the artists as 'the one' they wanted to make their own. And it happened for them each time. With each song being sung or performed by someone with such a passion for that particular song, there were explosions of melody and improvisational journeys.

The evening began with a few numbers featuring Miles and his band, then settled into the chosen set of songs of Motown. Dominick Farinacci gave us a taste of his talent, then was joined by Kevin Mahogany and Peter White on "Never Can Say Goodbye," followed by Kevin and Nick Colionne on "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." By this time the audience could feel the high-energy evening this promised to be. Peter White returned later to play "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" and "You Keep Me Hanging On," and the audience couldn't help but sing along, watching his infectious enjoyment of these songs. Nick Colionne came back to play "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," and the crowd warmed so much to his straight from the heart, soulful playing.

Berks2006_WhiteColionne.jpgJay Beckenstein of Spyro Gyra joined Brazilian keyboard player Mariano as Guide De Palma sang "Too Busy Thinkin' 'Bout My Baby" and "I Want You." These were great moments of the night, too, lots of movement and energy on stage and lots of fun interaction between the players. Jay Beckenstein was later joined by Candy Dulfer for "Mercy, Mercy Me," a truly awesome performance by both of them. Dulfer played a few other numbers herself; her talent and years of playing were quite evident, and she seemed to thoroughly enjoy being part of this tribute and the Berks Jazz Fest.

Bobby Caldwell made "Distant Lover" and "Til You Come Back" his own and it was a pleasure to see him up there, he's such a steady and capable entertainer. He had a dynamic performance with Palma on "Ain't That Peculiar" which really sent the crowd into yet another frenzy of excitement!

The show closed with "What's Goin' On?" and even after nearly three hours, both those on stage and in the audience seemed refreshed and renewed by this trip down memory lane.

Let's hope Jason Miles keeps on with his tradition of providing us with opportunities to look back and remember.

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Photo Credits: Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 11:42 AM

March 20, 2006

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: New Life Jazz Orchestra, Robert Glasper, Kevin Mahogany

Berks2006_KevinMahogany.jpgSunday afternoon's show was tagged "Jazz Goes To Church" and was supposed to bring together jazz and gospel. Backbone of the event was The New Life Jazz Orchestra led by Kendrick Oliver who kicked off the show with some fiery big band jazz. Several of the members stood out as soloists and provided the foundation for what was to come later. Replacing Cyrus Chestnut who was ill we got Robert Glasper on piano supporting the orchestra. They gave us their renditions of traditionals like "Amazing Grace" and "Wade In The Water" among other gospel songs. In between songs conductor Kendrick Oliver chatted to the crowd and took over the role of the MC. The second half of the show featured the very capable singer Monica Lynk who performed a beautiful rendition of "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child" and other songs before the eagerly anticipated singer Kevin Mahogany joined the show, for me his version of the Donny Hathaway composition "Someday We'll All Be Free" turned out to be a highlight of the concert. This show was another nice addition the Berks Jazz Fest with its unique combination of elements and different artists.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:57 PM

March 19, 2006

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, Ramsey Lewis, David Benoit

Berks2006_WhalumAlbright.jpgSaxophonists Kirk Whalum and Gerald Albright are touring this year together and showed up at the Berks Jazz Festival, being happy to be invited to bring their music to the festival. They were supported by an all-star band with Melvin Davis on bass, Ricky Lawson on drums, Marlon McClain on guitar (of Pleasure fame) and Michael Logan on keys. Parts of the show were done together while other parts were exclusively devoted to each saxophonist. After both opened the show with "Groverworked and Underpaid" it was Gerald Albright's turn playing material from older albums like Smooth and Bermuda Nights while later Kirk Whalum played songs from his current release Babyface Songbook. The cameraderie within the band was evident and they were laughing and joking around while building a good rapport with the audience with some chats between songs. Gerald Albright has a new CD coming soon called New Beginnings, marking a new chapter in his career after having moved to Denver, CO and joining Peak Records. He played "We Got The Groove" which will be the first single, whetting our appetite to hear the full album. Another highlight was the stroll of Kirk Whalum in the audience playing a lengthy solo (shaking my hand in the process which was thrilling) which culminated in standing on an empty chair in the middle of the center section finishing his solo surrounded by ecstatic fans. That's what live music is all about! Being close to Philly they made a nod to Grover and finished their show with the classic Grover Washington Jr. hit "Just The Two Of Us". This was a varied and entertaining show on the highest level of musicianship.

Berks2006_RamseyLewis.jpgIn the evening there was a special concert featuring the Reading Pops Orchestra, the Ramsey Lewis Trio and David Benoit. This unique pairing promised a special evening, and my expectations were far exceeded. The concert, opened by the Reading Pops Orchestra containing full horn and string sections and led by conductor Erwin Chandler, played a few orchestral pieces before they left the stage for Ramsey Lewis. Ramsey Lewis and his trio were warmly welcomed by the crowd and played a selection of straight jazz pieces from the vast catalog of the leader, culminating in a great rendition of his hit "Wade In The Water". Ramsey Lewis must be over 70 but he had his act completely together and was in total control showing some fine playing at the piano.

Berks2006_DavidBenoit.jpgAfter a short intermission, David Benoit supported by a rhythm section and the Reading Pops Orchestra were on providing another highlight of the festival. David Benoit played vividly at the Steinway Grand, while at the same time conducting the orchestra sitting next to him, at times standing at the piano waving his hands which yielded magical musical moments. He opened his set with "Linus & Lucy" and played songs from his orchestra albums American Landscape and Orchestral Stories and an orchestra arrangement of "Rebach" from his classic CD Every Step Of The Way and a groovy version of Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man". The grande finale included the Ramsey Lewis trio together with the Reading Pops Orchestra conducted by David Benoit playing a great version of Ramsey's hit "The In Crowd" which brought a great evening to its rousing end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:28 PM

March 18, 2006

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Joe Sample, Dianne Reeves, Pieces Of A Dream

The 16th annual Berks Jazz Fest opened yesterday at the Sovereign Performing Arts Centre with the first major concerts. The acoustic Joe Sample Trio featuring his son Nick on acoustic bass delivered a set of acoustic straight ahead jazz tracks featuring the trademark playing of the leader we came to love over the decades. Chatting between songs and giving us stories from way back hinted at his age, which must be approaching 70. Being a fan of his Rainbow Seeker period, it was logical that songs like "Carmel" and "X Marks The Spot" were personal favorites because they delivered familiar melodies and a funkier groove.

Berks2006_DianneReeves.jpgAfter a short intermission songstress Dianne Reeves, with her mostly acoustic band, gave us some great jazz singing. Just having won a Grammy for her "Good Night, And Good Luck" soundtrack, she was in fine form. Her band grooved a little harder than the Joe Sample trio and her singing covered a wide range of styles from straight jazz to blues to soul, with some introspective moments as well. Personal highlights were "Afro Blue" and her classic song "Better Days" which closed the concert.

Berks2006_PiecesOfADream.jpgAfter the last song I rushed over to the Wyndham Ball Room, which is located within walking distance in order to catch Pieces Of A Dream, who were due to perform songs from their brand new release Pillow Talk. I had already received a copy from their label (actually you can hear a few songs from it on the SmoothVibes Radio Channel) and was looking forward to hearing this material performed live. Founded 1975 in Philadelphia the band is celebrating their 30th anniversary. The group consisted of founding members James Lloyd on keys and Curtis Harmon on drums, along with longtime member Eddie Baccus Jr. on sax (part of the band for 11 years now), further supported by Scott Ambush on bass (a loan from label mates Spyro Gyra) and a nice female keyboard player as well as singer Ramona Dunlap who came on stage for three songs. They opened the show with a few songs from their new CD "Wake Up Call" and "Pillow Talk" before giving us some classic tunes from their back catalog featuring the keys of James Lloyd and the sax of Eddie Baccus Jr., providing smooth jazz of the highest calibre. The part featuring vocals gave us a great song from the new CD called "Those 3 Words" and the classic "Rising To The Top" by Keni Burke, which just was magical. This was a very enjoyable concert going the gamut from funky numbers to quieter soulful moments providing a good time to those in attendance.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:38 PM

March 17, 2006

Berks: How Sweet It Is

FIRST ENERGY BERKS JAZZ FESTIVAL TURNS SWEET SIXTEEN

Berks-Pagoda-photo-no-snow.jpgIf looking at this picture causes some excitement for you, then you’ve probably visited Reading, Pennsylvania, during the Berks Jazz Fest held each year in March. By the time you see the familiar Pagoda, you know you’re in jazz territory and the entire city and surrounding area is awaiting your arrival.

When you do arrive, be on the lookout for the First Energy Berks Jazz Festival guide which will be displayed in all the venues, various hotels and restaurants in the area. This handy guide has been published by the Reading Eagle Company and was included in its March 12th edition of the daily newspaper. Available throughout the ten days of the festival, it contains feature stories on artists and special shows, bios on all performers, complete schedules, travel information and a lot more.

This year marks the 16th anniversary of the festival and promises to be as good as ever, with plenty of events for jazz lovers over the ten day festival. Visit the BerksJazzFest.com website and click on the schedule to see a listing of both ‘ticketed’ and ‘non-ticketed’ events. Smoothvibes.com contributor Jonathan Widran has written the biographies for artists which appears on the Berks Jazz Fest site and as shown in the festival guide.

Some fantastic theme concerts are on docket this year. The Motown sound, the Brazilian sound, and the Wes Montgomery sound all promise to be great concerts with a lot of players in each. The Berks All Star Jazz Jam is always a highlight. And Grammy Award winner Dianne Reeves will kick off the ten days of music on Friday evening, along with the legendary Joe Sample.

If you’ve never been here before, then you may wonder what it’s really like to travel to this small city within easy traveling distance to Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York City. To satisfy your curiosity, here are some scenes from last year’s 15th anniversary festival. You’re probably familiar with many of the players in these photos – their shows were memorable examples of what happens when the lights go down and the focus is on the music that makes the festival worthwhile. So enjoy the photos, and get ready to capture your own special views, with either your camera or your mind’s eye. The best thing is, some of these artists will return for this year's celebration of jazz.

One of my favorite shows was Jeff Golub, shown here along with members of his band. This was a high energy show right from the start. There was an electric connection between the band members, and it wasn't long before Jeff told us this was the best band he's ever played with. They played so many of our favorite tunes, and so the audience encouragement was nonstop.

JeffGolub2-2005.jpg JeffGolub3-2005.jpg JeffGolub4-2005.jpg
JeffGolub5-2005.jpg JeffGolub6-2005.jpg JeffGolub1-2005.jpg
JeffGolub7-2005.jpg JeffGolubBevPic.jpg


PeterWhiteJaaredBevPeter200.jpgPeter White's show featuring Jaared was another memorable show. Starting out with 'Something 'Bout Love', from the CD Confidential, it wasn't long before Peter launched into a string of covers, including 'The Closer I Get To You,' 'Who's That Lady?', and 'Papa Was a Rolling Stone.' Keyboard player David Sparkman had the greatest smile, and I didn't realize until later in the show that he's an awesome singer with his own CD.

Peter makes his shows so fun. First of all , it's obvious he has his favorite toy with him -- his guitar! He dances with it, is willing to just let loose and have fun. He tells us it's just him 'living out his rock and roll fantasy.' By the end of the night, I concluded that there is a reason why Peter White is such a crowd pleaser -- it's because he's pleasing himself.


BerksAllStarJam7-2005.jpgTom Grant, shown here at the Wyndham Hotel, played during the dinner hour on four days of the festival. He was also part of the Berks All Star Jazz Jam.

ChuckLoebDavidMann1-2005.jpgChuck Loeb and David Mann played an awesome afternoon concert; Chuck Loeb also had a show with his wife, Carmen Cuesta, and he organized the Berks All Star Jazz Jam, as he does each year during the festival. Chuck mentioned that Berks is such a favorite festival, that it's very relaxed and happy here.

The Sax Pack was an awesome experience for jazz lovers. You sure can't beat the combination of Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters, and Steve Cole.

SaxPack1-2005.jpg SaxPack2-2005.jpg SaxPack3-2005.jpg

Scenes from the Berks All Star Jazz Jam. There were about ten players on stage at once and it is always one of the most favorite shows during the Berks Jazz Festival.

BerksAllStarJam1-2005.jpg BerksAllStarJam2-2005.jpg BerksAllStarJam3-2005.jpg
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GroovinforGrover.jpgThe Groovin' for Grover show couldn't have been better. Featuring players like Gerald Albright, Paul Taylor, Jeff Lorber and Richard Eliott, who could ask for more? One of the highlights, of course, was when they launched into 'Soulful Strut.'

In the last days before the start of the festival, I caught up with Connie Leinbach, executive director of the Berks Arts Council, and here is what she had to say:

“The FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest is a tremendous event in which the entire community can be proud. During Jazz Fest, the hotels are full, the restaurants are full, the streets are filled with jazz patrons, all of whom spend an estimated $5 million in Berks County while they're here.

“Berks Arts Council produces and benefits from the success of the FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest. The proceeds from the event are used to develop and maintain arts programs in the Berks County area. It also provides workshops for young, aspiring jazz musicians to learn from and play with professional musicians.

“To help make this all happen, the Arts Council enlists help from sponsors and 340 dedicated volunteers who donate over 5,000 hours of volunteer time as backstage crew, ushers, ticket-takers and merchandise sellers.

BerksPic.jpg“We're thankful that Berks Countians support Jazz Fest by attending the concerts and volunteering their time, and that so many businesses support this event through their generous sponsorships. Arts events such as the FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest help put Berks County on the map as a vibrant place to live and have a business.”

One of the most special things about the festival is that fans and artists are so often in the same space -- not just the same venue as stage performers and audiences, but as artist and fan at the autograph table, getting to know each other perhaps for the first time at Meet the Artists, friend to friend as they enjoy time together that comes and goes all too quickly. It's not only media people or event organizers who get to rub shoulders with the artists, but you can, too, and that's sure to give you some of your best memories of the festival. It's a chance to renew acquaintances and develop lifelong friendships with other fans and the ever-growing group of artists that have been invited to play here for that always memorable month of March.

Media members will come from near and far. We're already planning get-togethers with each other and with artists. Peter Boehi, publisher of smoothvibes.com, has already arrived and Jonathan Widran will arrive mid-week. As always, please come to talk with us when you see us around town!

While you're here at Berks, or especially if you're unable to make it here this year, visit www.smoothvibes.com often to hear the music of this year's artists being played. Every day, we'll devote plenty of time to help you become more acquainted with the special music of Berks Jazz Fest 2006!!

Happy Jazzin'

BoneyBevMichael2005.jpgBeverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Photo Credits: Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 1:25 AM

March 8, 2006

November Cruise on the Horizon

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Chieli Minucci and Musicians for a Cause

EFXband.jpgChieli Minucci has recently announced he will host a cruise to set sail in November. The cruise will feature Special EFX as the 'house band' and will include a line-up of some fantastic artists, including Kim Waters, Gerald Veasley, Jay Beckenstein of Spyro Gyra, Slow Train, and more.

ChieliGerald2.jpgSays Chieli, "This fall, I hope you will join us for an incredible long weekend (starting in Miami) of great music, a fun 70's disco party and more importantly for a great cause. This jazz cruise we will donate a portion of the proceeds to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. I am very excited to be able to help out this worthy organization as they educate and work to prevent domestic violence."

KimWaters.jpgCarnival's Imagination will set sail November 2nd from Miami and travel to Key West and Cozumel. before returning to Miami on November 6th.

Chieli adds, "The guest artists that are involved in this venture are nothing less than stellar performers. I can't think of better performers to represent us in this first event." Jay_Beckenstein Spyro_Gyra.jpg

SlowTrain.jpgFans can get more information about the cruise by visiting www.stewart-entertainment-and-events.com

For booking, please contact www.blueskiestravel.com

Chieli extends the invitation to join him for "fun, relaxation, jazz, sunsets, and more...."

Who could refuse such an offer?? Certainly not yours truly!

See you in November!

Happy Jazzin'

AnniversaryChieliBeverlyGerald.jpgBeverly Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 10:46 PM

February 3, 2006

Superstar Chuck Mangione joins FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest Lineup

Following is the latest press release concerning additional performers being added to the Berks Jazz Fest. Included here is ticket information as well as the complete lineup of major concerts so far, for those of you still trying to decide which tickets to purchase!

ChuckMangione.jpgREADING, PA -- February 2 – The legendary Chuck Mangione has joined the star-laden lineup of the 16th annual FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest.

For more than five decades, Mangione's love affair with music has been characterized by his boundless energy, unabashed enthusiasm and pure joy that radiates from the stage. His wondrous talents and crisp charisma will be on display on Friday, March 24, at the Scottish Rite Cathedral at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $20.

The Berks Jazz Fest runs March 17-26 at multiple venues throughout Berks County and is presented by the Berks Arts Council.

The festival already has a bright constellation of stars such as Dianne Reeves, Joe Sample, Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, Ramsey Lewis, Brian Culbertson, David Benoit, Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Gerald Veasley, Kurt Elling and the Robert Cray Band, among many others.

The 10-day lineup featuring over 130 concerts once again is an amazing palette, showcasing a diversity of musical styles that includes contemporary jazz, traditional jazz, big band, blues, Latin jazz, swing jazz, and more.

The Berks Jazz Fest prides itself on producing one-of-a kind all-star ensemble shows, and there are three marquee tributes this year to Marvin Gaye and Motown, Brazilian legend Ivan Lins and guitar great Wes Montgomery.

And now Chuck Mangione, known as the "Cat in the Hat," adds considerable marquee star power to the festival. He has released more than 30 albums during his venerable and laudable career.

His Berks Jazz Fest concert will be dedicated to the Reading Buccaneers Drum & Bugle Corps to celebrate its 2005 Drums Corps Associates (DCA) world championship. The Buccaneers, in winning their fifth DCA title, swept all judged categories en route to the second-highest score of any championship corps in the 41-year history of the DCA.

Mangione has an avid interest in drum and bugle corps, making the tribute to the Bucs a natural. The Buccaneers have had a long association with the Berks Jazz Fest. Their yeoman volunteer efforts in facilitating the loading in and loading out of equipment at multiple concerts at varied venues make it possible to have a festival of such scope.

Mangione and his flugelhorn achieved international success with his jazz-pop single, "Feels So Good", in 1977. A 1980 issue of Current Biography called "Feels So Good" the most recognized tune since "Michelle" by The Beatles.

Recently, jazz stations throughout the United States have recognized Mangione's "Feels So Good" as their all-time No. 1 song.

Early in his career, he was a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, for which he filled the trumpet seat, which had previously been held by greats such as Clifford Brown, Kenny Dorham, Bill Hardman, Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard.

Mangione won his first Grammy Award in 1976 for his album Bellavia, named to honor his mother. The Children of Sanchez double-album soundtrack won the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Golden Globe Award, then earned him a second Grammy in 1978.

When Chuck performed in Poland for the 1999 Film and Jazz Festival, the “Children of Sanchez” track brought the audience to its feet. Unbeknownst to the composer, the piece had become somewhat of an anthem during the struggle for democracy and many in the audience were in tears, holding their hands over their hearts.

His song, "Give It All You Got," was the theme to the 1980 Winter Olympics held in Lake Placid, New York. He performed live at the closing ceremonies.

He also has a recurring role on the animated television series “King of the Hill”, portraying himself as a celebrity spokesman for Mega Lo Mart. The first episode of “King of the Hill” featuring Mangione originally aired on Valentine's Day 1998. The episode featured an original score specifically recorded for the occasion.

FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest concert tickets can be purchased by:
Stopping by the Sovereign Center Box Office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading, to place your order in person.
Box Office hours
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday
10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday
Stopping by the Sovereign Performing Arts Center Box Office, 136 N. Sixth St., Reading, to place your order in person.
Box Office hours
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday
Ordering online at www.berksjazzfest.com
Call Ticketmaster at 215.336.2000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com. Have a credit card ready.
For more information on the festival, click on www.berksjazzfest.com
For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes all the arts in an effort to enrich the quality of life in Berks County, click on www.berksarts.org

Major FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest concerts

Friday, March 17 -- Dianne Reeves plus Joe Sample, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $45 and $38

Friday, March 17 -- The Inn of Blues: Mose Allison plus Guy Davis, Inn at Reading Ballroom, 8 p.m., $28

Friday, March 17 -- Pieces of a Dream, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $30

Saturday, March 18 -- Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $38

Saturday, March 18 -- The Inn of Blues: Marcia Ball plus Clarence Spady Band with special guest Lou Pride, and Deb Callahan Band, Inn at Reading Ballroom, 7 p.m., $35

Saturday, March 18 -- Michael Manring, Tracy Silverman and David Cullen, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $12

Saturday, March 18 -- Ramsey Lewis & David Benoit with the Reading Pops Orchestra, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $45 and $38

Saturday, March 18 -- Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $38

Sunday, March 19 -- Jazz Goes to Church featuring Cyrus Chestnut, Kevin Mahogany and Kendrick Oliver & The New Life Jazz Orchestra, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $35

Sunday, March 19 -- Kyle Eastwood and his band, GoggleWorks Center for the Arts theater, 4 p.m. $20

Sunday, March 19 -- Robbi K & Friends, PAL Center for the Arts, 6 p.m., free community concert.

Sunday, March 19 -- 16th Anniversary Concert: The Music of Marvin Gaye & Motown featuring Jason Miles, Bobby Caldwell, Peter White, Candy Dulfer, Kevin Mahogany, Guida DePalma, Mike Mattison, Nick Colionne, Jay Beckenstein, Cesar Camargo Mariano, Bashiri Johnson, Gene Lake, Sherrod Barnes, Jonathan Maron, Dominick Farinacci, DJ Logic and more, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7 p.m., $45 and $38

Monday, March 20 -- U.S. Air Force Rhythm In Blues Jazz Ensemble with special guest Tom Coster plus Berks High School All-Star Jazz Band, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., free community concert

Monday, March 20 -- The Young Faces of Jazz: Taylor Eigsti and Julian Lage plus Liz Longley, Albright College Wachovia Theatre, 7:30 p.m., $15

Tuesday, March 21 -- U.S. Air Force Rhythm In Blues Jazz Ensemble with special guest Tom Coster plus Berks High School All-Star Jazz Band, Boyertown Senior High School, 7 p.m., free community concert

Tuesday, March 21 -- The Music of Sinatra & Friends: City Rhythm Orchestra, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $15

Tuesday, March 21 -- Mulgrew Miller Trio, Albright College Wachovia Theatre, 7:30 p.m., $20

Wednesday, March 22 -- Berks Jazz Fest Fantasy Camp Faculty Concert: Mulgrew Miller, Kurt Elling, Christian McBride, Jimmy Bruno, Bob Mintzer, John Swana and Steve Smith, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom 7:30 p.m., $25

Wednesday, March 22 -- Joe McBride & The Texas Rhythm Club, Peanut Bar Restaurant, 9 p.m.

Thursday, March 23 -- Joe McBride, Wyndham Reading Hotel, 5 p.m.

Thursday, March 23 -- Gene Ludwig Trio featuring Dave Stryker and Vince Ector, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $10

Thursday, March 23 -- Chieli Minucci & Special EFX featuring Ken Navarro and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $30

Thursday, March 23 -- Berks All-Star Jazz Jam featuring Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Chieli Minucci, Ken Navarro, Joe McBride, Kenny Blake, Steve Smith, Tom Coster, Eric Darius and more, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $30

Friday, March 24 -- Joe McBride and Kenny Blake, Wyndham Reading Hotel, 5 p.m.

Friday, March 24 -- Gerald Veasley with special guest Kurt Elling, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $35

Friday, March 24 -- An Evening With Rick Braun & Richard Elliot, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $45 and $38

Friday, March 24 -- Chuck Mangione, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $25 and $20

Friday, March 24 -- Jimi Hendrix Tribute: The Carl Filipiak Group, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 9 p.m., $15

Friday, March 24 -- Najee, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $30

Saturday, March 25 -- Larry Carlton & The Blue Sapphire Band plus Richard Smith & Freddie Ravel Power Quartet featuring special guest Kim Waters, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 1 p.m., $35

Saturday, March 25 -- Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $25

Saturday, March 25 -- Joe McBride and Kenny Blake, Wyndham Reading Hotel, 5 p.m.

Saturday, March 25 -- Triad featuring Steve Oliver, Michael Paulo and Gerald Veasley, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., $35

Saturday, March 25 -- Ivan Lins & Friends featuring Ivan Lins, Jason Miles, Jane Monheit, Brenda Russell, Candy Dulfer, Eliane Elias, Romero Lubambo, Leonardo Amuedo, Cafe, Vinny Colaiuta, Will Lee, Tom Harrell, Chuck Loeb and more, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7 p.m., $45 and $38

Saturday, March 25 -- The Robert Cray Band, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $40 and $35

Saturday, March 25 -- Brian Culbertson with special guest Eric Darius, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $35

Sunday, March 26 -- WJJZ Smooth Jazz Sunday Brunch: Paul Jackson Jr., Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., $35

Sunday, March 26 -- Bona Fide featuring Slim Man, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 3 p.m., $20

Sunday, March 26 -- Be Still My Soul: Michell and Brian Culbertson, Atonement Lutheran Church, Wyomissing, 4 p.m. free will offering

Sunday, March 26 -- Tribute to Wes Montgomery: Chuck Loeb, Pat Martino, Paul Jackson Jr., Larry Carlton, Russell Malone, Earl Klugh and Jimmy Bruno plus a rhythm section of keyboardist Larry Goldings, drummer Vinny Colaiuta and bassist Will Lee, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $40 and $35

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 10:01 PM

January 28, 2006

In the Groove of the Berks Jazz Fest

Weekly Radio Program Will Get Fans in the ‘Groove’ for the 16th Annual FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest

BerksJazzFest2006.jpgHere's a look at the latest press release from the home of the Berks Jazz Fest, targeting our local radio station's broadcast of "Berks Jazz Fest Groove" to be aired Sundays at 6 PM. The shows are hosted by Mike Anderson, Berks Jazz Fest Marketing Director. A friend with whom I've had the privilege of sharing the interview experience, I can tell you he's an upbeat, capable interviewer who gets to the heart of our favorite artists. Tune in and learn more as we head into the final weeks before the Berks Jazz Fest!


READING, PA – Jan. 26, 2006 – For the second consecutive year, jazz enthusiasts can get a sneak preview of the 2006 FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest on WEEU 830 AM in Reading.

“Berks Jazz Fest Groove” will air on WEEU at 6 p.m. Sunday nights beginning Feb. 26 and running through March 19. The 16th annual FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest is scheduled March 17-26 at various locations throughout Greater Reading.

“Once again, we will have a stellar group of jazz musicians on the radio program,” said host Mike Anderson. “This is a great opportunity for people to get jazzed about the festival.”

This year’s radio program will feature interviews with Mindi Abair, Brian Culbertson, Chieli Minucci of Special EFX, Bob Mintzer of The Yellowjackets and Greg Carmichael of Acoustic Alchemy as well as local and regional artists and new, rising stars of jazz.

In addition to interviews, the one-hour program will include musical clips and other highlights of the phenomenally successful FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest. The festival, featuring more than 130 events, is one of the top five smooth jazz events in the world, according to BBC Radio’s smooth jazz personality Steve Quirk.

Anderson, a talented saxophonist in his own right and the general partner of The Anderson Group, Sinking Spring, PA, has spent more than a dozen years planning, promoting, playing and producing events at the FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest. He has served as festival marketing coordinator since 1991.

Working with other artists at The Anderson Group, he designed the original festival logo, which has developed a powerful brand association. He also directs the merchandising design efforts that bring in thousands of dollars annually to the festival.

For more information about Berks Jazz Fest Groove and this year’s FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest, visit www.berksjazzfest.com.

Ticket information

. Visit the Sovereign Performing Arts Center Box Office, 136 N. Sixth St., Reading, to place your order in person.

. Visit the Sovereign Center Box Office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading, to place your order in person.

. Call Ticketmaster at 215-336-2000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com. Have a credit card ready.

. Visit www.berksjazzfest.com and order directly online.

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 2:50 AM

January 18, 2006

Bassist Kyle Eastwood to perform during the March 17-26 FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest

s_kyle_eastwood2.jpgAccomplished jazz bassist Kyle Eastwood is the latest marquee addition to the 16th annual FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest.

The Berks Jazz Fest runs March 17-26 at multiple venues throughout Berks County and is presented by the Berks Arts Council.

The festival already has a bright constellation of stars such as Dianne Reeves, Joe Sample, Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, Ramsey Lewis, David Benoit, Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Gerald Veasley, Kurt Elling and the Robert Cray Band, among many others. In addition, three spectacular ensemble shows -- The Music of Marvin Gaye & Motown; Ivan Lins & Friends; and a Tribute to Wes Montgomery -- punctuate the lineup.

Eastwood and his band will perform on Sunday, March 19th, at 4 p.m. at the new GoggleWorks Center for the Arts theater, 2nd and Washington streets in downtown Reading.

In addition, the classic movie "Bird," which is about the life of bebop legend Charlie Parker and was produced by Clint Eastwood, will be appearing at the GoggleWorks Film Theater on Sunday, March 19th, following the concert.

Clint, a jazz lover, introduced his son to the genre at an early age.

Kyle, who is a physical dead ringer for his famous actor and director dad, grew up Caramel, California and remembers hearing Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck and the Stan Kenton Big Band as a child.

"Dad made sure I heard jazz," Kyle said. "He took us every year to the Monterey Jazz Festival. He introduced me to Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis and other jazz legends. And at home, music was always there."

Kyle played the guitar as a child, then picked up the electric bass at the age of 18 and got serious. His father arranged for Kyle to study with the distinguished French bassist, Bunny Brunel. At age 23, Kyle formed his own band, West Quintet.

In the ensuing years Eastwood worked as a studio musician, backed pop singers and played film scores -- one of them his father's composition for "Unforgiven." Kyle became versed in a variety of styles.

But his roots remain in jazz.

After years of gigging around New York and Los Angeles, Kyle in 1998 released his first CD From There to Here, an upbeat collection of jazz standards and original music that features the vocals of Joni Mitchell.

Kyle also wrote a few tracks for his father's blockbuster film, "Million Dollar Baby," which starred Hillary Swank and Morgan Freeman along with Clint.

Kyle's second CD, Paris Blue, was released in 2004. He worked on the album while living in Paris with his own family. The album is a lot more personal with contributions from his father and his daughter, Graylen, who wore and recorded the introduction to the title track when she was only 9 years old.

Eastwood also has been causing quite a stir in the London jazz scene.

He promises to do the same at the Berks Jazz Fest.

Concert tickets can be purchased by:

Stopping by the Sovereign Center Box Office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading, to place your order in person.

Box Office hours

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday

10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday

Stopping by the Sovereign Performing Arts Center Box Office, 136 N. Sixth St., Reading, to place your order in person.

Box Office hours

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday

Ordering online at www.berksjazzfest.com

Call Ticketmaster at 215.336.2000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com. Have a credit card ready.

For more information on the festival, click on www.berksjazzfest.com

For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes all the arts in an effort to enrich the quality of life in Berks County, click on www.berksarts.org

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:39 PM

December 29, 2005

Oh What A Night !! -- Heads Up Super Band

by Beverly J. Packard

HeadsUpSB6.jpgYes, I was at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base again!! You see, on November 4th a very special band was scheduled to play. I've heard them before, both live and on CDs named for them. I can summarize my reaction to this night of music with one word - speechless. A writer with no words. And that was after only the first set; after the second set, I was -- twice as speechless. The music is still filling my head and it's still hard for me to capture this night in words.

But there's no way to tell you about the show if I remain speechless. Typing the words might make it a little easier to convey my thoughts, so let's take the plunge and see where this goes.

The special band is named the Heads Up Super Band. Heads Up because that's the record company the main players --- Gerald Veasley, Kenny Blake, Joe McBride and Keith Carlock are signed with. Super because when a record company decides to put together a powerful combination for a concert or collection of songs on a CD, the result is truly Super. Super players with a super sound putting on a super concert. And that created an audience of super fans.

HeadsUpSB4.jpgThe fans were on the edge of their seats from the very first note and they were wonderfully expressive throughout the entire show! They couldn't sit still and they couldn't be quiet. I was hoping Gerald wasn't going to give us his usual plea to 'sit back'and 'relax' because it was obvious we weren't going to be able to do that on this night.

I'm not sure what it was that propelled all of us into sheer enthusiasm almost immediately. It might have been the look of expectancy on Gerald's face at the outset, or maybe it was Kenny Blake's total comfort up there and the way he literally seems to 'speak' with his saxophone; for him, playing is as easy as talking. Perhaps it was knowing that Keith Carlock, a drummer who might shy away from the limelight but is oh so present in every song, was here after having played with bands like Sting and Steely Dan.

HeadsUpSB5.jpgIt could have been the addition of the talented Berks Jazz Fest Horns -- the Shiny Horns, as Gerald calls them (Bill Miller on trombone, Chris Heslop on Baritone, Rob Diener on trumpet, Mike 'Bad' Anderson on saxophone) or the lovely Joelettes (Susan Ernesto, Toni Lynn, and Tracy Hamlin. Now that I think about it, it had to be all these things. But pushing us over the edge, I believe, was one additional factor I haven't yet mentioned.

I think we should simply call him Joe. Everyone knows him. Everyone loves him. What a picture of enthusiasm, what a picture of love for music and musicians and fans. After watching Joe McBride play the piano closely for the first time during the Berks Jazz Fest a few years ago, I wrote the following about him: 'When vision cannot distract, music seems to take a faster path from the heart to its expression.' I have the same thought about him now.

HeadsUpSB7.jpgEveryone really does call him Joe, everyone except his stage woman, Susie Ernesto, who responds to him with 'Oh Johnnie' during that heart-breaking but crowd-pleasing number 'I Believe.' It's true we could say Joe created sympathy for himself in that song, when his woman went off with 'Johnnie Ernesto', and he certainly created some empathy when he jokingly tried to tell us he was afraid of the dark. Joe has a seasoned sense of humor, and his stage presence, sense of timing and rhythm is simply not to be surpassed. Gerald and the rest of the band enjoyed Joe's setting the tone and gladly indulged him for a fun-filled night.

The band had opened the Rehoboth Jazz Festival Wednesday and played the Jazz Base on Thursday. Rehoboth must have been a great warm-up because the Jazz Base show began in the pressure cooker with heat escaping from the pot in all directions.

HeadUpSB3.jpgThe concert, a tribute to Ray Charles, included 'Night Time,' 'I Got A Woman,' 'I Believe,' 'Hit the Road Jack,' 'You Don't Know Me,' and 'Let The Good Times Roll.'

During the break, there was time to go outside for some fresh air and over the hotel radio came Steely Dan's 'What a Shame About Me' from their Two Against Nature CD featuring Keith Carlock on the drums! How exciting to know he was with the band, preparing for the second set, which included 'Hallelujah,' 'Georgia,' 'Unchain My Heart,' 'What I Say,' 'America,' and a fun reprise of 'Let The Good Times Roll.'

HeadsUpSB8.jpgIt was a super show, with a super ending. I continue to be amazed at Gerald's skill in leading a band, in fostering so much fun, audience connection, and last, but not least, in his head-bobbing that is not only to the quarter beat, but also occurs in double time, half time and syncopated time, as needed. I can't believe I didn't mention that before now!

Related links:
Heads Up International
Joe McBride
Kenny Blake
Keith Carlock
Gerald Veasley

Happy Jazzin'

HeadsUpSB9.jpgBeverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Photo credits: Michael C. Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 5:37 AM

December 23, 2005

City Rhythm Orchestra, Michelle & Brian Culbertson collaboration, Joe McBride, Kenny Blake and Liz Longley add even more musical sparkle to the March 17-26 FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest

BerksJazzFest2006.jpgJust when you thought the remarkably diverse and expansive 16th annual FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest couldn't get any bigger and better ... well, think again.

The lineup for Berks Jazz Fest 2006, which runs March 17-26 at multiple venues throughout Berks County and which is presented by the Berks Arts Council, now includes the City Rhythm Orchestra saluting the Music of Frank Sinatra & Friends; a very special Michelle and Brian Culbertson project featuring traditional hymns; charismatic keyboardist/vocalist Joe McBride; sax sensation Kenny Blake; and precocious vocalist Liz Longley.

The festival already has a bright constellation of stars such as Dianne Reeves, Joe Sample, Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, Ramsey Lewis, David Benoit, Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Gerald Veasley, Kurt Elling and the Robert Cray Band, among many others. In addition, three spectacular ensemble shows -- The Music of Marvin Gaye & Motown; Ivan Lins & Friends; and a Tribute to Wes Montgomery -- punctuate the lineup.

The City Rhythm Orchestra, the 15-piece big band from Philadelphia, will play a stirring tribute to Frank Sinatra on Tuesday, March 21, at the Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom at 7:30 p.m. The band has been dazzling audiences for many years with its distinctive style and sound -- stellar horns, a rocking rhythm section, innovative arrangements and versatile vocalists. Its Sinatra salute promises to be an extraordinary experience.

Soprano Michelle Culbertson will sing traditional hymns from her new CD Be Still My Soul while husband Brian accompanies her on the piano in a special concert on Sunday, March 26, at Atonement Lutheran Church at 4 p.m. The album was produced and arranged by Michelle and Brian and also includes two original songs composed by Brian and noted songwriter Lindy Robbins.

Another notable addition to the festival lineup is vocalist Liz Longley, a senior at nearby Downingtown High School who will do an opening set for pianist prodigy Taylor Eigsti and guitarist phenom Julian Lage on Monday, March 20, at the Albright College Wachovia Theatre at 7:30 p.m.

Longley combines a variety of influences to create a sophisticated sound that belies her young age. Her extraordinary voice has been described as captivating and compelling.

Joe McBride, whose signature sound has ushered plenty of soul into smooth jazz over the years, will have multiple gigs at the festival. He and his Texas Rhythm Club band are performing Wednesday, March 22, at 9 p.m. at the Peanut Bar Restaurant.

McBride also is doing three special dinner shows at 5 p.m. at the Wyndham Reading Hotel Thursday through Saturday, March 23-25. On Friday and Saturday he will be joined by Kenny Blake, notable for combining traditional jazz leanings with modern rhythm and blues.

Brian Culbertson, as previously announced, will perform with special guest saxophonist Eric Darius on Saturday, March 25, at the Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom at 10:30 p.m. Darius also has joined the stellar Berks All-Star Jazz Jam lineup of Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Chieli Minucci, Ken Navarro, Joe McBride, Kenny Blake, Steve Smith and Tom Coster.

Chuck Loeb, the renowned guitarist, composer, arranger, producer and recording artist, has joined the cast of the highly anticipated Ivan Lins & Friends ensemble on Saturday, March 25, at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m.

The Jason Miles production also includes acclaimed Brazilian composer/pianist Ivan Lins himself, sensational vocalist Jane Monheit, renowned vocalist Brenda Russell, pianist/vocalist Eliane Elias, acclaimed saxophonist Nelson Rangell, Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo, guitarist Leonardo Amuedo, percussionist Cafe, percussionist Vinny Colaiuta, David Letterman Band bassist Will Lee, and top jazz trumpeter Tom Harrell.


Concert tickets can be purchased by:
Stopping by the Sovereign Center Box Office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading, to place your order in person.
Box Office hours
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday
10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday
Stopping by the Sovereign Performing Arts Center Box Office, 136 N. Sixth St., Reading, to place your order in person.
Box Office hours
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday
Ordering online at www.berksjazzfest.com
Call Ticketmaster at 215.336.2000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com. Have a credit card ready.
For more information on the festival, click on www.berksjazzfest.com
For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes all the arts in an effort to enrich the quality of life in Berks County, click on www.berksarts.org


Major concerts
Friday, March 17 -- Dianne Reeves plus Joe Sample, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $45 and $38
Friday, March 17 -- The Inn of Blues: Mose Allison plus Guy Davis, Inn at Reading Ballroom, 8 p.m., $28
Friday, March 17 -- Pieces of a Dream, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $30
Saturday, March 18 -- Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $38
Saturday, March 18 -- The Inn of Blues: Marcia Ball plus Clarence Spady and Deb Callahan Band, Inn at Reading Ballroom, 7 p.m., $35

Saturday, March 18 -- Michael Manring, Tracy Silverman and David Cullen, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $12

Saturday, March 18 -- Ramsey Lewis & David Benoit with the Reading Pops Orchestra, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $45 and $38

Saturday, March 18 -- Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $38
Sunday, March 19 -- Jazz Goes to Church featuring Cyrus Chestnut, Kevin Mahogany and Kendrick Oliver & The New Life Jazz Orchestra, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $35

Sunday, March 19 -- Robbi K & Friends, PAL Center for the Arts, 6 p.m., free community concert.
Sunday, March 19 -- 16th Anniversary Concert: The Music of Marvin Gaye & Motown featuring Jason Miles, Bobby Caldwell, Peter White, Kevin Mahogany, Guida DePalma, Mike Mattison, Nick Colionne, Jay Beckenstein, Cesar Camargo Mariano, Bashiri Johnson, Gene Lake, Sherrod Barnes, Jonathan Maron, Dominick Farinacci, DJ Logic and more, 7 p.m., $45 and $38

Monday, March 20 -- U.S. Air Force Rhythm In Blues Jazz Ensemble with special guest Tom Coster plus Berks High School All-Star Jazz Band, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., free community concert

Monday, March 20 -- The Young Faces of Jazz: Taylor Eigsti and Julian Lage plus Liz Longley, Albright College Wachovia Theatre, 7:30 p.m., $15

Tuesday, March 21 -- U.S. Air Force Rhythm In Blues Jazz Ensemble with special guest Tom Coster plus Berks High School All-Star Jazz Band, Boyertown Senior High School, 7 p.m., free community concert

Tuesday, March 21 -- The Music of Sinatra & Friends: City Rhythm Orchestra, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $15

Tuesday, March 21 -- Mulgrew Miller Trio, Albright College Wachovia Theatre, 7:30 p.m., $20
Wednesday, March 22 -- Berks Jazz Fest Fantasy Camp Faculty Concert: Mulgrew Miller, Kurt Elling, Christian McBride, Jimmy Bruno, Bob Mintzer, John Swana and Steve Smith, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom 7:30 p.m., $25

Wednesday, March 22 -- Joe McBride & The Texas Rhythm Club, Peanut Bar Restaurant, 9 p.m.
Thursday, March 23 -- Joe McBride, Wyndham Reading Hotel, 5 p.m.
Thursday, March 23 -- Gene Ludwig Trio featuring Dave Stryker and Vince Ector, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $10

Thursday, March 23 -- Chieli Minucci & Special EFX featuring Ken Navarro and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $30

Thursday, March 23 -- Berks All-Star Jazz Jam featuring Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Chieli Minucci, Ken Navarro, Joe McBride, Kenny Blake, Steve Smith, Tom Coster, Eric Darius and more, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $30

Friday, March 24 -- Joe McBride and Kenny Blake, Wyndham Reading Hotel, 5 p.m.
Friday, March 24 -- Gerald Veasley with special guest Kurt Elling, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $35

Friday, March 24 -- An Evening With Rick Braun & Richard Elliot, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $45 and $38

Friday, March 24 -- River City Brass Band, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $25 and $20
Friday, March 24 -- Jimi Hendrix Tribute: The Carl Filipiak Group, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 9 p.m., $15
Friday, March 24 -- Najee, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $30
Saturday, March 25 -- Larry Carlton & The Blue Sapphire Band plus Richard Smith & Freddie Ravel Power Quartet featuring special guest Kim Waters, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 1 p.m., $35

Saturday, March 25 -- Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $25
Saturday, March 25 -- Joe McBride and Kenny Blake, Wyndham Reading Hotel, 5 p.m.
Saturday, March 25 -- Triad featuring Steve Oliver, Michael Paulo and Gerald Veasley, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., $35

Saturday, March 25 -- Ivan Lins & Friends featuring Ivan Lins, Jason Miles, Jane Monheit, Brenda Russell, Eliane Elias, Nelson Rangell, Romero Lubambo, Leonardo Amuedo, Cafe, Vinny Colaiuta, Will Lee, Tom Harrell, Chuck Loeb and more, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7 p.m., $45 and $38

Saturday, March 25 -- The Robert Cray Band, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $40 and $35
Saturday, March 25 -- Brian Culbertson with special guest Eric Darius, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $35

Sunday, March 26 -- WJJZ Smooth Jazz Sunday Brunch: Paul Jackson Jr., Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., $35

Sunday, March 26 -- Bona Fide featuring Slim Man, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 3 p.m., $20

Sunday, March 26 -- Be Still My Soul: Michelle and Brian Culbertson, Atonement Lutheran Church, Wyomissing, 4 p.m. free will offering

Sunday, March 26 -- Tribute to Wes Montgomery: Chuck Loeb, Pat Martino, Paul Jackson Jr., Larry Carlton, Russell Malone, Earl Klugh and Jimmy Bruno plus a rhythm section of keyboardist Larry Goldings, drummer Vinny Colaiuta and bassist Will Lee, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $40 and $35

Posted by Peter Böhi at 1:16 AM

December 16, 2005

Looking Back - Nick Colionne

by Beverly J. Packard

NColionne1.jpgAugust, 2005, brought Nick Colionne and a memorable concert experience to Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base in Reading. I wish I could provide a video clip right here so that you could be properly introduced, or re-introduced, to this most debonair of artists. He's got to be on the list of the Best Dressed artists of the year, and by the looks of his website and CD covers, he's taken his place on this list for a number of years.

Lest I seem to make his appearance more important than it should be in the overall scheme of things, let me quickly add that it only enhances the substance that is found in his playing. If I could characterize him with one phrase, I'd say his playing comes from deep within him -- his music is etched with lines of life, experience, raw feeling and soul almost beyond belief.

The first two songs were from Colionne's first CD, It's My Turn. The soul showed up right away in 'Soulful Strut,' and by the time the band finished 'Back Down Evergreen,' I had only one word in mind: unbelievable. The pace slowed with 'A Rainy Night in Georgia,' a truly beautiful rendition with Nick as vocalist, a very capable master of musical phrasing. The set also included 'It's Been Too Long' from his current CD.

NColionne5.jpgNick's band included Brian Danzy and John Blasucci on keyboards; Dave Hiltebrand on bass, and Chris Miskel on drums. 'Drumbalaya,' written by keyboard player Brian Danzy, began with the drums and moved into a Latin jazz sound. Miskel is a very crisp, precise player.

There is so much to say about Nick Colionne. He's distinctive in his playing, his style, his smile and the twinkle in his eye. And he has not only a very distinctive guitar voice, but also a distinctive human voice, along with a ready sense of humor. His CD commercials, personally directed to the ladies in the audience, brought some good laughs and no doubt some extra CD sales. With his white hat and stylish clothes, he's the epitome of smooth, for sure.

NColionne3.jpgIn addition to everything else that makes up Nick Colionne, intensity is another facet. As he closes the distance between himself and others in the band, his intense eye contact brings out the best in both himself and the selected player. It's as if they stare into each other's souls until they're on the same plane ' the same wavelength. What a sight to see.

Nick is a master of timing. He does the unexpected and it fits perfectly. My favorite song of the evening was the poignant 'Everything Must Change.' The band did a superb job, and although he mentioned this song was for a particular person in the audience ' 'she knows who she is,' he undoubtedly knew that many of us could personally relate to the words of that song, which are like an oasis in the uncertain desert of change.

NColionne6.jpgThe tribute to George Benson's 'On Broadway' was a great opportunity for Colionne to show his love of the guitar playing and inspiration of Benson. I believe Nick went to the same place Gerald Veasley goes when he plays; there must be some kind of jazz base up there in the clouds. During this number, when I was certain keyboardist Danzy went about as far as a keyboard player could go, he went even farther. I don't think any of us could believe what we saw and heard! This song really showed how fluid these players are.

The show ended with 'Just Come On In' from the new CD of the same title. Again, a great demonstration of all the talent in this band, with even more evidence of the nimble fingers of the keyboard player.

For those who've seen Colionne often, count yourself blessed. As for me, I was awestruck and am eager to be in the audience again when he's on stage.

To learn more about Nick Colionne, visit his website
To learn more about Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, visit GeraldVeasleysJazzBase.com.

Happy Jazzin'

NColionne8.jpgBeverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Photo Credits: Michael C. Packard (seen here with Nick Colionne)

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:13 AM

December 11, 2005

Looking Back - JAARED

by Beverly J. Packard

JaaredJazzBase1.jpgNow that winter is fast approaching and thoughts are turning to the upcoming Berks Jazz Fest, I don't want to let this time go by without paying tribute to more of the great shows that occurred this past summer during the Berks Summer Jazz Series.

On July 28th, just when we thought the heat of summer was too much to bear, Reading was blessed with cooler weather. Along with cooler breezes, JAARED arrived at the Gerald Veasley Jazz Base. With his great blend of songs, he and his very tight band made a lasting impression.

JaaredJazzBase2.jpgJaared is a high energy performer and each of his songs is marked with a very captivating beat. The length of time he can hold a note is surpassed only by the long route he can take to the end of a song. In fact, Jaared travels a longer route to the last note of a song than any artist I know, but what an interesting journey it is.

Songs included 'Happy Times,' an upbeat tune heavily influenced by David Sanborn, with great guitar and vocals. There was a stunning rendition of 'Maputo,' a song from Sanborn's Double Vision album with Bob James; this included quite a performance by Eli Staples, keyboard player who played with Ashanti and who is now Jaared's #1 choice for this instrument.

JaaredJazzBase3.jpgAfter a few songs, Jaared told us he was loving it so far at the Jazz Base and thanked us for indulging the band, who he said "has few guidelines or chords written down, so that we never know what we're going to do." The crowd didn't mind that at all and gladly followed wherever the band's improvisational style carried them. Jaared was so appreciative of Reading's efforts to help him put on a successful concert that he also took a moment to present flowers to one of the Stage Right crew members who's been especially helpful.

'Ibiza' was a wonderful song with awesome solos, and during a portion of it, Jaared was down on his knees, Richard Elliot style. From there he played a song from his new CD, entitled 'Love Taken Over,' and then launched into all-time Hall and Oates' favorite 'Sarah Smile.' To my surprise, he sang this one, and I was impressed with his talent as a vocalist.

JaaredJazzBase4.jpgThe second set included 'Search Light,' featuring a great drum solo by Raice McLeod, who is from New Zealand and has played with Olivia Newton John, followed by 'Moonbeams.' Bass guitarist Doc Samba led the band into 'Chicken' and a great time of jamming. Stan Cooper, sought-after guitarist who has played with everyone you can think of, demonstrated his tremendous talent. The rendition of 'Superstar,' a personal favorite of mine, was mesmerizing, and a great lead-in to 'I'll Be There,' which Jaared turned into a lullaby while traveling to all corners of the club. What a crowd pleaser he is.

The band ended the night with a heart-warming rendition of the Star Spangled Banner followed by 'Hang Time' from Jaared's latest CD of the same title. It was an energetic ending to an energizing night.

I thought he put together an excellent blend of songs for the show. Not only the combination of uptempo and reflective, but the blend of original and cover tunes was very satisfying. I love to hear artists play their own compositions and I also enjoy hearing what they do with familiar favorites of mine. Contemporary nostalgia at its best!

To learn more about Jaared, visit his website Jaared.com.
To learn more about this venue, visit GeraldVeasleysJazzBase.com.

Happy Jazzin'

JaaredJazzBase5.jpgBeverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Photo Credits: Michael C. Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 2:29 AM

November 25, 2005

Unique one-of-a-kind concerts highlight Berks Jazz Fest lineup

BerksJazzFest2006.jpgThe exclamation points punctuating the 16th annual FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest are several exceptional one-of-a-kind concerts featuring some of the top names in jazz ... special events produced to usher magic into souls.

The festival, presented by the Berks Arts Council, features the brightest constellation of stars in its history. And considering the staggering scale of its proud legacy, that's a galaxy of star power.

The Berks Jazz Fest runs March 17-26, 2006 at multiple venues throughout Berks County and is stocked with a lineup of artists deep and talented enough to merit considerable conversation. There's such a vibe throughout Berks during the festival it's as if everybody is celebrating birthdays at the same time and everybody is invited to the party.

Unique concerts being produced for Berks Jazz Fest include tributes to the music of Marvin Gaye and Motown; Brazilian legend Ivan Lins; and guitar great Wes Montgomery.

DianneReeves.jpgThe festival has a spectacular beginning with Grammy Award-winning vocalist Dianne Reeves and keyboard icon Joe Sample performing in a grand opening concert.

The 10-day lineup once again is an amazing palette, featuring a diversity of musical styles that includes contemporary jazz, traditional jazz, big band, blues, Latin jazz, swing jazz, and more. Such an effusive range and depth give the festival a singular appeal that is never dulled by time.

The Berks Jazz Fest's 16th Anniversary Concert undoubtedly will be cause for some serious jubilation among patrons. It spotlights the Music of Marvin Gaye & Motown. Gaye, the bestselling Motown artist of all time, utilized his soulful voice to help shape the Motown sound. The music of Gaye and Motown has had a profound impact on the soulful grooves and stylish vocals that define smooth jazz.

Producer/arranger/keyboardist Jason Miles is using his extraordinary talents to blend the exquisite talents of vocalist Bobby Caldwell, superstar guitarist Peter White, vocalist Kevin Mahogany, vocalist Guida DePalma, vocalist Mike Mattison of Derek Trucks Band fame, guitarist Nick Colionne, saxophonist Jay Beckenstein of Spyro Gyra fame, turntables master DJ Logic who is bringing jazz into the hip hop sphere, Brazilian pianist Cesar Camargo Mariano and Brazilian percussion master Bashiri Johnson.

JaneMonheit.jpgAnother enthralling special project being produced by Jason Miles for the festival is Ivan Lins & Friends, which features acclaimed Brazilian composer/pianist Ivan Lins himself, sensational vocalist Jane Monheit, renowned vocalist Brenda Russell, pianist/vocalist Eliane Elias, acclaimed saxophonist Nelson Rangell, Brazilian guitarist Homero Lubambo, guitarist Leonardo Avedo, percussionist Cyro Baptista, percussionist Vinny Colaiuta, David Letterman Band bassist Will Lee and top jazz trumpeter Tom Harrell.

The Tribute to Wes Montgomery promises to resonate with huge dollops of applause. It is being produced by Chuck Loeb, one of the best in the business. Marvelous guitarists joining Loeb are Pat Martino, Paul Jackson Jr., Larry Carlton, Russell Malone, Earl Klugh and Jimmy Bruno. A rhythm section of keyboardist Larry Goldings, drummer Vinny Colaiuta and bassist Will Lee will help rekindle the music of the jazz guitar great. Montgomery's fluid style and trademark use of octaves inspired many of today's most popular guitarists.

The fest's stellar lineup is populated with the jazz and blues elite, artists guaranteed to rattle the tectonic plates under the greater Reading area during the 10-day riff. And if you think that's mere hyperbole, well, you've never experienced the crackling energy the festival generates.

Providing the Berks Jazz Fest with plenty of musical substance, style and splendor are the likes of:

Dianne Reeves, one of the pre-eminent jazz vocalists in the world. She won a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance for each her last three recordings -- a Grammy first in any vocacategory. Reeves is heavily featured in this fall's movie with a big buzz, George Clooney's Good Night. And Good Luck. Clooney handpicked each song for the film's soundtrack, featuring Dianne on new renditions of such classics as "One For My Baby," "Straighten Up and Fly Right" and "Too Close for Comfort" as well as a new tune, "Who's Minding the Store." Reeves is noted for her powerful storytelling instinct, her breathtaking gift of improvisation and her unique blend of jazz and R&B stylings.

Joe Sample, the legendary pianist and composer who has been an integraand innovative part of jazz history.

Two esteemed composers/pianists in Ramsey Lewis, dubbed as the "the great performer", and David Benoit, who helped pioneer the contemporary jazz sound, performing with the Reading Pops Orchestra.

Charismatic trumpeter Rick Braun and sizzling saxophonist Richard Elliot performing together. These popular performers have captivated Berks Jazz Fest audiences over the years and teaming them up is sure to ignite a marvelous sound.

Culbertson_Tour.jpgDynamic multi-instrumentalist and fan favorite Brian Culbertson with special guest saxophonist Eric Darius. Culbertson, primarily a keyboardist, is a smooth jazz icon and he's notable for balancing a sense of cool seduction with one of the most energetic live shows in the genre. Darius is one of the hottest young stars in smooth jazz.

Legendary guitarist Chieli Minucci & Special EFX with special guest guitarist Ken Navarro.

Saxophonist Bob Mintzer of Yellowjackets fame.

The River City Brass Band, which masterfully combines the full richness of a symphony orchestra, the intimacy of a chamber ensemble and the swinging sound of a big band into an entertaining mix.

Eclectic guitarist Larry Carlton of Fourplay fame and the Blue Sapphire Band.

Guitarist Paul Jackson Jr., who excels as a solo artist, sideman and session player and is considered to be one of the funkiest, soulful and versatile guitarists in all of smooth jazz.

Renowned guitarist, composer, arranger, producer, educator and recording artist Chuck Loeb.

Superstar bassist and Berks Jazz Fest perennial Gerald Veasley, who has made Berks County his second home with his bass boot camp during the festival and the weekly Thursday jazz shows throughout the year at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel.

Internationally prominent and groundbreaking vocalist, composer and lyricist Kurt Elling, who will team up with Gerald Veasley.

KirkWhalum_live2.jpgSuperstar soulful saxophonists Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum, who share a mutual love for the music and legacy of Grover Washington Jr., teaming up and performing with one band.

The young faces of jazz: pianist prodigy Taylor Eigsti and precocious guitarist Julian Lage.

And the list of 2006 Berks Jazz Fest artists goes on with such luminaries as The Robert Cray Band that is ushering the blues idiom in the future; versatile saxophonist Najee, one of contemporary jazz's true pioneers; the legendary Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, featuring all-time great trombonist Buddy Morrow as conductor; Pieces of a Dream, one of the most popular and enduring recording and touring ensembles in contemporary jazz; guitarist/vocalist Steve Oliver; saxophonist Michael Paulo; superstar bassist Michael Manring; electric violinist Tracy Silverman; and Reading's own Grammy Award-winning guitarist David Cullen, a featured soloist in the 2006-2007 Windham Hill 30th Anniversary Winter Solstice Concerts.

JohnMayall.jpgAlso, dynamic guitarist Richard Smith's and talented keyboardist Freddie Ravel's Power Quartet; superstar urban smooth jazz saxophonist and trendsetter Kim Waters; jazz organ sensation Gene Ludwig's Trio featuring guitarist Dave Stryker and percussionist Vince Ector; dynamic jazz guitarist Carl Filipiak and his group in a special Jimi Hendrix tribute; jazz/blues pianist/vocalist Mose Allison, noted for his incredible stylistic diversity; blues guitarist Guy Davis; blues pianist/vocalist Marcia Ball, known as the bayou queen of the piano; blues guitarist Clarence Spady from nearby Scranton; blues and soul-drenched vocalist Deb Callahan and her band; the legendary Godfather of British blues John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, a group that served as a finishing school for such marquee blues rockers as guitarists Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor; the Mulgrew Miller Trio; Bona Fide featuring the smooth jazz vocals of Slim Man; and Jazz Goes to Church featuring accomplished pianist Cyrus Chestnut, marquee vocalist Kevin Mahogany and Kendrick Oliver & The New Life Jazz Orchestra.

Of course, the Berks All-Star Jam is a perennial must-see concert. This year's party features Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Chieli Minucci, Ken Navarro, keyboardist/vocalist Joe McBride, saxophonist Kenny Blake, drummer Steve Smith of Journey and Vital Information fame, and keyboardist Tom Coster of Santana and Vital Information acclaim, and more.

Plus, there's the Berks Jazz Fest Fantasy Camp Faculty Concert featuring Mulgrew Miller, Kurt Elling, Jimmy Bruno, Bob Mintzer, Steve Smith, trumpeter John Swana, bassist Christian McBride and more -- a must attraction for fans of more traditional jazz.

Little wonder that the Berks Jazz Fest regularly attracts 45,000-plus patrons from approximately 40 states, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, England and Europe ... jazz lovers who spend an estimated $5 million in Berks County during the festival.

Including a number of non-ticketed events, there likely will be over 130 concerts at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout the greater Reading area.

Yes, the Berks Jazz Fest figures to be a hyperkinetic 10 days guaranteed to raise eyebrows, waggle ears, generate sunbeam smiles, bob heads in rhythm and trigger hands to clap. Rapture, you know, does that to people.

Schedule of major ticketed events:

Friday, March 17 -- Dianne Reeves plus Joe Sample, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $45 and $38

Friday, March 17 -- The Inn of Blues: Mose Allison plus Guy Davis, Inn at Reading Ballroom, 8 p.m., $28

Friday, March 17 -- Pieces of a Dream, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $30

Saturday, March 18 -- Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $38

Saturday, March 18 -- The Inn of Blues: Marcia Ball plus Clarence Spady and Deb Callahan Band, Inn at Reading Ballroom, 7 p.m., $35

Saturday, March 18 -- Michael Manring, Tracy Silverman and David Cullen, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $12

Saturday, March 18 -- Ramsey Lewis & David Benoit with the Reading Pops Orchestra, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $45 and $38

Saturday, March 18 -- Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $38

Sunday, March 19 -- Jazz Goes to Church featuring Cyrus Chestnut, Kevin Mahogany and Kendrick Oliver & The New Life Jazz Orchestra, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $35

Sunday, March 19 -- 16th Anniversary Concert: The Music of Marvin Gaye & Motown featuring Jason Miles, Bobby Caldwell, Peter White, Kevin Mahogany, Guida DePalma, Mike Mattison, Nick Colionne, Jay Beckenstein, Gerald Albright, DJ Logic, Cesar Camargo Mariano, Bashiri Johnson and more, 7 p.m., $45 and $38

Monday, March 20 -- The Young Faces of Jazz: Taylor Eigsti and Julian Lage, Albright College Wachovia Theatre, 7:30 p.m., $15

Tuesday, March 21 -- Mulgrew Miller Trio, Albright College Wachovia Theatre, 7:30 p.m., $20

Wednesday, March 22 -- Berks Jazz Fest Fantasy Camp Faculty Concert: Mulgrew Miller, Kurt Elling, Christian McBride, Jimmy Bruno, Bob Mintzer, John Swana and Steve Smith, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom 7:30 p.m., $25

Thursday, March 23 -- Gene Ludwig Trio featuring Dave Stryker and Vince Ector, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $10

Thursday, March 23 -- Chieli Minucci & Special EFX featuring Ken Navarro and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $30

Thursday, March 23 -- Berks All-Star Jazz Jam featuring Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Chieli Minucci, Ken Navarro, Joe McBride, Kenny Blake, Steve Smith, Tom Coster and more, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $30

Friday, March 24 -- Gerald Veasley with special guest Kurt Elling, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $35

Friday, March 24 -- An Evening With Rick Braun & Richard Elliot, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $45 and $38

Friday, March 24 -- River City Brass Band, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $25 and $20

Friday, March 24 -- Jimi Hendrix Tribute: The Carl Filipiak Group, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 9 p.m., $15

Friday, March 24 -- Najee, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $30

Saturday, March 25 -- Larry Carlton & The Blue Sapphire Band plus Richard Smith & Freddie Ravel Power Quartet featuring special guest Kim Waters, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 1 p.m., $35

Saturday, March 25 -- Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $25

Saturday, March 25 -- Triad featuring Steve Oliver, Michael Paulo and Gerald Veasley, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., $35

Saturday, March 25 -- Ivan Lins & Friends featuring Ivan Lins, Jason Miles, Jane Monheit, Brenda Russell, Eliane Elias, Nelson Rangell, Homero Lubambo, Leonardo Avedo, Cyro Baptista, Vinny Colaiuta, Will Lee, Tom Harrell and more, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7 p.m., $45 and $38

Saturday, March 25 -- The Robert Cray Band, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $40 and $35

Saturday, March 25 -- John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $35

Saturday, March 25 -- Brian Culbertson with special guest Eric Darius, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $35

Sunday, March 26 -- WJJZ Smooth Jazz Sunday Brunch: Paul Jackson Jr., Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., $35

Sunday, March 26 -- Bona Fide featuring Slim Man, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel. 3 p.m., $20

Sunday, March 26 -- Tribute to Wes Montgomery: Chuck Loeb, Pat Martino, Paul Jackson Jr., Larry Carlton, Russell Malone, Earl Klugh and Jimmy Bruno plus a rhythm section of keyboardist Larry Goldings, drummer Vinny Colaiuta and bassist Will Lee, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $40 and $35

Posted by Peter Böhi at 9:20 PM

September 20, 2005

Happy Birthday, Jazz Base!

ChieliChrisGerald1.jpgSeptember marks the first anniversary of the opening of Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base in Reading, Pennsylvania, so Happy Birthday, Jazz Base! Congratulations to Gerald Veasley, the extremely talented bass player who's made Reading his artistic home, John Ernesto, general manager of the Berks Jazz Fest, the Stage Right Production crew and the Sheraton for an exciting and memorable first year!

Chieli1.jpgThis first birthday party included another Thursday night of great music with Gerald Veasley and his band members: Will Brock and Pete Kuzma on keyboards, Eric Green on drums, and saxophonist Chris Farr. What made the night even more special was the addition of special guest and long-time friend Chieli Minucci, guitarist and composer extraordinnaire!

In his usual style, Gerald asked the audience to 'Sit back...and relax...'

AnniversaryBandShot.jpgEach of two sets began with Veasley and the band playing a few favorites, songs like 'Coup de Ville,' 'Do You Remember,' 'Do I Do,' 'Sugartime,' 'Deeper,' and 'Valdez in the Country.' The band was simply awesome.

Once Chieli joined them each set after about four songs, the high that Gerald felt having Chieli on stage with him was totally infectious. With Chieli there, the hallmarks of a Gerald Veasley performance -- the smiles, the becoming totally lost in the moment, and the intricacies of his techniques -- were as excellent as always, and then some! Gerald did a solo that was so out of sight it must be recorded in the heavens somewhere!

Chieli2.jpgLikewise, Chieli's been eager to play with Gerald's band, having done a show with them in Rehoboth Beach last year. He relished having this talented and very tight band with him every step of the way -- he was free to play with the same level of intensity and passion as he does with his own band, to the crowd's delight. Chieli is a real favorite among fans.

Along with Gerald's songs and keyboard player Will Brock's legendary 'Home,' fans were treated to Chieli and/or Special EFX compositions of 'Kickin' It Hard,' 'Cruise Control,' 'Speak to Me,' and Stevie Wonder's 'Cause We've Ended As Lovers.' Duos of Chieli with other band members were magnificent and fun to watch. 'Kickin It Hard' was especially outstanding and turned into quite a jam session.

ChieliChrisGerald2.jpgThe combination of Chieli playing Veasley's music and this band playing Chieli and Special EFX music was a sight and sound to behold. Chieli and Gerald definitely brought out the best of the best in each other, and had an enormous amount of fun. After watching each of them during many shows, it's evident that talented musical artists continue to evolve over time and become even better at what they do.

Fortunately for the fans, this exciting night of music lasted even beyond the scheduled ending time! Some fans went home with prizes won during a raffle drawing: concert tickets, Berks Jazz Fest jackets and t-shirts. If you didn't attend, you missed your chance to get a free, one-and-only Jazz Base cup!

Hope to see you at the Jazz Base!

GeraldVeasleyAtTheJazzBase.jpgLatest CDs:
Gerald Veasley, At the Jazz Base
Chieli Minucci, Got It Goin' On

For more information about the artists, visit their websites:
GeraldVeasleysJazzBase.com
ChieliMusic.com

Happy Jazzin'

AnniversaryChieliBeverlyGer.jpgChieliMinucciGotItGoinOn.jpg

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Photo Credits: Michael Packard


Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 1:00 AM

August 5, 2005

In His Own Words: Gerald Veasley Talks About Music, the Jazz Base and His Brand New CD

by Beverly J. Packard

AT THE JAZZ BASE CD COVER.jpg
Having witnessed the development of Gerald Veasley's home away from home at the Jazz Base in the Sheraton Hotel, Reading, Pennsylvania, the energy of the live CD recording and CD release party, it's time to recap a treasured moment: a long talk with this nearly always smiling, easy going, among the most masterful bass guitarists in jazzdom.

GVCDRecording2.jpgThe CD, appropriately titled Gerald Veasley: At the Jazz Base! was officially released last week (July 26th) by Heads Up International. Hopefully you have your copy and now you can just 'sit...back...and relax,' Gerald Veasley style, and listen to what he has to say about the events of the past year -- and more -- when I spoke with him in June.

Included are pictures from the CD recording session itself, the CD release party, and the 50th birthday party celebration.

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BJP: Hi Gerald! It's so exciting to talk with you, and of course you know how I love the Jazz Base.
GV: You're a big supporter!
BJP: Thanks. You know you'll see our smiling faces there this week for the Chuck Loeb show, and you have such a great summer line up for the club.
GV: Yes, I'll be there with Chuck Loeb, in fact, I'll be sitting in with the band on a few numbers. A little later in the summer we'll have Jaared, and Nick Colionne, and in September we have Acoustic Alchemy.

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BJP: This is a very exciting time for you, and for your fans in Reading with the Jazz Base – that place is only getting better and better. What is it that gave you the vision for it?
GV: I won’t take full responsibility. It was a lot of things coming together. It was the Sheraton seeing an opportunity, as they had seen success with their comedy club, and of course, John Ernesto -- he threw his marketing expertise behind the idea, as well as the generous volunteers who come down and give of their time, Stage Right Productions. A whole host of people put this thing together, and then the artistic name given to it. I also thought it was very important that Reading have an outlet for jazz; it complements what happens there once a year with the Berks Jazz Fest.

BJP: It's so great that we have this year round……it's exciting to be able to learn a lot about the music and the artists. How do bands get to play there? Do you contact them or do they contact you by now?
GV: People are contacting us. They contact me, or John Ernesto. There are a lot of people who are looking for places like this. It's great for regional acts, to give them additional exposure, it’s great for national acts coming in on a Thursday who are playing New York or Philadelphia on the weekend. So it gives them the opportunity to play on a Thursday night in conjunction with their weekend shows.

BJP: The Jazz Base has been called the House of the Flying Vee . I saw on one of your CDs that you have something called Flying Vee Music. I just have to know, where did the term Flying Vee start?
GV: Friends of mine had a band together, one of the first bands to help me get off the ground a bit as a performer and a songwriter, Reverie, and that was one of the nicknames the guys in the band had for me.
BJP: I like that. You are the flying vee, that just fits. You just fly up there in the clouds when you play.

GVCDReleaseParty5.jpgBJP: I'm enjoying the new CD so much. It was so much fun being there when you made the live recording and it’s great to listen now and be transported back to that night. It was a great night, it just makes me want to ‘sit back…and relax..’ How was that different for you as compared to other CD recordings?
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GV: Live recording in itself adds a whole other dimension to the recording process. First of all, you’re able to be much freer in your approach, playing in an environment that is much more natural …it’s what I do mostly, perform in a live setting, so the live recording allows you to be in the environment where it’s most comfortable as a performer. Part of the reason to do a live recording was also to showcase the band: Pete Kuzma, Chris Farr, Will Brock, Eric Green, Pablo Baptiste -- of all the bands I’ve had, it's coalesced into a group that is fresh, spontaneous, and super funky. We're a really tight band. I really wanted the recording to document what that band does live.
BJP: That is a really good band. I love your band. They all bring something really unique and they're so fun to watch... Will Brock, jumping up and down…they're really into it.
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BJP: I took one look at the expression on your face on the cover of the new CD and I said to myself, ‘yep, that’s Gerald all right, that’s that 'bliss with the bass’ look that I know. I’m sure that came after some serious head-bobbing….
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GV: laughing, I’m sorry about all those expressions!
BJP: That's what we love about you, your expressions, we love to see them! And during those times, I just can't help wondering ‘where you go’ when you’re playing. What are you thinking and what brings all those wonderful smiles I love to watch? Part of it is interacting with the band, I know, but you're just -- up there somewhere, I mean, where do you go.....?
GV: It's hard to describe, but just imagine the most natural moment --when you lose yourself in it. Maybe it’s playing with a child, or playing a sport you like, or like being with your friends and someone tells a good joke -- moments like these when you forget about yourself, forget about being self-conscious, forget about things you’re attempting to do, you're just enjoying life at the moment……that’s what it’s like for me. I’m lucky enough to have a career that allows me to enjoy those moments.
BJP: It’s a good thing for you, and a good thing for those of us watching, because we get to go there with you.


GVCDReleaseParty1.jpgBJP: Someone mentioned in your liner notes on one of the CDs that you have such a tender touch and melodic lyricism not usually associated with the bass guitar. That is a great way of saying what I’ve always thought about your playing. And the song ‘Forever’ really shows that melodic lyricism, I love that song! That’s one of my all time favorites.
GV: Mine, too..a bass is a very multidimensional instrument, it has colors to it……bass players have been exploring it. I always wanted to have that kind of lyricism, and express myself melodically……It’s most difficult to express yourself rhythmically, be very funky, have a groove, when you play rhythm and blues, and gospel, I have that, too…..but through the years I wanted to express this other side of myself, I wanted to express myself melodically. You know, how sometimes you are more forceful in life, or sometimes you want to just kick off your shoes at the beach, relax or you want to be tender with a loved one. All of that can be in the bass line. At a certain point, I realized, why not have all that in the bass guitar?
BJP: Is that easier with a six string?
GV: A six string not necessary to do that, but for me, it opened up more possibilities.
BJP: When did the six string bass come into being?
GV: There are various opinions on how it came into being, but the six string as we know it today was probably developed by Anthony Jackson, he is credited with that, and he's one of my favorite bass players. He had a lot of great recordings…
BJP: Is it true that the top two strings on the base are the bottom two strings of the rhythm guitar?
GVCDReleaseParty2.jpg
GV: I think Fender had a base like that……same notes as on guitar, then an octave lower. But the modern day six string
has the range extended in both directions, as opposed to a four string. This became important to bass players in the 80s….because with the advent of synthesizers and synthesized base playing, you didn’t have the same kind of limitations, so you had all these great recordings that came out with low, low notes, like you could get on the keyboard, and bass players thought, I could do that, too, if I had the range.

BJP: I know there are many musicians in your past that you’ve admired and learned from and that helped you grow into your own identity as a musician. Can you talk about some of the ones who influenced you the most, like Grover Washington, Joe Zawinul...
GV: I had the opportunity to play with Grover Washington, of course, one of the most influential saxophonists of our time. He developed a unique style, I’m not sure exactly how he started that, but he had a traditional side, very grounded and well schooled, but he had both elements -- a very soulful, natural side, with great freedom of expression, yet a deep understanding of music, in a traditional way….and besides that,he had a great voice on the instrument, which is when you have someone where you don’t have to hear the whole song to know it’s him.
GV: As for Joe Zawinul, he became a household name……very grounded, part of the Miles Davis band, with that super classic album Bitches Brew……On one of the first electric jazz records, he was one of the main composers and players on In a Solid Way , then developed his own band with Wayne Shorter which was a legendary fusion band, called Weather Report. I listen today to any one of their 12 or 13 records – they sound just a fresh as when they were made. He was adventurous and didn’t care at all about the critics, what anybody thought about him as a musician or his band. Working with him close to eight years, I learned a lot about staying true to yourself. It was a great training ground, a great place for musicians to be showcased, such as Jaco Pastorious and Omar Hakim.
GVCDReleaseParty3.jpgBJP: And Ornette Coleman, who advised ‘don’t do fret ideas, but rather musical ideas?’
<GV: Ornette Coleman was one of the most daring musicians of the twentieth century, no exaggeration, and he had no problem offending people (not intentionally); he really freed up jazz from the normal and conventional form. One of the conventions is like, playing cliches, comfortable habits on an instrument. Ornette was not concerned about conventions, he had a tendency to go out of his way to defy usual expectations…I was pleased to be in his presence. I love being able to think about music and challenge some of the ideas. For example, somebody asked me the other day, wow, there are not that many bass players out there that are leaders....why not? It's a convention, and in some ways, it makes sense that the bass is the supportive instrument in the background. But you have bass players out there now who are really formidable on their instrument and have a lot of personality, so why not be leaders?

GVCDRecording6.jpg
BJP: You’ve said that blues is the mother of all this music that you and many others are performing. Can you tell us how you think about the various categories we often use to describe music today, you know, is it jazz, straight ahead or smooth, is it fusion, R & B, is it rock-fusion, etc?
GV: It’s natural to think about categories, natural to think about style…..I can use the example of martial arts. There are many styles, including Japanese, Korean ... but a brilliant teacher, in addition to teaching you how to be true to a style, will also stress that in a ‘fight’ you want to be able to be flexible..
BJP: ... to customize it to the moment?
GV: Yes, if two opponents are each fluent in their styles, it will be the flexible one, who is more elusive and has more mystery, who will be in the best position to give a response.

BJP: That's a great comparison....
You’ve said in the past that being a sideman for others is something you always want to continue – that it’s a way to support other musicians, and that it’s also a way to help influence the atmosphere that is so critical during the recording process. You seem to have such a calm, steady, consistent nature and along with your talent, it seems other musicians would love having you around.

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GV: I try to make a contribution. It's important to bring something, everyone brings something different. Sometimes, it’s in the personality, or sometimes you want someone to trouble shoot, bounce ideas off. As musicians, we spend so much time isolated – we do so much in a private manner, so we’re missing that feedback from others.

BJP: Can you talk about a couple of experiences you’ve had? I’m thinking of the dueling bass ‘Deeper than Deep’ that you did recently with Jerry Brooks of Special EFX, for one.
GV: That was a lot of fun, a lot of fun! Of course, Chieli, he’s like a brother, we have a great rapport. It wasn’t exactly dueling, of course, more like sharing stories, like when you play with someone else, and you say, ‘Hey, did you hear this story?’ And they answer with another story of their own. And Chieli, he didn’t showcase himself, he just let us have a go at it!
BJP: So it wasn’t an argument, but more like a conversation!
GV: Exactly, and that’s my nature. I just wrote an article about that – about competition – about the idea of getting caught up in comparing and competing in what we are doing, and how it’s a dangerous thing to do. That’s not to say the musical conversation can’t be provocative, like in a real conversation, but when you’re playing with other musicians and you think competitively, you set youself up for disappointment.
BJP: I notice that so much about this genre of music – there seems to be so much cooperation and so much give and take with each other. And just as it is in life, when your main goal is to make yourself stand out, it never works.
GV: Yes, it’s a tricky balance, because you don’t want to lessen your standards, and you want to be excellent, but not for the purpose of showing up someone else, on a musical level; you’re not trying to outshine someone else, you just want to express who you are. The same way in conversation, each person has his own story, and it’s beyond ....measurement. It’s all valid. As Grover Washington used to say, “Everybody has something to say.” I like that. In my whole time with Grover, I never heard him say, I promise you, not once did he ever say something negative about another artist, or even another person, -- not once -- because he realized that even if a person wasn’t very accomplished on his or her instrument, what he brought by way of his life experiences, or his love for music, was important. Everybody’s bringing something to the table. If you and I are having a party, we got it all covered -- somebody brings the casserole, and someone else brings a bottle of wine, and whatever it is, it’s personal. As artists and as people, we have to fight that inclination to be competitive and critical.

BJP: And how about your work with George Jinda?
GV: Yes, I played a lot of projects with him, and then he had a band that he formed, called World News……I don’t even know where to start, talking about George…
BJP: I wish I had known him and seen him play.
GV: People think that George had a gruff exterior, but that was all phony, he was the sweetest guy in his heart…..and he was just so wonderful and helpful to me, recommending me, at the drop of a hat, to other people and for other projects, even when he wasn’t involved in the projects. Most of the time he wasn’t involved in the project. Yeah…he was…a lovely person. And he was smart, very smart business-wise, I learned a lot from him.
BJP: It would be interesting to see what he would have gone on to do.

BJP: It seems to me you and your music are motivated by a celebration of life – of your own, of those you’ve lost, of other musicians, of your fans, of everyone you meet. I know that you’ve had losses of key people in your life – for one, your Dad, when you were a junior in college, who was very supportive of your music. And you had the loss of people like Grover Washington, and George Jinda. You seem to be able to reach down to the core of yourself, and bring out this love of those you lost in your music –You seem to transform those losses into something beautiful.
GV: It’s interesting – I don’t know that I’ve ever fully thought it out like that…it’s been a great vehicle for me to do that…
BJP: And a good example is your 'Celebrating Sipho,' a tribute to the South African bassist..
GV: Yes, Sipho Gumede. I think it’s my chosen manner for dealing with things like that. I hope it’s working…
BJP: You seem to have a strong faith and an understanding of how to deal with tough things in life..
GV: I don’t think it’s the way, it’s just a way. It works for me ... And it’s what draws me into this profession as well, realizing I have the power to do that. I want to be a part of that on the supply side of that, if you will, not just on the consumption side.
BJP: I think you do something very special because of your experiences. It may not be something an artist has in his head when he’s creating, but it’s kind of obvious, and it truly helps those who are watching – there’s just something about the way you do that.
GV: I appreciate that….you really have a lot of insight into what I do, which I genuinely appreciate ... your taking the time.
BJP: I love the people side of this – you know I love the music, but I also love the people side of it.

GVBirthdayParty2.jpgBJP: I know you have a very special birthday party coming up……a number some of us don’t like very much...!
both laughing
BJP:And you're going to do some of your celebrating at the Jazz Base, is that right?
GV: Yes, my dream is to have 50 musicians that night!
BJP:Oh good, that sounds like a lot of fun!

BJP: Is there anything you want people to know about you that they might not know, like what you’re doing when you’re not composing or playing or teaching? You’re probably playing with TJ...
GV: Oh yes, TJ is more and more important to me. Kids grow up so fast. I don’t want to look back and say that I missed important milestones because I was too busy.
BJP: That’s another nice thing about the Jazz Base, isn’t it, you can include the family.
GV: Exactly.

GVBirthdayParty4.jpgBJP: In a former interview, you mentioned despite some of the difficult parts of traveling, that you’re still enjoying travel because of the destinations. That reminded me of your opening night at the Jazz Base, when you said, in the way that only Gerald Veasley can say, that we should ‘sit back and relax’ ‘enjoy the journey’ and that we ‘don’t need any luggage’ – and you deliver every time, Gerald, we ARE happy to travel with you because you truly do take us to great destinations, and I’m sure all of us are looking forward to all the future destinations that you create for us!

GV: That’s wonderful, Beverly, it’s those kinds of comments that, when you’re having a bad day, you can look back on those comments and know that you’re making a difference.
BJP: You are. You definitely are doing that. And even though I’m still relatively new at all of this, you’re one of the people who has made it so fun and interesting for me to learn about the music.

GVBirthdayParty3.jpgBJP: Is there anything you want to say before we end this interview?
GV: You covered it, really. One comment I would add is that I wrote on the CD jacket……that this CD is for all those people who liked hearing the band live and wanted to take that with them. No offense, as TJ would say, to the studio recording, but there are a lot of people who wanted that.
BJP: And they got it.
GV: It’s for those people, our friends and fans.

BJP: It's been great talking with you Gerald, thank you so much for the time, and I'll see you at the Jazz Base!
GV: Yes, see you Thursday night!


Happy Jazzin'

GVCDReleaeParty6.jpgBeverly Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Photo Credits: Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:28 AM

July 13, 2005

The Legendary Chuck Loeb: Live at the Jazz Base

BerksSummerJazzSeries.jpg

ChuckLoeb1.jpgEvery musician seems to have his characteristic sign of bliss while playing his instrument. Gerald Veasley was the first to reveal this quite clearly -- his tell-tale head-bobbing, front and back and side to side, can’t be missed. No doubt all artists eventually exhibit this sign if we’re paying attention, and Chuck Loeb is no exception; there is an unmistakable sign of the fun he’s having. After just a few minutes of getting warmed up, it’s not long before he begins swaying back and forth with his guitar, first side to side, then up to one side and down to the other side, and by the time Chuck is going straight down to the floor in order to play his guitar the way he means to, it’s all over – he’s in guitar heaven. From then on, the rest of the show seems even more fun for him than it is for his audience, and that’s saying a lot!

Chuck Loeb is such an accomplished guitar player; he’s done so much in a varied career that goes beyond being a successful recording artist to include wide acclaim as a composer, arranger, educator, and producer. Loeb is so well known, has played with so many artists, has produced, encouraged and helped so many to get where they are today, that by now he’s in that elite category of ‘mentor extraordinaire.’ Watching him as the arranger and bandleader for ten or more uniquely talented musicians each year at the Berks Jazz Fest All Star Jam, one can’t miss his ability to bring together a team of players, his willingness to step into the background and enhance the contributions of others, and his competent leadership on stage during the performance.

During this year’s Berks Jazz Fest, fans were able to witness an equally accomplished side of Chuck Loeb. There was opportunity to watch what he does when he takes the stage with his own band. It was an exceptional performance, and it gave us a chance to see the side of him that confirms his heart is still at the place where it began at the start of his career -- playing the guitar for the sheer enjoyment of it.

ChuckLoebBassKeyboard3.jpgChuck&Drummer6.jpgIt was no surprise that Loeb and band members Brian Killeen (bass), Matt King (keyboards), and Josh Dion (drums) were included in the line-up for the Berks Summer Jazz Series. These band members, immensely talented yet young enough to greatly benefit from Loeb’s years of experience, seem to afford him a perfect combination -- at the same time Chuck is enjoying himself so much, he has a chance to influence and shape the performance of those getting firmly anchored in this genre of music. This band is phenomenal together, and to watch all of this in the intimate setting of a place like Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base ranked up there among the best of live music.

It seems there is no separation between Chuck Loeb and his guitar: they operate as one. It’s not just the swaying, but he holds it close to him, as he would a dance partner, totally engrossed in his plan for it and taking it along with him where he wants to go. Ever the leader, he is first and foremost leader of that guitar. Yet he remains aware of everything else that is going on. As he stops playing for someone else to solo, he might get busy taking care of all kinds of things. It almost seems the whole show is just a practice session for him, he’s so relaxed as he walks from side to center stage (unobtrusively, really), and of course we all know that it's not a practice session. By definition, practice is not synonymous with perfect, which this show surely was! With his ability to multi-task, no wonder he can organize a bunch of musicians with seeming ease and with the amazing results of shows like the Berks All Star Jazz Jam as well as this show featuring his own band.

ChuckLoeb7.jpgChuck has the respect of his players, who look to him to confirm they are right where he wants them. There is no confusion, something that’s attributed to his clear leadership as well as their individual abilities. Band members work hard at giving a flawless delivery of what Chuck wants – he stretches them beyond what they might think they are capable of, only to find that he was right, the talent was there all along to follow through with what was needed. It’s fascinating to see how Chuck’s trust in their ability at certain demanding points of the performance take them all right over the top. One could see the intensity of the bass player when this happened, and the ever-so-slightly questioning look of the keyboard player, both of whom quickly picked up on where Chuck was taking them. As for the drummer, he appeared ready for every minute of every song -- he had ‘carte blanche’ on the performance and he seemed to know it. (He’s been with Chuck the longest of the three, so that by now he and Chuck form a oneness that’s quickly coming with the other two players).

All three band members have remarkable talent. The keyboard player, the newest member of the band, obviously had a lot of fun and did a superb job of following Chuck, staying with him through every song, and the bass player's quality of concentration served him well. He appears to be the kind of player who will go on to even greater heights of bass playing. The drummer was quite interesting to watch; he somehow seems to crawl over the entire drum set while he’s playing, and so he’s playing with his entire body. Throughout the evening, the ending of each song was amazingly crisp and often surprising, again the mark of a carefully orchestrated plan by a capable leader in Chuck Loeb and the incredible response of the band.

Chuck&Gerald4.jpgChuck&Horns2.jpgJoining the band for a few songs were Gerald Veasley himself and also the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, including Mike Anderson on sax, Rob Diener on trumpet, and Bill Miller on trombone. Veasley and Loeb have an easy comaraderie, and the Berks Jazz Fest horns rose to the occasion every time with some memorable soloing.

The first set included 'Balance' from the CD of the same name, then three cuts from his latest CD, When I’m With You, including 'Double Life,' 'Uppercut,' and 'Brother Ray' with the Jazz Fest Horns and Gerald Veasley sitting in, followed by his popular current hit, ‘Tropical,’ during which there was an unbelievable solo by Loeb.

ChuckLoebVocalDrummer.jpgThe second set began with the upbeat 'Jump Start' (When I’m With You), continued with the beloved Ray Charles’ ‘Georgia,’ which featured the drummer as vocalist in an entertaining and memorable performance, then ‘Sarao,’ (All There Is) and Wayne Shorter’s ‘Footprints,’ which featured Veasley, ending with 'Billy’s Song'(In A Heartbeat), a medley that includes, ‘eBop,’ ‘Pocket Change,’ and ‘Just Us.’ The encore was a reprise of ‘Jump Start,’ and by the time it ended, the audience was on its feet for the second or third time!

ChuckGeraldHorns5.jpgChuck explained earlier the meaning of 'Sarao,' a Spanish word for ‘a kind of party, where you hang out with friends’ – Chuck’s solo on the song was a party all its own! The entire performance was the stuff of live CD recording sessions, complete with fervent appreciation of the audience, lending credibility to the notion that ever since Veasley himself recorded a CD at the Jazz Base, the venue may have taken on an identity of its own. Loeb also declared his keen fondness for Berks as a place to play, mentioning that it’s so relaxed and happy here. It’s fair to say Berks fans are ready for a 'Sarao' any time Chuck Loeb feels like taking the stage!

Gerald Veasley summed it up best when he said, “….. the show was fantastic. Chuck inspires me as a composer, bandleader and musician. It's always a pleasure playing with him.”

Visit Chuck Loeb’s website at www.chuckloeb.com to learn more about him, his latest CD, When I'm With You, and his enormous contributions to the music world.


Happy Jazzin'

ChuckBeverly.jpgBeverly Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Photo Credits: Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 5:35 PM

June 27, 2005

Berks Summer Jazz Series

BerksSummerJazzSeries.jpgSince the official opening of Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base in Reading, Pennsylvania, in the fall of 2004, jazz aficionados have been pleased to be entertained by an assortment of talented musicians from near and far away. The Jazz Base was a key venue during the ten day Berks Jazz Fest in March, and no one is surprised that the line-up of great music will continue every Thursday evening throughout the summer.

Fans may not realize, however, that the Jazz Base is now the home of the officially designated Berks Summer Jazz Series. This series, which includes every show held at the Jazz Base, will also highlight an impressive selection of some very well-known artists throughout the summer.

ChuckLoebJB.jpgThe Berks Summer Jazz Series was kicked off this past Thursday evening with Chuck Loeb, a musician who is familiar to Berks Jazz Fest crowds as the one who arranges and leads the Berks All Star Jam every year. This year at Berks Jazz Fest 2005, Chuck also gave us an awesome show with his own band and featuring saxophone player David Mann. Chuck is always a welcome addition to the Jazz Fest – often he is more in the background, arranging and making sure everything goes well, enhancing the expert skill of other artists, but this year, with a separate show, he was able to take a more prominent role, and everyone would have to agree that he is nothing less than a ‘class act.’ It seemed all of us got more of a taste of just how accomplished he is, and so he was a superb choice for the opening of the Berks Summer Jazz Series. The show featured the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, Gerald Veasley, and Chuck’s very talented band. (more pictures and a recap of the show to follow)

In addition to Chuck Loeb, there are a number of additional surprises in the line-up for the summer, including the following:

Thursday, June 30th, is a release party for Gerald Veasley’s November 21st, 2004 live CD recording of At The Jazz Base! which will be available on July 26th. For any of you who were there in November, this promises to be a great night of reminiscing. If you missed the recording session, here’s your chance to hear some of the music recorded on the CD, and share in the excitement of the upcoming release.

Jaared.jpgJaared, an accomplished saxophone player, broke onto the smooth jazz scene in 2000 with a hit solo album entitled Foreward and is currently touring with Peter White. He and Peter did a show at Berks Jazz Fest, and now he will return to Berks as part of the Summer Jazz Series on July 28th. Voted one of the top five saxophonists of the Washington, D.C. metro area, he was also nominated as Best New Artist of the year at the 3rd Annual Smooth Jazz Awards in 2002, and he has been gathering loyal fans ever since.

Nick Colionne.gifNick Colionne, who has worked with artists like the Impressions, Natalie Cole, and Curtis Mayfield, will perform on August 26th. His songs have been recorded by people like Paul Anka and Johnnie Mathis. A successful solo artist, he makes a great connection with the audience and his show also promises to be a great time of jazz!

AAatBerks.jpg Acoustic Alchemy, an English band with a long track record of hit albums, played Berks in 2004, and will return on September 22nd, this time to the intimacy of the Jazz Base. This is a band that has made its way across the Atlantic Ocean to develop a huge fan base in the United States. If you’ve never heard them, you’re in for a treat – they are extremely talented and quite entertaining. Those who caught their show the first time here in Reading have been waiting excitedly for them to return. Their trademark is the pairing of two guitar players, Greg Carmichael on nylon string and steel string guitar and Miles Gilderdale on the steel string and electric guitar. The way the two guitar players complement each other is totally engaging to the listener. The pleasant and humorous demeanor of all the band members is fun to watch and also speaks to their wonderful connections to the audience.

We hope to see you at the Jazz Base this summer if you’re anywhere within driving distance, and if you’re not close enough, remember those coming from out of town and staying at the Sheraton in order to attend Jazz Base shows will receive a special package deal.

These days there are so many great festivals and shows around the country that feature the best of contemporary jazz music, and with this new series, Berks continues to do all it can to keep jazz music lovers in a year-round jazz state of mind.

Visit www.geraldveasley’sjazzbase.com to see a complete listing of all the shows to be held in the Berks Summer Jazz Series.

Happy Jazzin’

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
MyGirlSunday@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 4:51 AM

April 29, 2005

Dance to the Music

Special-EFX-&-Desert-Dance-.jpgChieli Minucci and Special EFX reunite with Desert Dance Theatre for a night of ‘Sensory Memory’
Beverly J. Packard

Don’t look now, but while some of us attended the concerts of artists we love this past month (for me it was Matt Bianco Trio in Philadelphia), there was a rare performance going on in Scottsdale, Arizona. While we watched stages complete with artists and their instruments, the stage in Scottsdale added one more component: an entire dance theatre. The seeds of this performance were planted 19 years ago when Chieli Minucci and Special EFX traveled to Scottsdale to join the Desert Dancers in their first collaboration.

Founded in 1979, Desert Dance Theatre is a contemporary dance company offering a variety of quality programs to schools and communities. The company has performed throughout Arizona, Mexico, Nevada, Texas, New Mexico and New York. Programs reflect positive messages through music, dance and storytelling, and focus on a variety of significant themes such as cultural diversity, prominent people who have fought for freedom in America, and important issues in contemporary society.

DesertDawnLisaChow&Husband.jpgBefore the show, Lisa Chow, (pictured with husband and partner Step Raptis), Concept and Creative Art Director for the Desert Dance Theatre, remarked, “We are thrilled about this joint venture and reunion, bringing Chieli and Special EFX back over from New York. We plan to give our audience a whole new experience of contemporary jazz music and modern dance. This was such a hit 19 years ago, we just had to do it again.”

She states, “Desert Dance Theatre blends art, education and entertainment into exciting concert dance that appeals to audiences of all ages. The repertory ranges in mood from comical to dramatic, abstract to lyrical. The original choreography, by a variety of artists, combines elements of modern dance, ballet, jazz and mime. Most of the company's work is created collaboratively within the company or with artists of other disciplines (live vocal and/or instrumental music, video, theatre, visual arts).”

The performance, entitled ‘Sensory Memory,’ was an exciting collaboration in which both groups performed selections from past and current repertory. It was a night when the audience could hear and see the lyrical, head bopping melodies and house inspired body shaking rhythms of Minucci and Special EFX, as interpreted by Chow and the Desert Dance Theatre dancers.

Chieli Minucci commented, “What a fantastic night we had collaborating with Lisa Chow's Desert Dance Theatre. Set in the beautiful Scottsdale Performing Arts Center theatre, near Phoenix, we performed on Friday, April 8th, on a gorgeous, moonlit night.”

DesertDanceTheatreStepRapti.jpgChieli and Special EFX, joined by percussionist Step Raptis, performed during the first half of the show. A brief intermission segued into the highlight of the show – their collaborative presentation, as Special EFX performed five selections set to new choreography executed by the Desert Dance Theatre. This exciting collaboration fused modern dance and contemporary jazz music into one creative, innovative, and spectacular performance.

The five selections included the following: two selections from Special EFX albums – Jazz Lambada (Just Like Magic, 1990) and George Can’t Dance (Catwalk, 1993); three selections from Chieli Minucci’s solo album releases -- Courageous Cats (Jewels, 1996), My Girl Sunday (Sweet On You, 2001) and Still Waiting (from his latest release, Got It Goin’ On, 2005).

Chieli summed up a phenomenal night, “It was a great night. The music was beautifully choreographed. The dances were sensational, reflecting the choreographer’s vision combined with the intended meaning of each song -- from primitiveness, to feminine elegance, and urban slickness to total earthiness. This was a night we'll never forget."

For more information about the Desert Dance Theatre, visit www.desertdancetheatre.org

untitled.bmpFor more information about Chieli Minucci and Special EFX, visit www.chielimusic.com

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Photo credits: Compliments of Chieli Minucci and the Desert Dance Theatre


Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 12:45 PM

April 23, 2005

Hiroshima’s Obon: Reflection and Celebration

An Interview with the founders of the band about their latest CD, to be released April 26, 2005, by Heads Up International
Beverly J. Packard

Hiroshima.jpgHiroshima’s contemporary jazz music is not simply music, but is also a significant contribution to the world. Significant because Hiroshima has a unique ability to lift us to spiritual places. To celebrate that which is worth celebrating and to encourage us to be wise about each other. Diversity is their middle name, and the varied cultural and religious influences that form the heritage of the band itself only enhances their credibility.

With a name like Hiroshima, none of us can be surprised that the music they make reaches deep within us and has so much to say. To come ‘up from the ashes’ is perhaps the longest journey to be made, and to associate one’s music with that concept would easily cause it to resonate with meaning. Their latest CD, to be released April 26th and entitled Obon, is no exception, with its deeply rooted meaning, timing, and style. It is offered as a tribute to the musicians, places and events that have inspired the band.

Obon continues the tradition of giving something back to the world, both in its commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the imprisonment of Japanese Americans, as well as in its tribute to the loss of relatives fighting as American war heroes in Europe. In addition, it marks the contemporary jazz band’s own 25th anniversary of their recording career. And it happens to celebrate the debut of their very first instrumental album in those 25 years. So this album is a blend of reverence and joy.

In an interview with Dan Kuramoto and June Kuramoto, founders of Hiroshima, they explain it best:

BJP: Congratulations on 25 years of Hiroshima’s recording career! Dan, you’ve mentioned that Obon represents a new beginning for Hiroshima. Would you tell us what is involved in this new beginning and the factors that led up to it?

Dan: Life is cyclical. This first 25-year cycle really represents several cycles within it. We have seen so many musical evolutions, and we have always tried to grow with each new change—yet stay true to our sound and our audience. We remember when we were first signed to a record deal, we kept hearing we’d never make it because we didn’t fit into any category. Now we hear that we sound too ‘distinctive and ethnic.’
June: So we are full circle—BUT we keep growing and discovering, and “Obon” reminds us to pay tribute to our ancestors as well as to celebrate.

BJP: This is the first instrumental album you’ve made. Can you tell us what went into that decision?

June: Yes, Obon is our first instrumental album. Like life itself, it was part situation, part inspiration. Our lead vocalist and good friend, Terry [Steele], had decided to go solo. These kinds of changes used to devastate me, but as I started growing up, I realized change can be made for the better, like the legacy of the city of Hiroshima—up from the ashes. It becomes a perfect situation for us to SIMPLIFY. In particular, we wanted to feature our keyboard player from Hawaii, Kimo Cornwell. Having played with so many top acts, including Frankie Beverly and Maze, Al Jarreau, and on and on, Kimo is phenomenal. WE have an exciting young taiko drummer, Shoji Kameda—and we decided it was time to make Dan take some time between writing and producing to play more sax and flute. Having less gives more breathing space . . .air . . .life. There is a beauty and new energy in that.

BJP: I am definitely enjoying the greater use of Kimo, especially his piano playing and of Dan on the saxophone and the flute! How did you arrive at the concept of Obon for this new CD? Would you share some of the highlights for you of this past year or two as this project evolved?

June: Dan actually came up with the concept of “OBON.’ Reflection and celebration. It represents so many things to us—25 years of recording, the 60th year anniversary of the imprisonment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II-- along with the 60-year anniversary of the passing of my Uncle Katsu, who died an American war hero fighting in Europe to rescue the ‘lost’ Texas battalion—while my father’s family was still incarcerated. And virtually every song has a story. An in-depth explanation of the songs can be found on our website, www.hiroshimamusic.com.

BJP: The word ‘obon’ is a fascinating one – it makes sense that in the reverence for those who have died we must allow ourselves also to celebrate their lives, their example, their legacy to us -- is there anything about the original meaning you want to further explain?

June: Our Japanese roots are so rich and we are always trying to learn about them. Obon is a buddhist observation. In our band we are baptist, catholic and buddhist—it’s all about the spirituality of life. We move forward in the steps of those who came before, to guide and inspire us.

BJP: The CD truly does have more of a ‘celebratory’ feel to it as compared to the more ‘reverent’ nature of much of your music I have enjoyed so much. How do you think fans will react to this change?

Dan: We like to think our fans really appreciate our commitment to what we do—and that we celebrate diversity and variety in our music, as we do in our lives. We often explain our music by using food as an example. And we do love food! No one wants to eat burgers for every meal. We like to think every record we make has its own journey. The departure to a more upbeat project is really like our earlier work.

BJP: That makes sense. I’m most familiar with your more recent music, since I discovered you last year just before you came to perform at the Berks Jazz Fest ……..Is there a message in creating the album around a concept of Obon at this time in history? For instance, partly in response to recent events/tragedies/loss of life in the world?

June: It goes back to the Tao—the yin and the yang. It is the timeless cycle of life. When we endure tragedy it makes us more grateful for what we have, and who we can share that with.
Dan: OBON is taking the time to observe all of these things, and to learn to be positive and always have compassion.

BJP: I see the tour begins on the East Coast on May 1st -- the day of the concert at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.) – is there any significance to beginning the tour in that location?

Dan: May is Asian-Pacific Heritage month in America. We are very proud to be part of this celebration. It is in itself our OBON!

BJP: I know from visiting your website that cooking is a favorite activity for you both (and perhaps others in the band, too!) Your recipes look very good and I just may try some of them! I noticed one of your songs, Swiss Ming, is inspired by Chef Ming Tsai on television. Can you tell us more about how he became part of this song?

June: Dan did the theme music for Ming’s emmy award–winning food network show, “East Meets West” and his other show, “Ming’s Quest.” Subsequently they became good friends, and Dan wrote the music for his current hit cooking show, “Simply Ming,” on PBS. The band played the music for all the shows, and last year had an extraordinary dinner at his restaurant near Boston, Blue Ginger. We often plan our tour around cities where we have favorite restaurants!

BJP: Diversity is a great word to describe the various people, events and places that have inspired you. Thinking over the last 25 years, can you describe the vision, or world view, that has been the heart of Hiroshima and that is expressed in your music?

Dan: I think ultimately that it’s about ‘valuing’ every human being. Thank God for all the things that make us different. Our whole sound is based on that notion, about creating a new mix from song to song and CD to CD. It makes everything filled with discovery and passion. That we will never compromise.

BJP: Please share with us the ancestors that have played a key role in inspiring who you are today, those whose lives you include in the celebration that is Obon.

June: For me, it would have to be my mother who passed on quite a while ago, but since OBON encompasses living as well, it would include my daughter Lani, my bandmates, my musical mates, family friends and our fans. I’m so grateful.
Dan: We are ‘sansei’ which means third generation. It doesn’t matter what your culture, its about respecting and enhancing your heritage—which is the title of the last track on “OBON” and I think it addresses the question far better than I can describe in words.

BJP: I couldn't agree more! What a great song that is! June, could you please tell us why the koto instrument has such a special appeal? It seems part piano, part harp, part violin, all wrapped up in one. There's a soothing or calming effect that seems to be associated with it. Does it seem to affect many people in that way?

June: The (o)koto (as in the first "o" given in Obon to give honor), is an ancient Japanese instrument that came/imported to Japan from China around 700 AD. It was strictly a court instrument until introduced to the public in the 17th Century. The koto is approximately 6 feet 3 inches long, about 10 inches wide and 3-4 inches deep. It has 13 strings with 13 moveable bridges. It is hollow and made of kiri (paulownia) wood. The kiri tree is only grown in Asia with heart-shaped leaves.
When I first heard the okoto (played by my teacher Kazue Kudo), I fell in love with the sound. I believe a lot has to do with the instrument was a connection to my homeland Japan; but I also believe that because it's made from wood, it's strongly connected to Mother Earth. There is something very special about trees -- their roots anchor this beautiful creation to Mother Earth and can hear what's going on around the world but at the same time the branches spread to the sky embracing spirituality. So with this combined with the koto being long and hollow, a sound of deep resonance and reverberation is the outcome that soothes the ears and sometimes heart and soul.

BJP: And I believe that is a good way to characterize the experience of listening to the music of Hiroshima -- it soothes the ears, the heart and the soul of so many of us. Thank you so much, Dan and June, for sharing your thoughts during this important time and most of all, thank you for your music. Every time I listen to Obon, I become more enthused about it. This album is another masterpiece of creativity and spiritual emphasis.


Hiroshima will perform at a free outdoor concert at the Hirshhorn Museum at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. on May 1st, and will also perform May 2nd at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia. Please visit www.hiroshimamusic.com, to see their complete touring schedule and to learn more about them.

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Photo compliments of Heads Up International

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 8:40 PM

Obon: Review of the CD

Beverly J. Packard

Obon CD Cover.bmpObon (Heads Up International) features Dan Kuramoto as composer, producer, and on keyboard and woodwind instruments; June Kuramoto on the koto; Kimo Cornwell on piano and keyboard; Danny Yamamoto , drums and percussion; Dean Cortez on bass; and Shoji Kameda as Taiko drummer and percussionist.

Obon is Hiroshima's third Heads Up recording, and it continues to reflect their musical message of diversity. Says Dan Kuramoto, "Every Hiroshima record is an attempt to reflect the diversity of our society. That diversity is the heart and soul of our music."

Obon has the distinction of being the first instrumental album in the 25 year history of Hiroshima. There is greater use of the saxophone, flute and piano, to the listener's delight, and there is wonderful percussion and bass throughout the album. The band continues the use of a variety of traditional Asian instruments, including the ever-popular koto, a stringed instrument, the shakuhachi, a five-holded bamboo flute, and the powerful taiko (literal word for drum). Songs are well placed and each one has special significance.

The opening track, Swiss Ming, with its great piano work and instrumental effects, grabs your attention and heralds in the celebratory theme of the CD....

Swiss Ming's dynamic transitions have its serious tones, foreshadowing the reverent nature of the CD, as well. It is inspired by the classic Les McCann/Eddie Harris album Swiss Movement and Chef Ming Tsai, host of the cooking show Simply Ming on public television.

Halfway through is Obon two-five, standing for the 25 years of Hiroshima’s recording career. Taking advantage of Shoji Kameda’s booming taiko drum to send the official signal to celebrate, the song also quiets to a reverence and features June’s delicate koto playing --in the end it’s a compelling call to both celebration and reflection.

China Latina is a soft and steady, beautifully melodious blend of piano and koto. The saxophone becomes prominent later in the song, and it moves into a rather jazzy rhythm by the end of the song. It was written by Dan Kuramoto and bassist Dean Cortez for the group’s co-founder June Kuramoto – according to Dan, "a girl from Japan, raised in Los Angeles and trained as a classical kotoist, who made her dream of integrating music and cultures together a reaality." Paris, another sweet and soft melody, features the flute and is June’s lullaby to the City of Light.

Kototso-han is a more haunting song that draws you back to former times with traditional Asian instruments and features more great percussion.

Atomic Cafe features the bass, koto, saxophone, great percussion, effective key changes, and works up into a bit of a frenzy near the end. It recalls a ‘70s hangout in LA’s little Tokyo district.

One Thursday Morning is a great central song, in which the koto is prominently featured and draws you in; the koto has such a unique sound -- a little piano, a little harp, a little violin -- the perfect blend. This song reflects on the week gone by and the weekend coming up. No wonder it's a favorite!

Mr. Robben features almost a big band sound, drums and special instrumental effects; it includes a lot of saxophone and is very positive, commanding and celebratory. It is jazz keyboard sensation Kimo Cornwell’s tribute to Nelson Mandela.

Pharoah, dedicated to jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, really moves and features a lot of piano and saxophone.

The Lighthouse
begins with a very pretty piano sound, later changing to a more complex, jazzy sound with prominent bass guitar. This one is a tribute to the legendary jazz club in Hermosa Beach, California, which was a center for west coast jazz in the 1950s.

Heritage is the beautiful ending and exquisite blending of koto and piano and flute. It’s fitting to end on this note of poignant optimism, and it reminds us that yes, even in our reverence, we can celebrate the ones who have gone before us as well as celebrate all who surround us today.

Says Dan Kuramoto, “Obon is both tribute and celebration. It is a new beginning for us.”

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 8:37 PM

Hiroshima in Concert

Beverly J. Packard

The richness of the sounds of the all the instruments that make up Hiroshima, along with the awesome talent of band members is perhaps best appreciated in a live concert setting. I had the opportunity to see them perform at the Berks Jazz Fest last year, and the impressions of that concert have stayed with me...

JuneKuramotoBerks.jpgAs I got to know their music in the months before I saw them in concert, I was so moved by a few of their songs that I went to their website to tell them so, and I received a gracious note in return from June Kuramoto, who is one of the band’s founders along with Dan Kuramoto.

June explained to me the origin of the song that so haunted me from the time I heard it, entitled 'A Thousand Cranes.' What is moving to me are the children’s voices, so well placed in a seemingly poignant yet optimistic triumph over something difficult. So clear was the message that it prompted me to ask June about it. She explained the song captures the story of a young Japanese girl of 12 named Sedaka, caught in the bombing of her native land. By age 12, her family was confident she had escaped the effects of radiation, but, alas, she had not. Realizing that she had developed leukemia which could not be cured, she and her family set out to make a thousand paper cranes, a tradition in her country to bring healing and health. Her story so inspired June that when June’s own mother faced illness years later, June wrote the song and her own family began making their own thousand paper cranes.

Although I knew ‘A Thousand Cranes’ would not be played at this concert, I looked forward to simply being in the presence of this band and to the other songs I knew would be played that day. I expected the band to enter the stage area close to the start of the first song. Usually clapping breaks out at the sight of the artists, one of whom will continue the audience connection by chatting and welcoming the crowd in a boisterous and enthusiastic way. But this was not the way of Hiroshima.

Danny--HiroshimaBerks.jpgThey came onto the stage quite unobtrusively, appearing to carefully and meticulously make sure all was ready, seeming to use the time to prepare their own minds and hearts, oblivious even to the vast audience that had already gathered. One could have heard a pin drop. It seemed we all sat, awestruck, at the nearly worshipful atmosphere that was created before our eyes. There was a reflective, spiritual orientation to what they were doing. They communicated a special kind of reverence -- a great respect for, first, their own instruments and each other, then the music they played, then for their fans and by the end of the concert, it was obvious there is a respect and reverence for people everywhere.

This atmosphere continued throughout the evening as they went through songs that were favorites for many, such as Turning Point, Mix Plate, The Door is Open, Time on the Nile, Caravan of Love, The Quiet Storm, a tribute to Native Americans, and ending with an encore of One Wish, to everyone's delight! We learned a little bit about the taiko drum and also the koto that evening. It was quite a fascinating evening and the memory of how they looked and how they sounded is still with me, after these many months. But it can easily be explained: it's simply the effect a band like Hiroshima has on a fan who is listening not only with his ears, but with all of his heart and soul.

HiroshimaBerks2004.jpg

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Photo credits:
Andrew Lepley
Michael C. Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 8:33 PM

March 27, 2005

Behind The Scenes At Berks

PPFeedbackShow.jpgThe music of the 15th Annual Berks Jazz Fest faded with the final notes of Fourplay this past Sunday evening, but the memories gathered over ten days of great shows, precious time spent with the artists, fun with fellow jazz fans and with each other are still vivid in our minds.

Smooth Jazz Vibes publisher Peter Boehi arrived in Reading Friday, March 11, the first day of the festival, followed by music journalist Jonathan Widran on Monday evening, and the three of us had what we all agree is the first of many future reunions. The ten days flew by as we busily covered shows, talked to artists, took side trips in the area, and had more fun than any of us could have imagined. We hope you’ll enjoy this look at some of the ‘behind the scenes’ highlights of the week before we get into coverage of the individual concerts.

BehindScenesLunch.jpgOur first behind the scenes event was lunch with Berks Jazz Fest’s General Manager John Ernesto and Mike Zielinski, Publicity and Marketing Director. We had a great time getting better acquainted with these two gentlemen. Here we are at the Wyndham Hotel with Mike Zielinski.PPLunchwithMikeZ.JPG

We were invited to appear on the ‘Feedback’ radio show on the local WEEU radio station the following day. This show is held at the Wyndham Hotel every morning of the Jazz Fest. Peter and Jonathan did a great job of sharing opinions about this festival, music journalism and the mission of Smooth Jazz Vibes. It wasn’t long before the host of the show, realizing I wrote the article he read on Berks and that I must be the ‘local connection,' insisted I share the microphone with the other two. We all answered more questions and I felt like a real celebrity being there with Peter and Jonathan!

BehindScenesPagoda.jpgOf course all newcomers to Reading must visit the Pagoda, the landmark home of the Berks Arts Council set on the mountaintop overlooking the city. We climbed the five floors to the top of the Pagoda to get the best view.

Jonathan accompanied me to my school district one day and spoke to two high school groups about a career in music journalism. He told them of his own efforts leading up to this career, which included a stint trying to ‘make it’ in Hollywood. The students found him fascinating and he enjoyed the time with them. Part of the emphasis of the Berks Jazz Fest is to include educational activities, so along with the Bass Boot Camp Gerald Veasley runs, and other clinics that were held, Jonathan did his part to share his knowledge with up and coming writers.

PPChocolateWorld.jpgWeeks before his arrival, Jonathan lobbied for a trip to Hershey (as in Hershey’s Chocolate, HersheyPark), so one morning we headed west and went on the special tour of Chocolate World, saw the 3D show complete with special glasses and felt (and acted) like kids again. We spent enough time in the souvenir department to buy the whole place out, which Jonathan nearly did in order to take goodies home to all his special people in California. He was so fun to watch – and he’s so generous – even I received my own soft pillow in the shape of a Hershey kiss.PPChocWorldJon&Bev.jpg

PPKoP.jpgPeter enjoyed Hershey, too, but his favorite trip had to be to the King of Prussia mall, a very large mall halfway between Reading and Philadelphia. His favorite store is the Apple store, where he could check out all the new computer accessories – anything to enhance his listening of more and more of the music he loves. Without question, Peter does the IPod shuffle very well!PPAppleStore.jpg

BehindScenesPeanutBar.jpgWe ate lunch at the Peanut Bar, a quaint local favorite on the main street of Reading. It’s got great food, and it’s a place where peanut shells crunch under your feet as you walk to your table, the signal that you, too, may drop your peanut shells right on the floor!

We also ate at the ViVa Good Time Bistro and Lounge, a relatively new restaurant housed in an old knitting factory; it’s spacious with a great atmosphere and we were so happy to have Tom Grant with us on this occasion. His part in the festival was four evenings of dinner shows, two of which we had attended, and participation in the All Star Jam.

BehindScenesLoveQuirk.jpgAll during the festival, we had a great time connecting with others in the business of recording and promoting music, everyone from Dave Love of the Heads Up record company, to Steve Quirk of British radio, to Melanie Maxwell, of the Smooth Jazz News magazine and many others who promote contemporary jazz on the Internet. Many people already know Jonathan – artists who saw him immediately approached with their own special hugs, and everyone was delighted to meet Peter as this site is one of the oldest, well-respected sites on the internet and many have been following it for years. As for me, I’d say I was the one just happy to be part of it all – enjoying everyone making new friendships and connections and learning new ways of getting more publicity out about this genre of music we all love.

The shows we saw were Peter White (two shows), Pieces of a Dream, Boney James, Chris Botti, David Sanborn, Stanley Jordan, Carmen Cuesta opening for Chuck Loeb, Eric Marienthal, Jeff Kashiwa, and John Swana, Jeff Golub, the Berks All Star Jam, Heads Up Super Band (2 shows, one with the band’s music and one as a tribute to Ray Charles), Groovin’ for Grover, The Sax Pack with Chuck Loeb and David Mann opening, the 15th Annual Concert featuring Jason Miles and about 15 other artists, Michael Lington and Fourplay.

BehindScenesBoney&Boehi.jpgThere were so many highlights of traveling around with Peter and Jonathan. One of them was watching Peter, who normally prefers to stay in the background, begin to enjoy getting his picture taken with artists and also being introduced to everyone. After getting a picture taken with Boney James, I could see he was thrilled as he looked at his digital camera shot and exclaimed, "Boney and Boehi" for all to hear!

Another highlight for me was on the way to Hershey in the car. We had decided to have a 'face-off' between Jonathan and me, with Peter as the judge. We each brought CDs to play and the contest was to see who knew the most words to the music. We played Steely Dan, Chicago, and Jonathan had a great CD of a bunch of oldies from the 70s and 80s. We sang our hearts out and it was pretty obvious Jonathan and I were rather evenly matched. On Jonathan's CD were songs I hadn't heard in years, and in some cases I had an emotional reaction to this poignant trip down memory lane. One of the songs was the theme from Rocky, and this was Peter's favorite of the oldies (no vocals and all those horns) -- of course we sang the instrument parts and thoroughly enjoyed belting out those notes leading to the climactic ending to the song. In the excitement of Rocky and then arriving at Hershey, we forgot to ask Peter for an actual verdict!

So there you have it, an idea of what it was like at the Berks Jazz Fest for the three of us. Three jazz aficionados who will now be lifelong friends and on any given day, might resemble The Three Musketeers, The Three Stooges, or just plain Three Amigos.

AllAtDinner1.jpgHere are Michael, Peter, Jonathan and I at dinner after the last show on the final night of the festival. To all the artists and fans we saw at Berks, we hope you arrived home safely and that the music is still ringing in your ears....We hope to see all of you next year!

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Photo credits: Michael Packard, Peter Boehi






Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 7:50 AM

March 6, 2005

Berks Jazz Fest: Let The Music Begin

PagodaBerks.jpgLike softly falling snowflakes that accumulate into a beautiful sight in the last breath of winter, jazz will soon be sprinkled over an entire city for an idyllic ten days. With a promise to be both memorable and soul-satisfying, the picture completes itself with the addition of local, regional, national and international performers and fans alike, instructional workshops by gifted virtuosos, the appetizing cuisine of jazz-minded chefs, and the beckoning ambiance of every club and restaurant in town.

Reading, Pennsylvania is gearing up for its 15th Annual Berks Jazz Fest, and the line-up of artists couldn’t be more exciting! Dates are set, venues are booked, and hotels and restaurants are preparing for the influx of people who will descend upon this city. The annual promotional day at Borders was held last Sunday, so those of us who live here know we are on the home stretch!

SovereignPerformingArtsCent.jpgDates of the festival are Friday, March 11th through Sunday, March 20th. There are ticketed and non-ticketed events throughout the ten days, and the schedule, along with great bios of the artists written by our own Jonathan Widran, can be seen at www.BerksJazzFest.com.

WyndhamHotelBerks.jpgMain venues are the Wyndham Hotel, The Sheraton Hotel, the Sovereign Performing Arts Center, and the Scottish Rite Cathedral. In addition to the Sheraton Ballroom, the Sheraton is also home to Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base, which will also feature a number of shows. These are very familiar to those of us who live in the area and to returning fans.

ScottishRiteCathedralBerks.jpgBut those who ‘drop in on Reading’ every year for the Berks Jazz Fest have surely begun to notice that in addition to the major venues, there’s an ever-widening circle of participation by the entire community in the excitement surrounding this festival.

clip_image002-1.jpgclip_image002.jpg

To give you an idea of just how much community participation there is by now, try visiting any one or all one of the following locations during the festival. Each one will have some connection to the jazz music scene, typically a combination of live jazz performers and jazzy cuisine. A great blend of music and food, two favorite things in life for many of us, especially jazz fans who like to sit down and listen attentively to the music. (Though we sometimes dance in our seats and find it impossible to sit down for long!)Pieces2.jpg

ViVaGoodLife&BistroBerks.jpgHere’s a listing to keep you hopping during your visit to Reading: places where jazz will surely be sprinkled in one form or another! Jimmy Kramer’s Peanut Bar, ViVa Good Life Bistro & Lounge, Adrienne’s at Centre Park, Café Waldorf, The Works at Wyomissing, PAL Center for the Arts, Albright College Wachovia Theatre, Maniaci’s Italian Bistro, Suburban Tavern and Restaurant, Bell Tower Salon Spa (sponsoring a Happy Hour), Borders Café, Boscov’s East Greenery Restaurant, Pike Café, Inn at Reading Ballroom, Evergreen Country Club, Institute of the Arts, and at least 5 different local churches. Many of these places have their own websites, so you can visit ‘virtually’ before you get here in person. Take down the addresses, get yourself a Reading city map, and you’re on your way. And if you resist the temptation to wear the hat you bought last year showing Reading’s mountaintop Pagoda or some other ‘mark of the tourist,’ you’ll simply fit right in as one of the locals! We’re looking forward to seeing you all over Reading, not at just the main venues! (And I'm kidding, of course, please wear your hats!)

InstituteoftheArtsBerks.jpgAbout the Reading city map, one is included in the Reading Eagle program that is free and can be picked up in many locations around the city. To be distributed along with the local paper Sunday, March 6, manager John Ernesto was giving out copies to those of us at the Jazz Base on Thursday evening, so we had a sneak preview. It’s jammed full of all the events, artist bios mentioned above (16 pages of them!), jazzy items you can buy in local shops or at the venues, and will supply you with all the information you need to satisfy your appetite for food, music, and shopping for anything you might want to take home.

DavidCullenBorders2005.jpgThe annual tradition of promoting the jazz fest was held once again at Borders on Sunday, February 27, with less than two weeks in the countdown until opening night. The afternoon’s festivities included sale of Berks Jazz Fest merchandise, paving the way for the new shirts, mugs, and other memorabilia that we all like to collect. It also featured a performance by Reading’s own David Cullen, local guitarist.

Cullen is not only well-known in Berks, but he has also performed throughout North America for Classical Guitar Societies, Jazz Festivals, and Performing Arts Series. He was a featured soloist in the 2004 New York Guitar Festival, and has performed with Will Ackerman, Samite, Michael Manning, Victor Wooten, the Jaco Big Band, and with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra. He earned his Bachelor of Music in Classical Guitar Performance from the Hartt School of Music. He has released 9 CDs and written two books entitled JAZZ: CLASSICAL AND BEYOND, and GRATEFUL GUITAR. He teaches at Elizabethtown College, Albright College, and Kutztown University.

B0000AUHRA.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpgCullen is no doubt best known for his participation, along with other guitarists, on an album dedicated to the music of Henry Mancini that captured the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Recording. Dave played his contribution to the album, 'The Days of Wine and Roses.' He also played a rendition of Weather Report’s 'Birdland,' and a tune he wrote entitled 'Go Ahead and Play,' reminiscent of his days at the Downtown Tavern in Reading, a place where if the crowd loved your playing, you’d know it, and if they didn’t care for your playing, you’d know that, too. If they liked you, they’d give you the message, ‘Go Ahead and Play!’ The Downtown was a great place to learn the blues, to get your chops, according to Dave. He sure did show his chops on this song!

B00006OANA.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpgDave had a little conversation going with himself up there, and it was quite entertaining. He wondered if there were any Grateful Dead fans in the audience, and he sensed some hesitation, so he quickly added, “Hey, it’s ok if you are, there’s nothing wrong with that.’ Then he showed us the Grateful Dead shirt he designed to cover his guitar, a picture of which landed on a CD cover; he’s dubbed this the Grateful Guitar. Then he tried to figure out which Grateful Dead song to play, and decided on 'Casey Jones,' because it has sort of a ragtime feel to it.

Dave went on to explain that he began playing guitar at age 7 in California. He came from a large family – Mom, Dad and 9 children, and he learned guitar by watching group lessons on television. He had a special book that went with the lessons. Dave played a special number, entitled, 'Blue California,' in honor of his early home.

DavidCullenJillHaleyBorders.jpgCullen’s wife, Jill Haley, a talented oboe player who plays for various symphony orchestras in Reading and the surrounding area, came in near the end of Dave’s performance to play one song with him. Never seeing her set up and place the oboe in her lap, and thinking she did not bring it and did not plan to play, he went into his last number, announced it, and ended the show. Fortunately for us he realized his mistake and quickly got our attention and explained his wife came to play and they were going to play. It was a wonderful number, 'Exploding Colors,' from the CD of the same name featuring both of them. I never realized how magnificent the guitar and oboe sound together -- it was beautiful, peaceful, and after hearing it, I was glad copies of that CD were available for purchase.

BJPwithJohnErnestoBerks.jpgLots of familiar, ‘behind the scenes’ Jazz Fest faces were to be seen at Borders that day, and at Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base on Thursday evening, including Berks Jazz Fest General Manager John Ernesto,. I was able to ask him about ticket sales. “Ticket sales are good this year,” he explained, then quickly added, “Now that we’re under two weeks and counting, this is the period when a lot of work still needs to be done.”

Connie Leinbach, Executive Director of the Berks Jazz Fest and the Berks Arts Council, mentioned that volunteer coordinators are working hard to get every venue covered as far as seating, merchandise sales, fan surveys and lots of other jobs that are needed. I ran into Al Seifarth, gifted flutist who will be playing during the festival. (look for his name in the schedule). He happens to be a former high school teacher of mine who’s been active on the local music scene ever since I can remember.

SpencerProductionBerkswithM.jpgAt the Jazz Base, I also caught up with Gary Spencer, Production Manager for the Jazz Fest and Mike Anderson,, who handles Marketing and Publicity as well as stage management. Mike has been busy bringing us a weekly radio show featuring various artists leading up to the opening concert on Friday, March 11th. (see photo showing Gary and Mike setting up for a second, awesome performance of the season by the Tim Price and Rachel Z Jazz Encounter at the Jazz Base.)

So Berks is nearly ready for this most special event held every March. And adding to the excitement for me is that three of us from this site, Smooth Jazz Vibes, will be coming together this year for the first time, including originator in 1995 and host of this site, long time jazz aficionado Peter Boehi, who will come all the way from Switzerland, and Jonathan Widran, music journalist extraordinaire, coming in from California. If you see us hanging out at a main venue or at one of the many other events happening around town, do come up and say hello, we’d love to meet you!

In closing, the time has come to say, “Let the music begin!’ In a rapidly shrinking number of days and hours, this city will light up with JAZZ.

BerksJazzFestLogo.jpgI wish you ALL the Happiest of Jazzin’ at Berks,

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Photo credits: Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 6:20 AM

March 2, 2005

Meet Tom Grant

Tom-Grant-venue-photo.jpgTom Grant will soon be on his way to Reading, Pennsylvania, home of the Berks Jazz Fest. Four nights of dinner shows at the Wyndham Hotel gives fans the opportunity to hear this wonderfully talented performer/composer sing and play acoustic piano. Dinner shows will be Wednesday, March 16th, through Saturday, March 19th. He will also join the Berks All Star Jam at their annual concert to be held on Thursday, March 17th, at 10:00 PM in the Sheraton Hotel Ballroom.

With a musical career that spans more than 30 years and the release of his 20th album last year, Grant has had a lot of success in the smooth jazz genre with songs that have topped the charts. His latest album, Nice Work If You Can Get It, is his response to requests of his many mainstream jazz fans. So now I would bet that everyone is happy!

I can’t wait to hear Grant perform live, and had the opportunity to talk with him as he prepares for his trip to Berks from his home state of Oregon. But first I have a confession to make. Just a few months ago, I didn’t know who Tom Grant was.

It was the day Brian Soergel, writer for this site, mentioned a contest Tom Grant had set up, a contest where fans could submit to him some ideas for lyrics to a song yet unwritten. If your lyrics were chosen, you’d get a free CD, and if your lyrics eventually became part of a released song, at the very least you'd be listed on a real CD! Thinking it would be great fun to try my hand at writing lyrics, I went to Grant’s website, listened to some song clips to try to get a feel for the kind of music he plays, and off I was, writing lyrics. I sent them to Grant and, realizing he lives in the Pacific Northwest, I remember telling him that I suppose he doesn’t get to the East Coast very often, but that I hoped he would someday!

Imagine my surprise when it was announced recently that he was a major new headliner to be added to the Berks Jazz Fest! I couldn’t believe it! Now I would have a chance to meet him and get to know his music first-hand.

Having whetted my appetite with song clips, I began my search for the album that I thought might best introduce me to his music. The first one I acquired is the collection album entitled, Hands. One listen from the beginning to the end of this album was plenty to convince me that more CDs need to be on the way to my door. And they are! As is often the case, I'm way behind many of you who've been enjoying Tom Grant's music for years.

Hands is filled with great compositions, wonderful melodies and most tracks include something delightfully unexpected! Joined by Paul Jackson, Jr. on upbeat Hang Time and Najee on funky Bernie's Groove, I have a number of favorites already from this one CD, which I'll feature this month for the Smooth Jazz Vibes In Our CD Players column.

Grant's was a musical family. An early start in his musical career was influenced greatly by his father, who had been a vaudeville tap dancer, and was in movie chorus lines, including Ziegfield. The elder Grant also owned a record store, and had Tom playing the piano at age 4. This led to playing drums at around the same time, and ten years of lessons followed for both Tom and his brother.

In addition to the influence of his father and brother, Grant had an especially good classical teacher who was trained in Vienna, which resulted in his having technique that was always strong. He liked pianists like Erroll Garner, Dave Brubeck, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and other instrumentalists like Miles Davis and John Coltrane, from whom he learned the value of being ‘lyrical’ as an instrumental musician. He felt that horn players seemed more lyrical than the piano players he was listening to.

As time went on, Grant played with Tony Williams and Joe Henderson and other big jazz names. These players helped him along to gain skill, perspective, and confidence. As he explained, “The people that you play with help to shape your sound and your style. I played with my idols by playing along with the records, and later in life I got a chance to actually play with these same people on stage.”

Tom-Headshot.jpgI asked Grant to talk about the various genres of music he’s played and how he would characterize the music he plays at this point in his career. He answered, “I studied classical music for about five years and still play some these days. I’ve been a jazz pianist since earliest memory. I’ve played in rock bands in college and beyond and I’ve played country, folk, rock, Irish, and whatever I’ve been called on to play. My first love is jazz.”

I wondered if Grant has pondered what his music means to him in the overall scheme of his life. He has. Music brings him a sense of calmness and well-being. He hopes that he transmits that to the listener. “There is joy in music for the player and for the receiver. I play music because it is my calling in life. I hope it conveys a joy and benevolence that people can apply to their own lives and thus improve, if only in the tiniest way, the quality of life on earth,” he added.

What goals does Grant have for his future as a musician? “I’d like to play in new venues, meet new musicians, and grow as a musician and as a person,” he said. I’m certain the staff of the Berks Jazz Fest as well as the fans would be honored to play a part in his moving ahead toward reaching some of those goals.

Already I know Tom Grant to be very gracious, friendly and well-loved as an artist and as a person. Like so many artists I have met, he’s willing to communicate not only through his music, but also his words. To me, this is the essence of what keeps fans coming back to our music. We have artists who allow us to connect with them as people and in turn, we allow artists to connect with us as real people, too. We don’t have screaming, out of control melee scenes with our musicians (well, sometimes we might approach that at the end of a show!) but rather,in most cases, there is an easy, mutual and respectful friendship. If it’s even half as satisfying to the artists as it is to the fans, then I’d say we have a great thing going.

So while you’re in Reading, be sure to Meet Tom Grant: a player with so much talent for singing, playing, composing -- able to adapt to the changes in the music scene while remaining true to his first love of music – jazz. Soulful and down to earth, willing to reach out to fans and include them even in developing the lyrics for his songs, I believe he’s going to make an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of Berks Jazz Fest fans during this exciting 15th season.

For more info on Tom Grant and his music, visit www.tomgrant.com

Happy Jazzin,'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 4:13 PM

February 28, 2005

Jazz Base Newz

Pieces2.jpgSince opening night in the fall of 2004, Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base has continued to provide Reading with great opportunities to hear the music we love as well as meet a variety of artists. The Base has been buzzing with talent as both local and out of town artists have taken center stage.

Here’s your chance to see what’s been happening if you live too far away to take advantage of this exciting Thursday evening addition to your week! I should add that if you’re within an hour and a half of the venue, it’s worth the trip. The price of admission, ranging from $5.00 to $20.00, gives you two shows: 7 to 8 and 8:30 to 9:30, getting you home by 11 PM. So grab a friend and visit the Jazz Base throughout the year in between Berks Jazz Fests! Of course, be sure to visit during the Berks Jazz Fest, too! There will be plenty of great events happening from March 11th through March 20th.

Featured in my next few articles are bands that appeared during the opening season of the Jazz Base: local bandleader Chris Heslop with his Hesse’s Nasty 9 band; internationally known virtuoso saxophonist Tim Price with talented pianist Rachel Z; and none other than Vital Information, consisting of well-known players Frank Gambale (guitar), Steve Smith (drummer extraordinaire), Baron Browne (bass), and Tom Coster (keyboardist).

Listening with my heart and soul to the music that has been featured at the Jazz Base has taught me so much. I’ve learned that to write about music and artists is not about being tied to one genre. Rather, it’s to capture the talent of individual musicians, and of the blending of musicians together in their created sound. I’ve been aware of branching out –of broadening my appreciation for the whole of jazz from its earliest roots to where artists are taking us today in its evolution. Blame it on Gerald Veasley if you must, for he’s been the spark that has given all of us an irresistible setting in which to learn and to enjoy the music. I love my CDs, but it’s the live show that enables me to experience the full expression – the face, the body, the absorption of a player with his own sound and that of band members. I believe many would agree with me that it’s a priceless gift to simply be part of the audience.

Here’s what’s happening at the Jazz Base in the next few weeks leading up to the Berks Jazz Fest. Be sure to check www.berksjazzfest.com or www.geraldveasleyjazzbase.com to see what will be happening at the Jazz Base during the ten day festival.

Thursday, March 3, 7 p.m.
Tim Price Jazz Encounter with special guest Rachel Z.
$10 music charge at door.

Thursday, March 10, 7 p.m.
Berks Jazz Preview Concert/Saxophone Summit,featuring Larry McKenna, Tim Price, Tom Strohman and Chris Heslop.

Happy jazzin,'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, PA

Photo credits: Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:10 AM

Jazz Base Newz - Hesse's Nasty 9 Band

ChrisHeslop1.jpgChris Heslop has pulled together local musicians who have the respect of this jazz-loving community of Reading, Pennsylvania. But make no mistake. Listening to their sound at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base early in the opening season proved to me that Hesse’s Nasty 9 cannot be pigeon-holed into one genre. The core of their mission statement sums it up best: “Perpetuating traditional American music with extreme diversity and cockeyed yet respectful renderings of beloved favorites.” And as Chris says, their repertoire includes Dixieland, Broadway, classic rock, heavy metal, and classical music, in addition to jazz.

On this night at the Jazz Base, Heslop’s band consisted of Heslop as bandleader and saxophonist, Chuck Dressler and Doc Mulligan on trombones, Frank Gattis on drums, Rob Diener and Bob Stoyko on trumpet, Mike Eben and Jill Scheidt on sax, Ken Kemmerer on helicon, Pete Rogosky on guitar and since Heslop’s bass player was absent, Gerald Veasley had the ‘chance’ to sit in.

Gerald sat in for a Jaco Pastorius feature entitled, ‘Chicken’ as well as one other song, so he was not on stage for the entire evening. And in this position as bandmember Gerald took direction and followed his bandleader beautifully. It was very comical to listen to Chris take advantage of being able to give Gerald directions. (You’d have to know Chris – he just had to do it!) Gerald was genuinely humble and just happy to be playing. He never ceases to amaze us with his easy, unassuming manner.


ChrisHeslop4.jpgHesse’s Nasty 9 band was very busy during this show. They played a variety of music, including 'St. Louis Blues,' followed by 'Hesse’s 9 Overture' (an original composition which was quite impressive!), 'What a Wonderful World,' with special vocalists Sharon Bailey and Joe Keys (don’t look twice, this was actually Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, and they were awesome!), 'Theme from Star Wars,' 'You’ll Stay In My Heart,' and the patriotic 'Battle Hymn of the Republic' and 'America the Beautiful.' Another original composition called, 'Dimention,' was also memorable.

Chris Heslop will join Tim Price and others at the Berks Jazz Fest Preview Concert/Saxophone Summit, to be held March 10th. And he will be quite busy during the Berks Jazz Fest, playing a number of different venues, including participation in the Ray Charles Tribute at the Jazz Base. Beyond this, he is an arranger for a variety of clients from jazz to classical to Salsa. Most of the time, he's playing jazz gigs throughout the area but lately has been focusing most of his energy on Hesse's Nasty 9 and a stage show on Louis Armstrong. His personal schedule can be seen on Nasty9.com by hitting the "Chris's Schedule" button.

ChrisHeslop2.jpgQuite a versatile performer, Heslop has played in various genres, along with jazz artists Wynton Marsalis, Gerald Veasley, Patti Austin, popular artists like The Temptations, Olivia Newton-John, and salsa with Hector Tricoche and Cano Estremera. (You can see more artists he’s played with at his website!)

It was an impressive show, one I’m glad I attended! Don't forget to come out and see Chris Heslop March 10th at the Berks Jazz Fest Preview Concert/Saxophone Summit.

ChrisHeslop3.jpgHappy Jazzin,’

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania

Photo credits: Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:09 AM

Jazz Base Newz - Tim Price with Rachel Z

TimPriceRachelZ3.jpgWhen I heard Tim Price was appearing at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base in Reading, Pennsylvania, I couldn’t wait to hear him and talk with him, as I’ve known him since we were teenagers! I knew he had gone on to Berklee College of Music, was teaching saxophone as well as playing at least clarinet and saxophone – but I must admit I hadn’t totally followed his career. Now it was time to catch up. Talking with him and visiting his website helped me discover all he’s been doing, and I was simply blown away by the heights he has risen to in his career and the esteem in which he is held by his colleagues all over the world.

TimPriceRachelZ5.jpgHere’s a homegrown, Reading musician who ‘grew up and went to the big city,’ so to speak, and is now a trademark name worldwide in the teaching and playing of woodwind instruments. His music is more traditional jazz, which I’m certain is an oversimplification in his case, and his playing on any instrument is truly phenomenal. His middle name seems to be innovation, and just one of the things he’s done is to bring electronica to woodwinds. A highlight of the show was his playing of the electronic bassoon, with its pick-up amplified through Line 6 effects pedals (some of you will know what they are). Tim claims there’s nothing like a wah-wah bassoon when he’s jamming, and all of this is tied to his reverence for Gil Melle, who was his hero in electronics and jazz creativity with his pre-fusion music.

TimPriceRachelZ2.jpgTim Price is in demand as a performer and educator worldwide; he conducts clinics throughout the world, teaches from his home studio in Reading, as well as jazz saxophone at Kutztown University and also in Michiko Studios in New York City.

TimPriceRachelZ6.jpgOn the night of this show at the Jazz Base, he was joined by pianist Rachel Z, who is quite an accomplished musician herself who has played with many artists in her career. As Price told us, “playing with Rachel Z is like winning the lottery,” and she was a picture of sheer talent during the entire show. I’m sure I’ve never seen a pianist’s fingers move as quickly as hers did. Her concentration alone was captivating to watch. Married to the drummer, Bobbie Rae, Rachel wowed us all with her intricate interpretations of the music. Tim loves playing with Bobbie Rae, who was Mr. Dynamic on drums; Tim considers him a unique drummer in the world of jazz music, and says Bobbie’s brush playing keeps him smiling. Scott Lee, a cutting edge bassist who teaches with Tim at Kutztown University, is a main figure for Tim in all his bands. Tim considers this his ‘New York Band’ and what a great blend of musicians they are.

TimPriceRachelZ1.jpgThe band put together a memorable night of music, including Tim’s own arrangements of songs like the Beatles’ “I Feel Fine,” John Coltrane’s “Niama,” the Beach Boys’ “Surfer Girl,” rearranged like a Jazz Waltz and played on a curved soprano sax, and “Naked Truth,” an original composition Tim wrote for combination best friend/awesome sax player Jennifer Hall. The band slowed it down for the ending of this song and it was very sweet, like the rippling of water.

A highlight of the show was “MELLE,” a number written in honor of Gil Melle, who was the film composer for Andromeda Strain. Melle’s recent passing is a great loss to Price, who considered him a great friend, and someone who deeply touched and inspired Tim’s music.

TimPriceRachelZ4.jpgAdditional numbers were a re-arrangement of Roberta Flack’s “For All We Know,” and “Let’s Go Setsko,” written for Tim by Fred Lipsius, founder of Blood, Sweat and Tears.

One of the things that struck me all during this show is that you could never know for sure when a song was ending – these were unique endings, endings like you’ve never heard before. These are the twists and turns of music at its best, and my appreciation of jazz grew by more leaps and bounds with the skillful playing of these four musicians.

If you missed this great show, you’ll have another opportunity on March 3rd, when Price will again perform with Rachel Z, Bobbie Rae and Scott Lee . And on the 10th, he will be back for the Berks Jazz Preview Concert/Saxophone Summit.

For further information about Tim Price or Rachel Z, go to www.timpricejazz.com and www.rachelz.com.

Happy Jazzin,’

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania

Photo credits: Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:08 AM

Jazz Base Newz - Vital Information

VitalInformation2.jpgWhat a treat to have Vital Information at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base in Reading, Pennsylvania. World renowned drummer Steve Smith started the band in 1983, and the players with him for this special night couldn’t have been better! Smith, having played with ‘top of the charts’ band Journey from 1978 to 1985, explained his evolution by saying that he ‘feels right playing a blend of jazz, rock and fusion.’ Guitarist Frank Gambale, of Chick Corea’s Elektric Band, former Santana player Tom Coster on keyboard, and Baron Browne, bass player from Gary Burton days, all came together with Smith to rock the Jazz Base early in the season.

VitalInformation3.jpgStarting off with ‘Come On In,’ the title song from their new CD, they immediately established that this was going to be an awesome performance. They went on to play ‘Catwalk’ and ‘Europa’ (originally played by Santana and written by Tom Coster!)and they had the crowd’s rapt attention.

It was fun to watch Steve Smith, who smiles to the audience during most of his drumming. What he does seems so effortless, yet the skill he has is something wonderful to behold. Perhaps mentioning that he’s constantly doing drum clinics and touring all over the world, and that he’s been voted All-Around Drummer by Modern Drummer for five years in a row tells at least some of his story. In fact, he’s been called one of the top 25 drummers of all time! He’s ecstatic to be playing the drums and it shows, over and over during his performance.

The band went on to play ‘Time Tunnel,’ ‘Around the World,’ ‘Baton Rouge’(featuring an accordion), and there were many drum feats sprinkled in the songs. ‘High Wire’ was another choice for the night, along with Journey song, ‘Don’t Stop Believin.’ Coster and Browne definitely added to the energy and sound, each having their special moments to show such a high level of skill. All four players are so vital to the overall performance and after all, that’s what a great band is all about. No wonder they are named ‘Vital Information!’

Frank Gambale is an artist who looks so at peace when he’s playing his instrument. He appears so easy going and fun, the kind of player with a sort of twinkle in his eye. Frank plays faster than anyone I’ve ever seen, and it seems so very easy for him! He must be concentrating, but it’s not obvious that he is!

VitalInformation1.jpgBoth Frank and Steve are ready to handle anything on stage, and this was demonstrated when, after a particularly mesmerizing, high energy performance by Frank, all of us stood up, clapping wildly, and one of the fans near him couldn’t contain herself and jumped right up and kissed him! Frank took this in stride and in good humor (though I did notice he sat down to play for a while after that excitement), while Steve got the band immediately back to the business at hand, never missing a beat, moving the music, and the night, forward. I got the feeling Steve could handle absolutely anything that threatened to interfere with any show – but then he’s used to ‘keeping the beat.’

Another fun part of the evening came when Steve talked about playing in Lebanon, PA (a 45 minute drive from Reading) two nights later, and encouraged us to join them. He then went on to say they were also going to play in Beirut, Lebanon. For a minute we thought he was inviting us to Beirut! I’m sure some fans at the Jazz Base that night followed them to Lebanon (Pa, that is!) I’m not sure if any of the Reading fans made it to Beirut! After two weeks in Beirut, their schedule included a concert in Moscow, so this band really gets around!

Smith has also developed a DVD Drumset: Technique/History of the U.S. Beat, that traces the history of American rhythm. His knowledge and mastery of drumming were an exciting combination for the audience to experience on the night of this show. I’m sure many of us can’t wait for a return engagement of Vital Information at the Jazz Base!

To get more information about this great band, visit www.vitalinformation.com.

VitalInformation4.jpgHappy jazzin’

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania

Photo credits: Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:07 AM

January 16, 2005

Guitar and no Sax - Concert Review

ChieliJessup03.jpgThose who read my column know that many of my articles contain the same two words in the form of one composer/artist’s name: Chieli Minucci. I’ll admit there’s a reason for this. He simply happens to be the favorite of my favorite artists in contemporary jazz. Hearing "My Girl Sunday" from his Sweet On You CD a few years ago led me to not only his music and that of Special EFX, but also coincided with my own gradual discovery that the music I love best is actually in a jazz category.

By the time I discovered Minucci, I had already become familiar with many of the saxophone players on the scene, and I concluded that the saxophone was the instrument of choice to best underscore the jazz in jazz music. It took a little time for me to notice what the guitarists were doing. Once as I stood in line at a concert, I overheard a lively debate over which instrument – the guitar or the saxophone – best captured the essence of jazz. I wondered how there could be much of a debate about it, but as time went on it was guitarists like Minucci who made me have a new understanding of such a debate. Now I know why there is some controversy, and I remember smiling to myself at the debut of a group in recent years with the name Guitars and Saxes. A perfect solution, and a great way to make the point that not only do both instruments work well in this genre, but they complement each other very well. At this stage of my jazz listening, I enjoy when both instruments are present in a song or at a live show. I almost expect this to be the case, wondering with the release of each new CD, what guitarists are featured on the saxophonist’s CD, or which saxophone players are guests of the guitarist. However, there was one night when I found myself at a show with one guitar and no sax.

Like others who fall into the category of what I call a megafan with regard to an artist’s music, I try to get to any show within a reasonable distance that features my favorite artists. In September, a relatively short two-hour drive put me just south of Baltimore near Jessup, Maryland, at a venue called Rapture Live that was hosting two shows for Special EFX. The two shows were combined into one, and to make up for the change, we were promised a very special one-show performance.

BeverlyLady.jpgThe Rapture Live venue must be the best-kept secret in Maryland! The ticket price included a wonderful buffet, and the crowd turned out to be intimate groupings of four to eight people at a table, all with a great view of the band. It had a private party atmosphere and our hostess Chris (pictured here with Chieli) was terrific and quite personable, giving meticulous attention to the guests. This gal has been working hard to book some accomplished artists, so all you jazz aficionados should definitely keep an eye on the rapturelive.net website.

ChieliJessup2.jpgGetting back to the ‘no sax’ in this show, earlier Special EFX shows I’ve attended always featured a saxophone player. And the saxophone players that I have heard play with Chieli have been the best – players like David Mann and Jeff Kashiwa – I’ve seen them with Special EFX and also at their own shows, and in both cases, these are shows I don’t want to miss! But this show was minus a saxophone, and I was eager to experience the difference.

In a word, I learned something about Chieli Minucci in Jessup that night. He is dynamite when he’s up there at center stage and stays there! I say that to point out how extremely, totally talented he is, and not to take away from the talent of sax players with whom he’s shared the spotlight. In fact, it was Jeff Kashiwa, playing with Special EFX at Berks Jazz Fest, who made the statement, “I am so lucky when I’m asked to play with a band like this – it’s like someone asking me to take a ride in his Jaguar.” And it’s true! Notwithstanding that Jeff Kashiwa is quite a passenger to have on board, Chieli and Special EFX certainly provide a most sought-after, top-of-the-line musical framework within which to showcase an artist’s talent.

And who were the members of Special EFX for this show? Jay Rowe, keyboardist; Jerry Brooks, bass player; percussionist Philip Hamilton; and drummer Brian Dunne – each of whom was an integral part of everything played and each one prominently featured. I have seen each of them play so well in past shows, but I must admit, I saw each of them rise to new heights at this show under Chieli’s masterful leading.

ChieliJessup6.jpgIf you are an avid Chieli/Special EFX fan and you were not there in Jessup, I almost feel I should send you my condolences when I think of what you missed. Simply put, I never saw Chieli more ON and I never saw his band more super-charged in their playing and in their response to him. He’s really very comfortable in center stage, pulling the band together, reminding them of what’s coming next and giving the nod of affirmation (which they seek) when things go well or when they’re making a transition. Chieli is a perfectionist. He led perfectly and they followed perfectly, each one of them playing with more skill and together showing more synergy than I’ve ever seen before.

It was hard to believe what Chieli did with the guitar. I couldn’t even begin to explain the sheer amount of skill, heart and soul that accompanied this performance. And the more intricate his solos became, the more the band responded with moments of equally stellar performance. Jerry Brooks, who usually remains somewhere in the background of the placement on stage, had one of those synchronized sort of ‘duels’ with Chieli, and he was so far into it during his playing that I was sure he was going to jump out in front and give us a solo show on the bass – he was more expressive and funky and into it than I’ve ever seen him, what fun to watch! And if you could have on film those expressions of the drummer as he orchestrated his sound and the effect he knew Chieli was after, well, it was like the most intense form of excruciating, exquisite effort and it met with great success. I could tell Chieli was well pleased with Brian Dunne.

BandThanking.jpgChieli began with ‘Courageous Cats’ from Jewels, then followed with ‘Speak to Me’ from Masterpiece, ‘Daybreak’ from Global Village, ‘Dreams’ from It’s Gonna Be Good, ‘Body Beat’ from Body Language. Later he launched into a medley, starting with ‘Beginnings’ (It’s Gonna Be Good), moving on to ‘Waiting’ (Special EFX), which included a beautiful lead in to ‘My Girl Sunday’ (Sweet On You) with Jay Rowe on the piano. ‘Cruise Control’ (Butterfly) was a most awesome arrangement, you had to be there, but it went on and on and we could have kept cruising all night, no problem! Chieli varied some of the songs, changing the arrangements somewhat (after all, he’s a master composer) and I’d say the changes worked very well. Philip Hamilton was featured with his great work on percussion and his astounding ability to sing vocals. Wow, he’s got his own CDs, no surprise there; check him out at philiphamilton.com. It goes without saying that Jay Rowe always makes the show so much fun; his expressions are priceless as he responds to the crowd responding to him! And he’s another very talented artist with his own CDs and website, don’t miss jayrowemusic.com.

ChieliMinucci_GotItGoinOn.jpgChieli, relaxed and with a ready sense of humor throughout the evening, played his heart out, and yes, this has always been true of him, yet somehow during this night he seemed to crank it up to a different level and let it all happen. I’m so glad he did. I can still see the ease with which he carried himself and the band to new heights on this incredible night. What a memory it is!

Now in the studio working on his next solo CD to be released in March of this year, Chieli will feature a fantastic line-up of artists, including regular Special EFX players Lionel Cordew, Jerry Brooks, Jay Rowe and Philip Hamilton, along with David Mann, Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters, Steve Oliver, and Gerald Veasley. Aptly titled, Got It Goin’ On, any serious listener will certainly agree that he and these artists will have it goin’ on for many years to come! Visit his website at chielimusic.com to get a sneak peek at the song titles for the new CD, as well as learn more about him and his music.

As always, happy jazzin'

BeverlyChieli.jpgBeverly Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Photo credits: Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:32 AM

January 14, 2005

Confessions of a Columnist

Anyone visiting here at smoothvibes can see that my focus is different from that of my esteemed co-writers on this site. I say esteemed with utmost sincerity because I am truly in awe of the musical knowledge, grasp of terminology and the ability to pull so much good information together in such interesting ways as they demonstrate here time and again. It’s quite a learning experience for me to be here and simply read what they have written. In a sense I’m the grateful little sister tagging along!

My emphasis, far from grading music or giving the history of the origin of a CD, is on the person of the performer. I suppose this column could be called ‘The Concert Experience.’ I’m interested in things like audience connection and using word pictures to capture the artist for the readers. I have a genuine liking and enthusiasm for this music, so you will rarely hear me bringing up the negatives, though I suppose they exist, as in every facet of life.

In contemporary jazz, there is so much about which to write, so much that can be said. One of the things I’ve noticed within the community of jazz artists is how they flow into and out of each others’ CDs. As I have gotten to know many artists (if not by face and by sound, then at least by name), I enjoy the huge system of support they have for each other. They may record one or more numbers on a CD together and they may perform a limited tour of concerts together. Artists who experience major success often 'paid their dues' over the years on the CDs and in the concerts of other influential artists/bands. One of my favorite things to do when acquiring a new CD is to see ‘who’ played on each song. Sometimes there are many artists on just one CD, and it's challenging to figure out my ‘known artists’ on the CD, take some educated guesses about the rest of the artists, then check it out on the liner notes.

One gets to know the distinctive, signature sounds of individual artists such as Warren Hill, Paul Taylor, Richard Elliot, Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole, and Dave Koz on the saxophone. As for guitar, I’ve got the differences down between Jeff Golub, Russ Freeman, Chieli Minucci, Marc Antoine, Earl Klugh, Peter White (usually), with Steve Oliver, Doc Powell, and Brian Tarquin not far behind. On keyboard, I can spot Brian Culbertson, David Benoit and Pieces of a Dream player James Lloyd . And the differences I mention are not tied to recognizing a song the artist plays, but rather,it's the style of playing that I’m often able to place. I feel so ‘with it’ when I’m right! And I’m certain I’m not alone in this little game I play!

By the way, can some of you pick out the style of Gil Parris on guitar? Or Amedeo Bianchi on saxophone? Or Tom Grant on piano? These are three artists you should get to know if you haven’t already done so! Watch for my interviews with each of them in the Jazz Personality column. Next up in Berks Jazz Vibes is a piece on that favorite of all my favorite artists; I’ll keep you guessing as to who that could be. Following that will be a summary of the star-studded line-up of the 15th Annual Berks Jazz Fest, coming up March 11, 2005!

And now, to imitate my musical brothers here, I'll list what’s in my CD player this week:

John McLaughlin and his Mahavishnu Orchestra
Eric Byak’s Journey of the Heart (so glad he decided to record one of his own!)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra plays T-Square
Quintana and Speer Shades of Shadow
Crusaders' Scratch (can’t say enough about that rendition of Carole King’s ‘So Far Away,’ oh my!)


BeverlyPackard.jpgHappy Jazzin’

Beverly Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:22 AM

December 7, 2004

Kenny G's Valentine Day Giveaway

JAZZ NEWZ: December

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With the release of international superstar Kenny G's new album, At Last....The DUETS Album, readers have a chance to win some very special prizes just in time for Valentine's Day!

The album features a star-studded line-up of performers from different musical arenas and generations: Country music's LEANN RIMES,R&B/Soul veterans LIONEL RICHIE, CHAKA KHAN, GLADYS KNIGHT, EARTH WIND AND FIRE, Simply Red's MICK HUCKNALL, KENNY LOGGINS, EARL KLUGH, JIM BRICKMAN, GEORGE BENSON, DARREN HAYES of Savage Garden, and iconic songwriter/producer BURT BACHARACH. The album includes cover songs such as 'My Funny Valentine,' 'The Way You Move,' and 'Can't Help Falling In Love.'

Prizes are sponsored by Click2Music.com and include:

One (1) grand prize winner will receive a Valentine's getaway package to Miami, Florida including:

Round-trip airfare for two
Two-night hotel accomodations
Ground transportation
Dinner for two at a 5-star restaurant

Five runner-up winners will each receive a Best of Kenny G package which includes three of Kenny's best selling albums of all time as well as his NEW duets album, At Last...!

And the contest doesn't end there! If you're a visitor here during the month of December, and you post in the Smooth Jazz Forum, your email address will be entered in a separate drawing to be held d right here on January 1st at smoothvibes.com. Each of five lucky winners will receive his very own copy of this new album.

Post often and you will receive more chances to win!

Winners will be announced in the forum, so be sure to visit on January 1st to claim your winning CD!

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Good luck to those entering the official contest, and I hope to see all of you in the Smooth Talk Forum!

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:43 AM

November 10, 2004

Jazz Base Journey: No Luggage Needed

Pieces2.jpgOn September 16th, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base opened in Reading, Pennsylvania, home of the Berks Jazz Fest, amid a scene perhaps reminiscent of bygone days when jazz clubs were small, intimate spaces. Against the backdrop of an artist’s rendition of the city skyline, an inviting atmosphere beckoned, complete with white cloths adorning round tables for two, shimmering candles, and larger seating areas sprinkled throughout the two level club. From any vantage point, friends could gather for quiet conversation and serious appreciation of the music. Excitement grew as we came closer to the moment Veasley would be in front of us, welcoming us to the first night of his artistic venture, Gerald Veasley’s JAZZ BASE!

Stepping up to the microphone for the very first time on this very first night, Veasley’s face spoke volumes, his banner and logo for the club looming large behind him. Yes, there was understandable pride and happiness and excitement in this moment, yet it was Veasley as usual, simply glad to see all of us! In the audience were friends and family members that he mentioned by name. His daughter Taylor (TJ) and nephews Robert and Dmitri were there to share in the celebration and their faces were beaming. (Be sure to see them in pictures below.)

As the chatter at each table quieted and the silver ball above us continued to slowly spin, Veasley encouraged us to sit back and relax, to open our hearts and our minds, to go on a journey with the band. “However,” he said, “You’ll have to leave your luggage behind.” He wanted us to forget about the stressful day we may have had, our problems, our jobs. “So clap your hands,” he added. And we did.

JazzBase2.jpgThe music began and soon Veasley’s head was bobbing up and down, back and forth -- his signature sign of bliss with the bass, I call it, having seen this phenomenon many times before. Wearing his characteristically debonair beret (only later did I discover his shoes exactly matched that striped beret he wore) and swinging the end of the bass guitar up and down to the beat in an exaggerated motion, his winning smile and continued clapping made it easy to want to hop on board for the start of this journey.

JazzBase4.jpgThe music was everything we hoped for. With a nod of his head, Veasley featured a few of his players during the first song, moving from the trumpet player, Rob Diener, to keyboard player Will Brock, to trombone player Bill Miller, then to the soprano sax player, Paul Cox.

By this time, the band had launched into ‘Do You Remember,’from Veasley’s Velvet CD. Peter Kuzma took it away on keyboard, but after a time there was the unmistakable presence of Veasley’s bass creeping back in. The drummer made his presence known, and we were off to faraway places. And we found it easy to leave the luggage behind.

JazzBase3.jpgThe stage was filled with talented musicians throughout the night, along with familiar, well loved tunes, plenty of jamming, and a surprise guest in the form of accomplished guitarist Ed Hamilton. Band member Will Brock, keyboardist, virtually exercised his way through the songs, jumping up and down to the beat. He was enthusiasm personified throughout the evening. Eric Green, a superbly talented drummer, at one point lost a stick and Veasley, while happy to oblige by picking it up, held it only teasingly close. Veasley always puts fun first, to the crowd’s delight. But it made no real difference to this drummer, amazingly, as he continued his intricate drumwork almost as if he originally planned to play with just one stick! It didn’t matter at all! And he played with so much gusto when he got it back, what a dynamite song that was!

The keyboardist, who had just gotten back from California, Peter Kuzma, was awesome and it was obvious Veasley so much appreciated his being here. Percussionist Pablo Baptiste often simply closed his eyes and went to a place where he could accentuate, punctuate and exacerbate with every sound available in his repertoire. He was great! Paul Cox continued to play a key role in many songs and he was quite a solid and masterful saxophonist.

JazzBase5.jpgVeasley also had fun with the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, whom he seems to have affectionately renamed the Shiny Horns, consisting of Mike Anderson on saxophone, Rob Diener on trumpet, and Bill Miller on trombone. No doubt Veasley has been one of the first well-known artists playing Berks who has decided to feature local talent right up there with him on stage.

Will Brock rocked the house just before the break with a great song, called, “The House Called Home.” We loved watching him as he sang his story with the recurring theme “I’m so glad I’m back home.” At one point he was no longer playing the keyboard, but his fingers were still moving up in the air in front of him as if he were playing. He had a bit of calisthenics going on there with the fingers in the air -- they just had to express the frenzy he was in over being back home!

After a particularly long stretch of some great jamming on this same song, “Home,” players were in another world, singing along with the solo. Veasley had so beautifully set the stage this evening, and when the song came to an end, even he was moved to declare “Lord have MERCY….and it ain’t over yet!!”

JazzBase6.jpgGerald Veasley and his expressiveness surely will go down in history. From the expressions while he’s playing to the one-liners he shares with us, he is truly entertaining! He really does ‘go somewhere else’ when he’s playing; his expressions mirror both the effort involved in playing it ‘just right’ and the thoughts which must come and go when he’s playing – some of these must be pretty comical to him because he’s not just smiling, he’s actually laughing. And his laughter has always been so infectious. Everyone who’s ever watched him play will tell you.

Intermission brought more laughs as Veasley promised us, “We’re all coming back…it’s MY CLUB!”

JazzBase7.jpgDuring the second set, friend and fellow Philadelphian Ed Hamilton walked onto the stage and the crowd eagerly entered into his version of ‘Fly Like An Eagle,’ a recent hit which had a lot of airplay. What a fluid guitarist whose playing makes it looks so very effortless. And Hamilton had another treat in store for us: he told the story of his treasured association with the late George Howard, and moved right into ‘Gray Day’ from his Planet Jazz CD, which he dedicated to George. ‘Gray Day’ stretched out for a long time, thankfully, as this was a real highlight of the show, and by the time it ended, the crowd had relaxed into a very mellow state.

Hamilton was a great choice for this opening night. Another passionate player with facial expressions to match; on his face you can watch the agony and the ecstasy of both the intense effort it takes to play well and the beautiful result of that effort. At times he’s referred to himself as a ‘hermit,’ so we are grateful if he came out of his ‘cave’ to be part of this night, which was made even more special by his presence.

JazzBase8.jpgThis show was high energy and full of surprises. But at one point, Veasley slowed things down a bit with a song dedicated to his wife, Roxanne. Looking and playing rather soulful, and every once in a while searching the crowd for her, he admitted that somehow he had forgotten to save her a seat. And so he wasn’t sure where to look for her, but soon he found her. I have learned when an artist not only plays but also composes his own music, there is great opportunity to reach into the depths of his soul and share a portion of that with us. How moving it is when someone like Veasley, then, after composing a song with Roxanne in mind, finds her and gazes at her while playing that song. A song of meaning that only the two of them can fathom. One of my favorite moments during an artist’s performance is when he shares something of the special person(s) in his life who has motivated and inspired his work.

The most poignant moment of the night, however, had to be when Veasley played ‘Sarah’s Song,’ also from the Velvet CD. He told us about a daughter who, as he explained, almost made it here, but not quite. The song, so beautiful, seemed to portray the love of a parent for the essence of his child. To follow the music was both sweet and intense, perhaps especially for those of us who are parents. The end of the song was quite uplifting, making me think the audience could feel Sarah, triumphant, dancing in the heavens, almost as if to say, “I’m just fine and I’ll see you later, Mommy and Daddy.” Extremely moving for me, and yet another example of the way Gerald Veasley shares his heart and soul with us through his music and his friendship.

Having the Jazz Base right here in Reading allows us to get to know Gerald Veasley better, and what we've learned is that he makes everything fun! Everything about this night speaks of his dedication to music and his desire to use it to bring happiness into the lives of others.

JazzBaseOpeningSo thanks for opening this artistic base, Gerald! Thanks for delivering on your promise of a journey, for opening your heart with music and words and facial expressions, for sharing your love and stage with specially talented band members, and finally, for your genuine joy in being with us, the fans.

Footnote: Opening Night of Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base has been followed by consecutive Thursday nights of jazz music by local and regional artists. Veasley himself has visited now and then and, in fact, put in a guest appearance with local talent Chris Heslop and his Nasty Nine band two weeks ago. A real team player, Veasley can either be in charge or he can follow, it seems to make no difference to him, as long as he is playing and making people happy.

If you haven’t yet made it to the Jazz Base, this would be a choice week to venture out and see what you’re missing. This week will be a live CD recording session! So come on out and have some fun, Gerald Veasley style!!

Happy Jazzin’

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania

Photo Credits: Michael C. Packard

MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 5:36 AM

November 1, 2004

Jazz Newz

Welcome to BERKS JAZZ VIBES, where more concert reviews are on the way momentarily, but first a station break for some important JAZZ NEWZ:

NAME THAT CD
Guitarist/composer Chieli Minucci is on a mission for the perfect title for his new solo CD. If your title is chosen, you can count on your own (I’m sure very specially- autographed) CD, to be released in spring of 2005. Please visit www.chielimusic.com and click on his message board to see tentative titles for the songs in order to get a feeling for what he’s after in a title. The CD promises to be a hit with guests Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Oliver, Gerald Veasley, and David Mann, as well as faces we know from Special EFX, including Lionel Cordew, Jerry Brooks, Jay Rowe, and Philip Hamilton.

NEW WEBSITE FOR SMOOTH JAZZ LOVERS
For those of you who like to visit many sites in your quest to find out what’s new in the world of smooth jazz, watch for the debut of www.smoothviews.com on November 1st, where you can read even more concert and CD reviews, as well as artist interviews and lots of other miscellaneous information about this genre of music. And while you’re over there, say hi to Mary, a smooth jazz buddy of mine!

A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH
Ok, so I’m a little behind other smooth jazz aficionados who’ve already spent years listening to some great groups that are ‘new’ to me. But if, like me, you enjoy the work it takes when you finally stumble down the path leading to a gem of a band who’s been around a few years, you’ll do just what I did today, which is run out to find at least one CD of a group called 3rd Force. Why? Read on....

ThirdForce.jpgScanning webradio stations on a peaceful Sunday morning, it was the horn section that first caught my attention, then the guitar and sax coming in, then the full sound of keyboards and other effects rounding it out. Checking the artist, I thought, ‘Where have they been??’ After some research on my part, that question quickly became ‘Where have I been?’ It seems there is never a shortage of great music to discover in this ever expanding world of what we call contemporary and smooth jazz, yet I’m still so surprised to realize I have missed the entire earlier career of some of my now favorite artists. I hope I will be forgiven in light of children’s soccer games and swim meets.

That first song I heard was '7th Heaven,' from the Force Field CD, and besides the horns drawing me in, what I noticed immediately about the music is the way the song transforms into smaller pieces – ending one tempo and beginning another, each piece with its own identity yet fitting into the song in its entirety, something that takes a lot of skill in order to keep the listener moving comfortably along throughout. Not a problem for this band, and as I later listened to and watched a video on their site, (from their first concert) I heard the same technique in the skillful composition of yet another song. Quite amazing.

What I quickly learned after poking around a bit is that this group formed about ten years before their first live concert in 2002. The main players, (hence, 3rd force), William Aura, Craig Dobbin, and Alain Eskinasi, who individually have plenty of musical background and talent, join together with others to produce music that is, in a word, soul-reaching. And that’s addressing merely one aspect of music that is enriching, uplifting, and evidence of talent in so many ways. They have been busy producing CDs for every kind of force there is, and so far CD titles include Vital Force, Gentle Force, Force Field, Force of Nature, and Collective Force. To further whet your appetite, players who’ve appeared on 3rd Force CDs have included Craig Chaquico, Tom Scott, Rick Braun, Greg Carmichael and Miles Gilderdale of Acoustic Alchemy, and Jimmy Sommers, to name a few.

My words here couldn’t possibly do justice to the unique characteristics of the music of 3rd Force, but if you haven’t yet given them a listen, I encourage you to look them up on Amazon.com. Listen to some song clips and read the reviews, which you’ll find include only the most complimentary of musical descriptions, and then join me on this journey into their music to see where it will lead us.

A new CD is scheduled for release in February, 2005, and proves to be, as its title implies, the next Driving Force that will no doubt keep this band in the forefront of contemporary music.

Happy jazzin’ and …. may the Force be with you!

Beverly Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 6:27 AM

October 5, 2004

Berks Jazz Vibes Welcomes You!

This column is designed to keep your finger on the pulse of jazz in Reading, Pennsylvania, home of the annual Berks Jazz Fest! I'm excited about sharing my impressions of artists who visit us during this ten-day event every March as well as other shows I attend which take me out of Reading.

My own passion has become attending shows and then writing about what I have seen, heard, and learned! I have found artists to be accessible with a real dedication to their fans! My impressions will be of the artists and his/her stage performance from the perspective of an avid fan. I come from a large family and so to me, this big family of jazz artists and fans provides a wonderful opportunity to be part of something that is both significant and uplifting in the lives of so many of us!

There's a bond between avid fans of jazz music, and this is my way of staying connected to you and helping you be connected to Berks all during the year! So for now, I'll get back to finishing my review of opening night at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base in Reading and another great show I attended featuring Chieli Minucci and Special EFX!! Stay tuned....and check back often to see what's new!

A special thank you to Peter Boehi, host of this site!

Beverly Packard
Berks Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 2:52 PM

October 4, 2004

The Oliver Twist

SteveOliverFrontPic.jpgIt seems the name Oliver is destined to speak of significance. Oliver, broadway musical; Oliver Cromwell of British history; Oliver, portrayed by Ryan O’Neal in the movie Love Story; and finally, Oliver Twist, the unforgettable main character in the Charles Dickens novel of the same name.

So when a guitar player named Steve Oliver burst into my corner of the smooth jazz music scene all at once not too long ago, it may be that I listened just a little more closely than if his name had been a different one. But it wouldn’t have mattered in the end, because the music itself was enough to cause me to sit up and take notice. From the first phrase of his guitar on the first song I heard, I knew I was going to like Steve Oliver’s music.

Positive Energy is a fitting name for that first CD I heard of Steve Oliver’s – the music is clean, fresh, energetic, positive, simply put together in a way that makes you want it to go on and on in your CD player. And I’ve done just that: listened from the first track to the last, then back to the beginning, more than one time through until I finally realize, gee, I’ll wear out this CD at the rate I’m going! It was merely living up to its name, bestowing on me a seemingly endless supply of positive energy.

So when the double billing of Chris Botti and Steve Oliver was listed on the schedule of the Berks Jazz Fest in March, it took only a second to know I wanted to hear Oliver’s music up close. The solid guitar playing, the compositions, the fact that nearly every song on the CD was worth listening to every time I popped it in -- all of this was impressive enough as I thought about the upcoming show. But once in the audience, it was the person of Steve Oliver, along with his music, that convinced me he is, indeed, the latest addition to an illustrious group of Olivers.

SteveOliver2Berks2004.jpgCasual. Relaxed. Happy. No, more than happy -- ecstatic. These are the qualities of a performer who put you at ease right from the start. It was obvious that he genuinely loves music and people. And it was equally obvious that he was going to have a great time, and was determined to take us along. With plenty of plans up his sleeve, it wasn’t long before he mesmerized the audience with his skill. He was more than a guitar player, more than a musician; his unique style caused me to later think of it as The Oliver Twist. He took what would easily be, by itself, a superb guitarist’s performance and made it even more memorable by giving it a whole new ‘twist.’

Standing as far front and center on the stage as he could get, eager to begin playing, he played a number of the songs I was hoping he would play from Positive Energy and his first CD entitled First View, and one of the new songs from his new CD, entitled 3-D, later released in August. He explained that he is always eager to try out new music on his fans before he puts them on a CD. We were happy to give our stamp of approval to 'Chips and Salsa' from the new CD.

SteveOliver4Berks2004.jpgHe worked his way through a number of songs from First View, among them ‘West End,’ the title track ‘First View,’ ‘I Know,’ and ‘Sunrise Celebration.’ It was during ‘Sunrise Celebration,’ with all its great vocal and percussion effects, that I noticed he was adding these various sound effects to his guitar playing! Of course I had heard these effects on the CD, but didn’t realize he was the one responsible for so many of these little gems placed like pearls in the spaces between his guitar lines. The effects became more and more intricate until I wasn’t sure how all these sounds could possibly be coming from him, but they were! He was totally engulfed in the experience of bringing us not only the sound of his guitar, but percussion effects, vocals, you name it, he was like a ‘one man band.’ I had to look to be sure there was a drummer or anyone else up there with him!

He’s a powerhouse of energy and special effects on stage! And as if that isn’t enough, beyond all of this talent with percussion and vocal effects, Oliver also has been blessed with a wonderful singing voice, so that hearing him sing “I Know” from beginnng to end was surely one of the highlights of the show for me. What a great song, and what a great tribute to the love he has found with his wife, as he shared with us in his typical unabashed style. We couldn’t help but sing along to help him celebrate, and to celebrate the love in our own lives. Highlighted from the Positive Energy CD were ‘High Noon,’ title track ‘Positive Energy,’ and ‘Right Direction.’

SteveOliver5Berks2004.jpgIt seemed that Oliver could have played well into the night. He never seemed to tire of connecting with his audience with music that just filled each of us with more and more of the Oliver blend of positive energy! But the show eventually had to end, despite continued protests of an appreciative crowd.

I remember thinking after the show, surely he will be a bit tired now and we won’t expect him to maintain that same upbeat manner he had nonstop on stage. But guess what? The positive energy was still flowing, in fact, maybe even stronger as he got excited over meeting every one of his fans, asking about them, responding to their questions. I don’t know how he did it, even I was tired! But he is a tireless, appreciative musician and it's obvious no amount of interacting is too much trouble or effort for him to give.

Since the Berks Jazz Fest, I've had the opportunity to ask Steve Oliver a couple of questions. First, I wanted to know what had contributed to his genuine love for people. He explained, “I have always had a love for talking with people since I can remember. That's why I love doing concerts, so I can meet and talk to the fans.”

SteveOliverBerks2004.jpgI knew he had worked with Tom Schuman of Spyro Gyra in recording his latest CD, and I wondered what was the highlight of that experience. “Working with Tom Schuman was a dream; not only is he such an amazing player, but he is such a wonderful person to work with. He's very focused and gives 120% in everything he does. We would put in 15 hour days and he would still have energy to keep going, I love that about Tom!!!"

How does Steve Oliver see himself evolving in the future given his huge success at this point in his career – what are the goals he has yet to accomplish? He answered, “I am such a music guru, I eat, drink, and sleep music and I always feel like I am just getting started. I love writing music and I am always looking for new and creative ways of putting sounds together, I just want to keep on writing, recording and touring, it is my passion!!!!!”

There are so many things to say about Steve Oliver. To sum it up, I'd say 'positive energy’ is a good name for him, not just for the CD. His enthusiasm and the flow of his energy really do send out a steady, positive stream that is infectious to those around him.

In case you’re wondering, Oliver’s debut CD, First View, released in 1999, is definitely worth adding to your collection. And I, for one, would never want to be without the Positive Energy CD! The new CD entitled 3-D, released in late August, promises to grab its share of attention in my CD player. In fact, it’s time to open this gem I have in my hands and pop it in!

By now you should be ready to head out for some CDs, attend one of the following shows, or both:

October 5 Henderson Pavillion, Henderson, Nevada
October 9 Thornton Winery, Temecula, California
October 14 Gardel’s, Baltimore, Maryland
October 16 Rehoboth Beach Autumn Jazz Festival, Rehoboth, Delaware


To learn more about Steve Oliver and where to purchase his CDs, go to www.steveolivermusic.com. And be forewarned: you can expect positive energy to flow as soon as you click onto his home page!

SteveOliver6Berks2004.jpgHappy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania

Photo credits: Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 4:47 AM

August 20, 2004

Gerald Veasley Adopts Reading, Pennsylvania as his Artistic Home Base

Gerald Veasley feels very much at home in Reading, Pennsylvania. So much so, that he’s adopted Reading as his ‘home away from home,' with the creation of his Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base club in collaboration with the Sheraton Hotel in Reading. Already a regular and much respected performer at Berks Jazz Fest over its 14 year history, he’s woven himself into the fabric of the city and the hearts of those who live here. It seems everyone in town has gotten to know this talented, down to earth musician. And besides being a favorite to those of us living here, he is one of the most sought after musicians on the jazz music scene today. It will be exciting, indeed, to watch his new venture unfold right before our eyes!

gerald_veasley2.jpgI first met Gerald Veasley when he did a mini-show at Borders Book Store in February of 2002, in promotion of the Berks Jazz Fest and of his own Bass Boot Camp. At that time, he began putting down roots with his founding of the Bass Boot Camp at the Wyomissing Institute of the Arts. It's a place where he can train aspiring bassists, from younger players up through the university level. He also shares his knowledge of the history and fundamentals of bass playing with area educators.

Veasley is down to earth and personable with fans, and he's one of those people who, at first meeting, you feel you have known for years. He happily shares his passion for music and his zeal for teaching students of bass guitar to play this instrument on which he has become so accomplished. That day I won tickets to a number of shows, being the Grand Prize winner in a raffle. I was stunned, to say the least! But one of those sets of tickets enabled me to see him play during Berks Jazz Fest with Pieces of a Dream. I was so fortunate to have seen this show; the music was awesome and an education in itself for me, and Gerald Veasley added a special flavor to the performance. Even back then, I could sense his giving nature, and now, two years later, I can't say I'm surprised that he's giving something wonderful back to this community he has grown to love.

With the opening of Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base club at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, now Veasley is settling into an even more permanent connection to our community. And fans in the Berks County area couldn’t be more pleased. He plans to feature local, regional and national talent in two one-hour sets each Thursday evening, from 7 to 8 and then from 8:30 to 9:30 PM.

Grand Opening night will feature Veasley and his own incredible band, along with the Berks Jazz Fest Horns– Mike Anderson on saxophone, Bill Miller on trombone and Rob Diener on trumpet – and the addition of some surprise guests! Leave it to Veasley to make things fun and exciting that way!

Shows will continue every Thursday evening in the Goodnite’s Lounge of the Sheraton, an intimate venue, or the Sheraton Ballroom when a larger venue is needed. Many shows are already on the schedule, including Tower of Power on October 20th, to be held in the Sheraton Ballroom.

WeasleyBeverly.jpgStay tuned for a recap of Grand Opening night and of future Thursday evenings at the Sheraton from this exciting new venture, Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base club! Hope to see you there!

A schedule of shows and ticket information are each available at the Gerald Veasley Jazz Base website, www.geraldveasleysjazzbase.com.

And now I want to add my voice to those who welcome Gerald Veasley and the Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base club to Reading!

Happy Thursday Night Jazzin'

Beverly Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 2:47 AM

August 3, 2004

Koz the Koreographer Comes to Reading!

Koz8.jpgThat's Dave Koz and his Friends, of course!

June 25th brought a new venue to the city of Reading, Pennsylvania. The recently built Sovereign Center, home of the Reading Royals hockey team, was magically transformed for the Grand Opening of the Reading Eagle Theatre.

On this very rainy night, part of the arena seating was blocked off, reducing the arena to a more intimate space with the stage in the center, set against a backdrop of curtains so that every seat in the newly created U-shape had a good view of the stage area. The stage area was quite attractively featured in this new theatre, and I’m sure there will be many more concerts in this new venue.

So many people were still drying out when show time came that the MC of the night came out with an umbrella to do his rendition of ‘Singing in the Rain,’ before announcing the show. But it was a great show, and the rain was easily forgotten. With headliners Dave Koz, Wayman Tisdale, Jonathan Butler and Rick Braun, how could it be any different? And one of the most interesting things about the night was that anyone who attended this Dave Koz and Friends concert has now learned the secret identities of Dave and these friends of his.

Koz1.jpgDave’s secret identity is Koz the Koreographer. True to his style, Dave arranged the show so that musicians did not simply ‘appear on stage.’ Each one of them had a well-calculated role to play in addition to playing an instrument. Dave’s ability to orchestrate a show with such precision and timing of movements is amazing! I think if we’re not careful, the jazz world is going to lose him to a Broadway production company! I’ve seen Dave Koz a few times before this, and each time, he made optimum use of every artist, every moment and every note in the songs during the show.

As for Wayman Tisdale’s secret identity, well, he has two of them! One shows his softer side, dubbing him The Big Marshmallow, and the second one, which I’m pretty sure was totally spontaneous on this night, is Wayman the Conductor. He was standing nearby other players when all of a sudden he began conducting them! After that he tried to throw a kiss the way only Rick Braun can (you guessed it, Rick’s is The Kiss Thrower); somehow it didn’t work in the same way for Wayman. But that’s no problem, he can always fall back on the marshmallow or conductor identities! You may or may not know that Wayman was a basketball player of star quality in the NBA in his past life! Wayman had so much fun during this show, and he played very well. I didn’t realize you could go from tough basketball player to nimbled-fingered bass player, but it’s obvious he has done that and very successfully.

Koz9.jpgJonathan Butler, who I thought was mainly a guitar player (where have I been?), has a secret identity as Singer of Headliner Quality, wow! He fell into Koz the Koreographer’s plans for him very, very nicely! Dave counted on him to foster a lot of audience participation, and that task seemed as easy as breathing for Jonathan. It was the first time I’ve seen him, and to say his performance in playing, singing, and just audience connection were memorable would not be doing him enough justice. The audience adores him and now I know why.

Back to Rick Braun, The Kiss Thrower. While I knew that Dave was a gifted choreographer, I had never picked up on the secret identify of Rick Braun before, even though I’ve seen him a number of times in concert! I mean, he was throwing BIG kisses, the kind you throw from a heart of gratitude and love for the recipient! The audience thought it was great, of course, as they were the object of his affection! I should point out that Rick was also a bit of a Secret Entrance Artist during the show. Now and then he disappeared for awhile and just when you began to wonder where he was, he would sneak in from the side of the audience onto the stage, or would end up playing to the front row without even getting on stage, or he would sit on the edge of the stage. He was all over the place during this show! I was struck, once again, not only by his talent, but also by his flexibility on stage. He can be serious or he can go along with the outrageous schemes of his band leader for the night.

And this is not all I saw of special abilities and secret identities! Dave had some other friends with him, including a keyboard, bass and guitar player and these three also had secret identities. Shhhhhh, these band members are actually DANCERS. They, too, played with great skill, and how were we to know they would land in center stage with some rather graceful, well-timed moves? I suppose they might end up with Dave in that Broadway production company!

There’s just one more thing I need to tell you before I continue: they all like to fight with each other on stage! Just like young boys! I was not always sure if Dave was running after or running away from the others, but there was a lot of running, pretend pushing and shoving, going on. I think when the event planners asked Dave to come here to play and to bring his friends, he took that literally!

Now that I’ve set the stage, you might also wonder about the music. Oh yes, the music!

Koz2.jpgThe set list was an excellent one, I thought. It included Koz’s "Honey-Dipped," from his new album, Saxophonic, Wayman’s "Ain’t No Stopping Us Now," a real crowd pleaser, and "Gabrielle," written for his daughter; Braun’s "Notorious" and "TGIF" (this song features Dave Koz on Braun's new CD); and Jonathan Butler’s "Wake Up" and "No Woman, No Cry." The audience was enthralled and it kept getting better and better. The first set ended with "All I See Is You," "Sarah," and the ever popular "Grazing in the Grass." Still other highlights of the show were "Dancin," "Smile," and Dave’s "Faces of the Heart," the love theme for “General Hospital.” The crowd joined in enthusiastically with Butler’s "Do You Love Me," and the evening ended with "Lies" and Stevie Wonder’s "I Wish."

A fun addition to the show came when each artist contributed his expertise in playing themes of television commercials and programs of long ago, as well as nursery rhymes! They surprised us with renditions of songs like "London Bridge is Falling Down," themes from "The Brady Bunch," "The Jetsons," "Bonanza" and many others. It was a competition between the artists to see which one came up with the most recognizable crowd-pleasers in this category, and they kept topping each other!

A bonus of the evening for me and I’m sure many other fans was that one of our own writers on smoothvibes.com, Jonathan Widran (of the Contempo Column), wrote numerous articles in a small newspaper format given to all who attended the show. He wrote quite comprehensive articles on Dave and each of his Friends who performed that night. As far as I know, he didn’t have a ‘heads up,’ however, on quite all of the Secret Identities!

The music was captivating from beginning to end. It was so good that the performers would not have needed secret identities to hold our attention. But we did have fun watching all these antics, never knowing what they were going to do next! And to say they were having fun would be an understatement. They were all on a high and they seemed to genuinely love being in Reading, home to the Berks Jazz Fest.

KozBeverly.jpgI’m sure we all left the arena thinking it would be great fun to do it all over again!

Happy Jazzin’

Beverly Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Photo credits: Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 7:03 PM

May 31, 2004

Berks Goes to Milford, Connecticut

Now that the Berks Jazz Fest is over, I can’t help but be drawn to other places, other venues where the jazz scene is either going strong or just popping up for one night.

rowe_endofconcert.jpgThe most recent one to catch my eye was the Second Annual Smooth Jazz for Scholars Benefit, coordinated by none other than Jay Rowe, who I had met a number of times as keyboard player in Special EFX. Jay is a very talented keyboard player, having made a few of his own CDs. He is not only a musician in his own right, but I’ve learned he’s a mover and shaker of some good things!

While he was here during the Berks Jazz Fest, he encouraged us to come to Milford to support the benefit and see a great line-up of musicians! Hearing the names of artists to be featured certainly got my attention: Chieli Minucci, Ken Navarro, Nelson Rangell, and Marion Meadows! And, of course, Jay Rowe himself and his own F.U. Jazzboy band, featuring Rohn Lawrence, Dave Lavolsi, Timmy Maia, and Trevor Sommerville.

To give you a little background, Jay got the idea for this benefit as a way to invest in music education in the public school system in Milford. Jay approached Kevin McCabe of JumpStartJazz in Connecticut, knowing that Kevin and his volunteer staff could help make it happen! He invited former classmates and long time friends of his, and the rest is history! It’s been the start of a wonderful tradition in Milford.

Driving into the area to park the car before the show led me to none other than the Superintendent of the entire school system, who gave us directions on where to park and what door to camp out at until the doors opened! He was obviously very excited about the show and what it means for his schools. Knowing one of his very own middle school teachers, a saxophone player, was to be featured in the show as Jay’s first of many ‘Feature Teachers,’ made it all the more meaningful for him, I’m sure!

rowe_meadows.jpgTrue to the theme of the night, the evening began with Milford students, three multi-talented music scholars who form the Marty Eisenberg Trio. They were captivating with their rather traditional jazz sound as they moved from one number to another, each one changing from his original musical instrument along the way. The drummer changed to keyboardist, the cello player changed to bass guitarist, and the rhythm guitarist became the drummer! I was amazed by each one’s ability to play both of his instruments so well. The crowd was appreciative. There were a number of young people there (I noticed children down to five years old or under as I looked around). It was good for the older ones to imagine that in a few short years, they, too, could potentially be up on stage performing live music.

It was a most memorable night for Jay Rowe, I’m certain, as he, bass player Dave Lavolsi, and drummer Trevor Sommerville, remained on stage the entire evening as the featured artists came and went. To top off the good feeling Jay had in being the coordinator of a successful event that will likely continue year after year, the announcement was made of his upcoming wedding (just two weeks away)! So Jay had many reasons to smile that evening, and smile he did, from the beginning to the end of the show. He didn’t miss a beat!

Highlights of the evening included Marion Meadows entering from the back of the auditorium, to the delight of all those sitting in his path as he made his way to the stage. His sultry sax and amazing renditions of songs like George Duke’s No Rhyme, No Reason, and My Cherie Amore (with Timmy Maia on vocals) had the audience clamoring for more. Jay also enlisted the talent of long time friend and guitarist Rohn Lawrence, who played Foolish Heart and a personal song with a story called Waiting On Wally.

navarro_maia.jpgAll the artists had a great time and each one played their numbers with so much heart and soul. Ken Navarro began with a song from Bread, “Make It With You” and continued by playing a song he wrote long ago to help his young son fall asleep, Eric’s Dream. On this very night of Smooth Jazz for Scholars, Eric, now 18, was attending prom night. Ken also played Old Friends, from his ‘Best of.’ CD, All The Way, and a song which is his own version of ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ in life, called, “Play, Don’t Worry.”

This year Jay added something new which he hopes to continue each year, a ‘Feature Teacher’ in which he showcases the talent of a teacher from the school system in Milford. This year it was saxophone player and middle school teacher Bob Nunno, and he honestly blended in so well with everyone on stage that I wonder if these days he’s dreaming of stardom for himself! I’m sure his students, especially those who were in attendance, will never see him as quite the same person after this benefit!

Another traditional part of this show is ‘Raffle Time.’ It should be noted that ‘Raffle Time’ goes on for a full twenty minutes, and there were very special prizes for many in the audience. During this time, Marion Meadows and Rohn Lawrence kept on playing, later joined by Tim Maia, and they gave a whole new meaning to ‘Raffle Time.’

Interestingly, there were many families in the audience, complete with young children. As I watched, I noticed that the younger children in attendance who may have begun yawning after 9 PM, since it was past normal bedtime, sat up straight when ‘raffle time’ came, to the tune of James Brown! They couldn’t sleep with that combination of games and great music.

rowe_minucci.jpgFollowing ‘Raffle Time,’ it was Nelson Rangell whose enthusiastic, powerful sound on the saxophone easily connected with the audience. His song Dedication featured Jay’s bass player, and his Senora with Ken Navarro was a unique performance to watch, since Nelson whistled much of the melody! I was so awe-struck that someone can whistle the way he did! Both Nelson and Marion Meadows were so impressive in breath control. They seemed to find air within themselves when I was sure there just could not possibly be any left! Still, they found more!

Chieli Minucci, who came out to join the others just before intermission, always manages to make his warm-up of the guitar into a song that we hope doesn’t have to end. Chieli plays so well each time I see him, and he was so excellent again, joining in on some numbers featuring others, and then playing his superb rendition of Santana’s Europa, Daybreak from his Global Village Special EFX CD, and Kickin’ It Hard with Jay’s Feature Teacher, who kept up with Chieli perfectly!

The last number featured all the artists. For me, this is becoming a very favorite way to enjoy this music, with a bunch of talented musicians up there, each contributing in his own way to the final product of the last song!

I hated to see the evening end, but as I watched the artists bow, I was grateful to each one for his inspiration and dedication to young artists. And I thought Jay Rowe, along with bass player Dave Lavolsi and drummer Trevor Sommerville, deserved special accolades for learning the music of the various artists, for staying onstage the entire time, and for having fun with it from the first moment to the last.

Happy Jazzin',

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Photo credits Michael C. Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 9:56 PM

March 23, 2004

Berks Jazz Fest’s ALL STAR JAZZ JAM: Quite A Starry Night!!

Show time: Thursday evening, March 18, 2004

It’s always a match made in heaven – Berks Jazz Fest music fans and their artists. And that was never more obvious than at the Berks Jazz Fest’s All Star Jazz Jam, held March 18th, 2004, at the Sheraton Hotel Ballroom in Reading, Pennsylvania. It was a night the house was, well, brought down and simply stayed there!

I'm not sure it can be described in mere words, but let me try! It could not have happened before, nor will it happen again, in quite the way it did tonight! It was like adding artist after artist until you reached ten people, but put them together and it seems you multiplied instead of added! The exponential synergy of this particular all star jazz jam was nothing short of truly *star* quality!

Take a look at the line-up! Chuck Loeb (the one who pulls it all together) and Chieli Minucci (guitars), Jeff Kashiwa, Jimmy Sommers and Kenny Blake (sax), Gerald Veasley (bass), Joe McBride and Freddie Ravel (keyboards), Rayford Griffin (drums), Rick Braun (trumpet). With a gathering of such talent, I knew what the night could bring!!


AllStarFullBand.jpg


Here’s the scene on stage. Freddie and Joe framing the picture on opposite sides of the stage with Rayford in center back. Gerald, in between the drummer and Joe, stood toward the back. In fact, he seemed to have a nice little room of his own back there. Across the stage, from left to right, we have Chuck, Chieli, Jimmy, Jeff, Rick, and Kenny. Of course there was some moving around, moving front and back, a very minimal amount of ‘stage-leaving’, walking across to talk to a fellow artist, but basically the group stayed in this ‘formation.’

AllStarMcBride.jpgNow picture Joe McBride leading the song "Summertime" on the keyboard and singing the vocals. Here is an artist who is an amazing performer. When vision cannot distract, music seems to take a faster path from the heart to its expression, and I grew to love this about listening to Joe, both in his earlier show of the evening and during the late night All Star Jazz Jam.

Behind Joe is Gerald Veasley, bobbing his head back and forth, up and down, the way he does, reassuring us with his typical signature sign of bliss with the bass. He admitted in the earlier show that he sometimes goes into his own world, and we all know that when Gerald is there, all is well with the song and the world, so we don’t mind a bit! He's so motivating by virtue of the sheer fun he's having. His smile is contagious to anyone in the band who glances at him. Watching him makes me want to bob my own head up and down, back and forth. And for artists who are already having fun, they simply have more fun after looking at him.

AllStarGriffinJazzJam.jpgGerald and Rayford Griffin had a lot of fun in the back where they didn’t think we were watching! They played off each other all night and when others were traveling to faraway places, they were the ones with the working road map to be able to eventually lead everyone else safely home for each song. Rayford had some totally awesome, shining moments which left me wondering how it is humanly possible to hit all those different pieces of equipment in just the right way and for the length of time involved.

The interdependence of these players is a purely fascinating thing to watch. Something that isn’t seen in songs written with a prescribed progression from beginning to end, appeared so frequently during this night of jamming. There may be a general idea, or even a carefully thought out idea of where a song is headed, but the road winds; there are unexpected bends; someone takes off on a different trail and the others must follow. And follow they did, so very remarkably at times. Take any two of these artists and put them in close proximity and then stand back because sparks are going to fly!

The spotlight was shared so well tonight among all of the artists, and the graciousness with which each of them remained aware of keeping everyone’s contribution in balance was so obvious. During one fast moving number, there was a plan to start on one side of the stage and move to the other side, each one handing off the improvisation to the artist next to him. And so it went, from Joe to Kenny to Rick to Jeff to Jimmy, to Gerald then Chieli then Chuck, to Freddie and back to…….oops, Rick took it and quickly backed out and worked in Joe and Kenny, then to his amazement seemed to realize the drummer had been missed the first time around, and so he kept pointing to the back, to remind everyone to pause and get Rayford in there, too. This was just another example of how one rarely sees evidence of jealousy, or anything akin to one performer trying to upstage another. I see such a great picture, over and over again, of mutual respect, cooperation, synergy and wonderfully productive energy that goes into the final product of jazz music. Artists realize so well how they need each other, how much better each is because the other is there, that it is in the give and take, the working together, that lasting and beautiful results can happen. It occurred to me the world could take a lesson from ten multi-talented musical artists in a jam session!

AllStarLoebJazzJam.jpgChuck Loeb is the consummate producer, unobtrusively and in a totally relaxed state, watching to see that everything is going on cue, reminding of the drum solo coming up, challenging each one to rise to each occasion given to show his stuff and move the music along. And no one disappointed him! I was glad to see Chuck take the lead several times and show what a passionate, extraordinary guitar player he is. He feels it all so deeply and he never seems to be rattled about something not coming off in a certain way he might have planned – he just changes gears and decides on something even better!

AllStarChieliJazzJam.jpgChieli Minucci, in similar fashion as Chuck, is one who watches the overall picture; he's tapping that left foot, and he finds a way to keep playing in support of anyone else who is in the solo position. He can always find something to go with whatever another artist is doing! The only time he might stop playing is when the keyboard players are highlighted and they end up going so far off into their worlds (which is way cool) that before they realize it they are busily creating a whole new song! In those moments, Chieli just waits them out, but when he’s given that one tiny spark of where they’re headed, he’s right back with them. In fact, his face continually seems to reflect the sheer joy of rejoining whoever is playing. And when he gets the chance to add his own interpretation within the song, it’s in the form of the most intricate, spontaneous creations most of us will ever hear!

AllStarRavelJazzJam.jpgSpeaking of a keyboard player going into his own world during a song, Freddie Ravel has got to be one of the best masters of improvisation I’ve ever seen. He bends low over that keyboard and I think his head is following his fingers, not the other way around. It seems that would be impossible but this is the second year in a row I’ve seen him do it! He can turn a few bars into the start of what could quickly become some kind of symphony! Everything seems to stop when Freddie goes on his journey and no one wants to hurry him back because he takes us to interesting, faraway places along the way.

Many of us have played musical instruments in our past, and being able to read notes on a page is a talent, for sure, but improvising on an instrument is another story entirely, especially with the deadline of a steady beat. I never reached the point of improvising with skill, and so when I watch the artists, I can’t help but try to figure out how much of the actual music is set on paper ahead of time and how much of it is unplanned. I can tell some of it is planned, because they have music stands and they look at what’s coming next, and now and then are reading music. My sense is that there is a framework, then within that framework there are many points of ‘undefined numbers of measures that will be taken,’ and those are the times most of the improvisation occurs. It seems they all know ‘when’ the improvisational part is going to fit in, and different ones seem to have the clear responsibility for it at different times, but now and then I am certain that there is no plan at all. It’s wide open for anyone to take it, and truly, that is an extremely satisfying and fun thing to watch, and there was so much of that this year during the All Star Jazz Jam!

Sitting in the front row and studying each player the way one can in that spot, made me realize a lot of things. The players interact not only musically, but also verbally and with facial expressions. It seems one of them always has a thought to share with the artist next to him, or the artist across the stage, and it’s no problem to simply walk from one side to the other while playing in order to share that thought. Sometimes it appears to be a question that needs an answer right away; other times it’s to banter back and forth about something that just happened; sometimes it’s almost as if one of them has thought of something important they meant to tell another one, and now might be the best time to tell them before it’s forgotten! For all we know, they’re making plans for future concerts, or social gatherings, or commenting on each others’ playing or clothes. Who knows?? But it’s obvious there is a lot of communication going on. The facial expressions are priceless. The sheer determination of getting through a demanding solo part, the smile and wink of joy to have nailed it just right, the encouragement and admiration of each others’ performances, the knowing look when something hasn’t gone quite as planned, the triumph when someone was forced to make great tasting lemonade out of lemons, it’s all there and it adds so much to the fun of watching the show! It seems to me that the more a band is really pumped and enjoying themselves, the more this communication goes on. They have to relate in these other ways, in addition to relating musically. It’s part of the bond that says, we’re in this together and we’re going to see it through one way or the other. How fascinating!

There was a theme tonight and it was called Miles, Monk and Motown, as in Davis, Thelonius, and well, Motown is self-explanatory. "Summertime", "When I Fall in Love", "I Heard it Through the Grapevine", "Well You Needn’t" – all these were songs I recognized, yes, but for the first time I didn’t mind if I didn’t know the song! That is very unusual for me, ask my friends in music! These artists could have played all night, one artist taking the lead where the other left off, adding to it as they went along, and it would have been fine with me. I grew to a new level of music appreciation tonight, thanks to this awesome combination of talent!

AllStarSommersJazzJam.jpgJimmy Sommers, who I had never heard before, turned out to be a great addition to the jam. They call him ‘face’ because he’s so good-looking, and it is true that since the show I’ve referred to him as having such a nice, you got it, ‘face!’ Of course to many fans, it’s not really true that he’s better-looking than the rest of the artists on stage! Or should I say more attractive. Some very seasoned jazz faces are so appealing to us as jazz fans. Our older senior citizen ‘mascot’ of a fan, named Lil, who has been attending shows for twelve years with her son who drives her here from Baltimore, for instance, is still trying to decide which one is cuter of the following: Jimmy, Chieli, or Chuck. When pressed, she says with a laugh, “I can handle more than one!’ Here’s an older gal with an intact, very young heart of jazz!

AllStarHornsJazzJam.jpgKenny Blake is another artist I heard for the first time in person, although the Heads Up Super Band CD (which includes Joe and Gerald and Keith Carlock on drums!) is in my CD player a lot these days as a real favorite! Kenny has the respect of his peers, of that I am certain, and when he had the baton passed his way, he could really run with it. I sat there realizing that his whole being simply IS music, and I loved hearing what he did with his solo every time.

Jeff Kashiwa is one of the happiest players I’ve ever watched. He has a way of taking it all in stride, he’s always ready, he doesn’t seem pressured, and brings his part home every time. The ease with which he plays and the power and strength he seems to have while playing are nothing short of amazing! Looking into the eyes of the artist he’s jamming with always brings that wonderful smile, impossible to hide even with the saxophone in his mouth! Watching him always makes me glad to be where he is!

Rick Braun did his share of taking the music in fascinating and innovative directions. Chuck seemed to count on him in a unique way to take it all to a new height (as a trumpet does) and, wow, did he deliver every time! His most noteworthy contribution to that, in addition to simply his mega skill in handling the trumpet, I thought, was during the encore song (you’ll pardon me if it doesn’t matter to me what the title was?)! It was a great encore, everything had run its proper course, and then it seemed to be ending at Rick’s doorstep. He hit notes that were a good fit and ushered in an appropriate ending. But as he bowed over to play that last lower note, something in him seemed to say, ‘no, this is not the BEST ending we could have. I’m going to crank it up one more time and see what we can do with this.’ The rest of the song was unbelievable. I was so taken by all that happened next, that I don’t even know how to describe it. Everyone got back in for something, and I was certain this had to be the best of the unplanned jamming of the night. What a high! What a great recap to the entire evening! When it was all over, I knew that I was never going to ‘need’ a recurring melody line again during the rest of my jazz life! Not when artists of this caliber are on stage, anyway!

And so this became an unforgettable night for me, a night of deepening appreciation for what is in the heart and soul of all the musicians now standing and bowing before me. And I can’t wait for more! And if you can’t either, you might be helped by at least picking up one, or all, of the most recently released CDs of this amazing group of artists, listed here for your convenience!

Kenny Blake An Intimate Affair
Rick Braun Esperanto
Rayford Griffin Rebirth of the Cool
Jeff Kashiwa Simple Truth
Chuck Loeb eBop
Joe McBride Keepin’ It Real
Freddie Ravel Freddie Ravel
Jimmy Sommers Lovelife
Special EFX featuring Chieli Minucci Party
Gerald Veasley Velvet

Happy Happy Jazzin’

Beverly Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
March 18, 2004

Photo credits, Michael Packard, March, 2004

JazzFestPicMBChuckChieli.jpg

It's columnist Beverly Packard and husband and photographer, Michael, with guitarists Chuck Loeb and Chieli Minucci at the Berks All Star Jazz Jam.

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 8:47 PM

March 22, 2004

Welcome To Berks Jazz Vibes!

This column is designed to keep your finger on the pulse of jazz in Reading, Pennsylvania, home of the annual Berks Jazz Fest! I'm excited about sharing my impressions of artists who visit us during this ten-day event every March! A relative newcomer to the 'jazz scene,' I suppose there's nowhere better than Berks to become immersed in this genre and to learn quickly about the artists and their music! It helps to have a husband who knows a lot about the roots of traditional jazz and the progression over the years to contemporary jazz, as we call it. And who takes great pictures, some of which you will see here!

My own passion has become attending shows and then writing about what I have seen, heard, and learned! I have found artists to be accessible, easy to get to know, with an absolute dedication to their fans! My impressions will be of the artists and his/her stage performance from the perspective of an avid fan. I come from a large family and so to me, this big family of jazz artists and fans provides a wonderful opportunity to be part of something that is both significant and uplifting in the lives of so many of us!

I find there is such a bond between avid fans of jazz music, and this is my way of staying connected to you and helping you be connected to Berks all during the year! So for now, I'll get back to finishing my reviews from Berks Jazz Fest 2004, including the All Star Jam, Special EFX featuring Chieli Minucci and Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Oliver, Chris Botti, Jimmy Sommers, Hiroshima, and Doc Powell. Watch for these reviews to appear, one by one!

A special thank you to Peter Boehi, host of this site!

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 4:00 AM

March 15, 2004

Straight AAs for Acoustic Alchemy on Opening Night at the Berks Jazz Fest!

Concert review by Beverly J. Packard

Friday, March 12 quickly became the most important date on my calendar for 2004. As jazz fans know, it's the start of the ten day Berks Jazz Fest, an event attended by people from locations near and very far away! It's become an international event, and what better band to schedule as part of opening night than Acoustic Alchemy who come to us from the UK!

Having only recently become familiar with their music, I soon realized that it was worth acquiring every CD and to become familiar with as much of their music as I could before the show. The CDs themselves were mesmerizing, so by Friday night at 10:30, I was on the edge of my seat eagerly awaiting the start of the show.

AA-Berks-2.jpgMy expectations and hopes for a truly great show were completely satisfied! The band played with sheer joy and enthusiasm and the audience responded in kind. In fact, I don't know when I saw a happier group of musicians who had a better time than did the members of this band tonight on opening night of the Berks Jazz Fest.

Their sound was really tight, each one's concentration and command of his own part was impeccable, and it is amazing to me how interesting it is to watch two guitarists play! (Not to mention watching the keyboard player, who was never still and totally absorbed in his playing; the bass player, who never sat down and seemed that he could play endlessly; the drummer, with his awesome talent and ready smile; and the sax player, Eddie, wow, I'll get to him in a minute.)

There was an easy and interesting transition from song to song. Anecdotes, humor and serious sharing of the evening with all of us was evident. Something I noticed all during their performance is that the ending to each song is done very distinctly, it's always crisp; the timing of some of those endings was truly unique.

The ready smiles were the thing I noticed most in addition to the music. And I was able to figure out where the smiles were coming from. Greg C is simply quite exhilarated to play his guitar and to be there. He has a handsome, boyish quality and it seems that he has found his love and it is music, and though you can tell he works very hard it all appears so effortless! Miles may look only one tad more serious, but that's because he's pondering the jokes he's going to tell over the course of the evening! He is an extremely witty guy! I had no idea that was coming, but he had the audience in stitches many times.

You'd have to hear Miles use the rest of the band members as his 'fodder' for jokes to realize the affectionate bond that must exist between these men. They are having as good a time as we are! The bass player did admit to me later that they never know what Miles is going to say next! Another talent of Miles’ is that he has an amazing ability to sing his guitar part, too! I'm still wondering how he did that!

AA-Berks-5.jpgThe bass player, the keyboard player and the drummer were all highlighted in a number of songs and they rose to the occasion every time. Which brings me back to Eddie. I met him in the bar before the show, and he's a friendly, soft spoken guy with yes, another 'ready smile.' He seems pretty low key, but put that saxophone in his hands and wow, he's a dynamo of energy! What a burst of talent he showed us. He and Miles together are very entertaining!

Of course those of you who have seen them know all of this, but for me, it was all new, and it was very, very enjoyable for me this evening to see them live, to hear this wonderful talent! What a way to start the Jazz Fest! They opened with "The Last Flamenco" which was simply AAmazing and continued to include The "Beautiful Game", "Wish You Were Here", "Urban Cowboy", and "No Messin'" and "Milo" from their newest CD, Radio Contact. "Flamenco Loco" was the encore, and that led to totally fun and awesome twists and turns of their musicality and showmanship before they finally had to say their goodbye.

It was an experience just to see them line up, arms entwined, taking their two perfectly timed bows to the wild clapping and cheering of an appreciative audience. In fact, a good word for this band is just that: perfection.

I hope this gives you a flavor for the night, it was truly awesome. They played nearly two hours. And just as talented as they are musically, that's how friendly they are to their fans. The evening was a nice experience all the way around. A big ‘thank you’ to the band members, which include: Greg Carmichael, nylon string guitar; Miles Gilderdale, steel string and electric guitar; Frank Felix, bass guitar; Tony White, keyboards; and Greg Grainger, drums.

Reviewed by:
Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
March 13, 2004

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:42 AM