Published with the permission of Destination Downtown Reading. This article originally appeared in their March 21, 2019 newsletter.
The 29th Annual Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest is set to sparkle with an array of amazing artists April 5 through 14, including a free special MidDay Café performance sponsored by the Reading Downtown Improvement District.
This year’s Jazz Fest will be epic in scope, talent and genres with a multiplicity of concerts at venues large and small, including many in downtown Reading. Performances will encompass contemporary jazz, traditional jazz, pop, crossover, blues, funk, R&B, gospel and unique concerts produced especially for the festival.
Included in the lineup are the world-famed U.S. Navy Band Commodores, who will perform for free in a MidDay Jazz Café concert on Wednesday, April 10 at 1 p.m. in the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading Grand Ballroom. (See details about the band’s background on the back page.) The Commodores will also present another free show the night before – along with the Berks High School All-Star Jazz Band – at 7 p.m. at Muhlenberg High School as part of the Reading Eagle Community Concert.
The Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, is recognized as one of the largest and most diverse music festivals of its kind in the country. Since 1991, the festival has been an important part of Greater Reading’s community revitalization efforts as both an economic and cultural catalyst for positive change.
The Berks Jazz Fest is noted for featuring marquee musical artists and the 29th edition is no exception. Among the heavyweights scheduled to play are multi-instrumentalist Brian Culbertson in the Opening Night Celebration; saxophonist Boney James; vocalist Jeffrey Osborne; The Jazz Cruise All-Stars: legendary trumpeter Randy Brecker and saxophonist Eric Marienthal with trumpeter Terrell Stafford; Journey Hall of Fame drummer Steve Smith & Vital Information NYC Edition.
Also scheduled to perform are blues masters guitarist/vocalist Walter Trout, vocalist Sugaray Rayford and keyboardist Bruce Katz; pianist Keiko Matsui with the Reading Pops Orchestra kicking off their 50th Anniversary Celebration; the Allman Betts Band featuring Devon Allman and Duane Betts (the sons of Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts); premier blues band Tommy Katona & Texas Flood; and acclaimed keyboardist Bob James.
The festival will also feature unforgettable tribute shows that undoubtedly will delight audiences, among them tributes to Aretha Franklin, Al Jarreau, Grover Washington Jr., Bill Withers, Nina Simone, Weather Report, James Cotton, and Miles Davis. Of course, the most amazing collaborative undertaking of Berks Jazz Fest every year is the Berks All-Star Jam, which has been re-christened the Chuck Loeb Memorial All-Star Jam.
Loeb, who passed away from cancer in 2017, was the musical director of the All-Star Jam, turning it from a loose jam session into a well-produced concert without losing any of its improvisational characteristics. Once again, the Jam will be packed with a bevy of marquee artists.
Saxophonist Kirk Whalum’s Gospel According to Jazz Celebration has become the Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest finale staple act. This edition features special guest Take 6, the most awarded Capella group in history with 10 Grammy Awards, plus vocalist Kevin Whalum, vocalist/keyboardist John Stoddart, and Reading’s own DOXA Gospel Ensemble.
Get JazzED is a music-in-education program of Berks Jazz Fest, dedicated to building the jazz arts community by advancing education, promoting performance and developing new audiences. There are several concerts with Get JazzED tie-ins.
There are two Doc Mulligan Get JazzED Day concerts on April 7, with the Middle School Big Band Festival in the afternoon and the High School Big Band Festival in the evening. Get JazzED Day is named in honor of Doc Mulligan, whose trombone playing and skillfully arranged charts have been a fixture in the Berks County musical world for many years.
Get JazzED Night on April 8 will spotlight RMF Project Penske Jazz Jam hosted by Mike Eben, Albert Rivera, Gerald Veasley, and Brian Bromberg. On Jazz Appreciation Day in Reading on April 10, the Kutztown University Jazz Ensemble I plus the Berks High School All-Stars Jazz Band, both directed by Kevin Kjos, will be in concert. The Chuck Loeb Memorial Scholarship winners also will be honored.
For the complete lineup of performing artists and ticket information, please visit www.berksjazzfest.com.