Sunday night, the festival closed with The Gospel According To Jazz IV Celebration featuring Kirk Whalum and friends. The show was opened with Rick Braun playing "Ave Maria" solo on trumpet from the audience, with Kirk Whalum joining him doing "Amazing Grace" on the saxophone, then the pace picked up with the band joining in, playing "Amen, Amen" in New Orleans style with the audience clapping along. The band consisted of Kevin Turner on guitar, Marcus Finnie on drums, John Stoddart on keyboards and Braylon Lacy on bass. Kevin Whalum joined in for "Can't Stay Blue" which was a swinging jazz track with Kevin singing and scatting along. Bassist Gerald Veasley joined in for one bass led track. Next was special guest Keiko Matsui on keyboards to do "Affirmation" (which she recorded with Kirk Whalum on her The Road... album), then they played "Sunday's Best" by the late Wayman Tisdale, before Kevin Whalum did a great version of "Wade In The Water" having the audience sing along. John Stoddard was featured on his own "Put Love, Love, Love In It", then Oleta Adams joined the stage to do Kirk Whalum's "It's What I Do", followed by her own "Holy Is The Lamb", just accompanying herself at the keyboards. After that it was time for the DOXA Gospel Ensemble to come onto the stage, they did "God Has Smiled On Me" and "Holy, Holy", providing a true gospel feeling. The highlight of the show came with the instrumental version of "I Will Always Love You" featuring Kirk Whalum on saxophone and Keiko Matsui on keyboards. The show was finished with Rick Braun joining on trombone with everybody to do Todd Rundgren's "Love Is The Answer", providing a great climax and worthy end of another remarkable gospel show.

Sunday afternoon at 3pm, Keiko Matsui and the Reading Pops Orchestra appeared at the Miller Center for the Arts, and we were in for a special treat, hearing her music with a full orchestra. They kicked off the show with "Dream Seeker", just featuring the band without the orchestra, on bass was Rico Belled, on drums Dave Karasony, on guitar Austin Kruczek and on sax Jackiem Joyner (who has been touring with her for the past 8 years). Keiko Matsui wore a long red dress and looked beautiful as always at the grand piano. Next was "Black Lion", followed by "Soul Quest" and "A Night With Cha Cha". Then conductor Willis M. Rapp entered the stage and the service of the orchestra was employed for the rest of the evening, bringing Keiko Matsui's music to a whole different sphere. "The First Four Years", "The Road..." and "Bridge Over Stars" were done beautifully with the support of the orchesta, another highlight was "Forever, Forever", beautifully done solo on the grand piano, crossing Jim Brickman territory. All the musicians joined in for "Bohemian Concerto", followed by "An Evening In Gibraltar" from the Moyo album, before finishing her concert with "Antarctica (A Call To Action)". She returned for one encore, "Deep Blue", which marked the highlight of the whole concert for me, because it featured just her on the grand piano and the full orchestra, providing a real classical feeling and some nice interaction between her expressive piano playing and the orchestra. This was a truly remarkable show.

Berks Jazz Fest 2014: Generation neXt

Sunday morning, we got another Sunday Jazz Brunch, this time taking place at the Crowne Plaza providing a decent buffet, featuring Generation neXt, a bunch of young players who decided to join forces, jointly trying to make their mark on the music scene. Featured players were Nicholas Cole on keyboards, Lin Rountree on trumpet, Lebron on saxophone and Julian Vaughn on bass. They had a great band behind them, we got Third Richardson on drums, John Dillard on bass and Gerey Johnson on guitar. They kicked off their show together with the smashing "On Your Beat" bringing things up to speed. "Please Don't Say No" featured Nicholas Cole on keys, supported by Lin Rountree on trumpet. Next was "We Chill" by Lin Rountree with Julian Vaughn on bass, followed by Lebron doing his own "Turn It Up", before all players delved into Quincy Jones' "Secret Garden" and George Duke's "No Rhyme, No Reason", who was one of their main influences. Lebron did "Double Or Nothing" from his debut album Shades, with a little help from Lin Rountree on trumpet, also allowing the band to shine, John Dillard did a great funky bass solo and Third Richardson did a wicked drum solo, showing their superior musicianship. Lin Rountree did his version of Michael Jackson's "You Rock My World", before the whole band reunited to do bring the concert to a rousing end with the Whispers' "Rock Steady". These young players are each in his own right great talents to watch, take the opportunity to see them live if you can.

At midnight, it was time for the last Gerald Veasley's Midnight Jam taking place at the Jazz Base, as usual we got the core band of Donald Robinson on piano and keyboards, Richard Waller on drums and Gerald Veasley on bass. The featured player was trumpet player Rick Braun who did his version of Freddie Hubbard's "Little Sunflower", complete with solos by all players involved. Then Bill Heller joined in at the keyboards, supporting Rick Braun for one more straight ahead jazz tune. Brian Bromberg took over the bass, they did "Canteloupe Island". Then Jay Rowe sat in at the keyboards, Third Richardson took over the drum seat, allowing the Hancock vibe to continue with "Chameleon", giving the keyboard players some solo space. Richard Waller returned to the drums, the next featured player was trumpet player Lin Rountree doing "People Make The World Go Round". Then it was time to wrap up the night, Lionel Cordew sat at the drums, John Dillard played the bass for Chick Corea's "Spain", having Joe McBride join in during the song, wrapping up another great midnight jam, that lacked the usual sax and guitar, instead putting the spotlight on the keyboards. I especially enjoyed to hear Donald Robinson a little bit more, this low key player not only has a lot of merits (having worked with Grover Washington Jr.), but is a great player as well.

Berks Jazz Fest 2014: Candy Dulfer

At 10pm, Dutch saxophone player Candy Dulfer appeared at the Crowne Plaza, she had Chance Howard on vocals and keyboards in her band. She got right into the groove with a nice sax led instrumental, before doing her tribute to the former NY smooth jazz radio station 101.9 with "CD 101.9". Next was "Candy" featuring Chance Howard from the Candy Store album, funking up things nicely, followed by "You Are The One". Just for the Berks audience, she decided to do "LA City Lights", a melodic and laid-back smooth jazz tune that went down very well. DJ Roog was involved in "What You Do (When The Music Hits)", an upbeat Euro-pop tune that didn't do much for me, still it seemed to be appreciated by most people. Thankfully, the pace changed again with "Nikki's Dream", a mellow and soulful instrumental featuring her sax playing plus an outer worldly guitar solo, that marked an early highlight. Next was another funky track, the "Gonna Have A Good Time" giving Chance Howard another chance to create a party atmosphere, followed by "Pick Up The Pieces" with special guest Rick Braun on trumpet, creating a lot of heat. This track wrapped up the show after one hour, but she returned for a number of encores, continuing with "Lily Was Here", the song that started her career, you could feel that this song meant a lot to her, she delivered it in a great way with her guitar player contributing beautifully, yielding a truly memorable performance. The second last song was Candy's soulful rendition of "Outstanding" by the Gap Band, featuring Chance Howard once more, before bringing her concert with "Life Of The Party" to a satisfying end.

Saturday evening, it was an all-star event tagged as WDAS/JJZ Night, featuring Peabo Bryson plus saxophonists Mindi Abair, Richard Elliot and Gerald Albright, plus keyboardist Brian Simpson. The rest of the band consisted of Third Richardson on drums, Nate Phillips on bass and Gerey Johnson on guitar. They opened with an sax led instrumental, before Peabo Bryson did one song, singing "By The Time The Night Is Over", before he disappeared again leaving the stage to the instrumentalists. They were alternating between each other with Gerald Albright doing his "Bermuda Nights", Richard Elliot did his version of "Keep On Trucking" (complete with doing the vocals part on the EWI), Mindi Abair did a song from her current release Wild Heart (leaning a bit more into a rock direction) and her biggest hit "Lucy", while Brian Simpson played his radio hits, among them "Let's Get Close", plus a host of other songs. One song done together was the EWF classic "Reasons" from their Summer Horns release. We had to wait until the end of the concert, to get another slice of Peabo Bryson who returned to do a few more songs, among them "Show And Tell", to conclude an entertaining show.

Berks Jazz Fest 2014: Nick Colionne

Next was our favorite, guitar player Nick Colionne, the best dressed man in smooth jazz, this afternoon clad in white, while the rest of his band wore black. They delivered a high energy and fun show with Nick in top form, doing a few songs from his current release Influences. He slowed things down with "Melting Into You", his velvety voice gave me goose bumps. As usual, he stepped out into the audience to do a lengthy guitar solo close to his fans, leaving many happy faces. At the end of his show, he handed his guitar over to someone else to play the rhythm part, allowing him to do his James Brown impersonation and wandering around in the audience having people get up and dance, which was a riot. Nick Colionne is one of the absolute top performers in smooth jazz who always provides a great time.

Berks Jazz Fest 2014: The Sax Pack

Sunday afternoon, there were two concerts in a row. Sax Pack was the first to play, the current lineup consists of Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole and newcomer Marcus Anderson on saxes (replacing Kim Waters), they kept the special chemistry and camaraderie that always has been a trademark of this band. They did several songs from the Sax Pack catalog, in addition some songs from the current album of Marcus Anderson entitled Style Meets Substance were featured. They kicked off the show as a group, during the show, the individual players did their thing, most notably Jeff Kashiwa with his "Hyde Park (The Ah, Ooh Song)" complete with audience participation was a crowd pleaser. This was an entraining show by three consummate saxophone players.

At midnight, it was time for one more Gerald Veasley's Midnight Jam, the always sold out lose "anything goes" jam session under the guidance of bassist Gerald Veasley, taking place at his Jazz Base. He had his usual core band starting the show with Donald Robinson on keyboards, Richard Waller on drums and himself on bass, plus saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa as featured player on "Blue Bossa", showing his considerable straight ahead skills. Next was saxophonist Steve Cole doing "Sugar", having guitarist Nick Colionne join in halfway through the song to add some cool guitar playing with his Wes inclined style. The next highlight followed with saxophonist Marcus Anderson doing a tight rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Do I Do". Then bassist Brian Bromberg did a funky version of "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" featuring Benjie Porecki on keys. Carl Anderson took over the drums, Marcus Anderson and Nick Colionne returned to do a slow blues tune pulling all the stops. Marcus Finnie took over the drums, while Gerald Albright came to do a great version of Grover Washington Jr.'s "Winelight", complete with a smoking guitar solo by Norman Brown, using Nick Colionne's guitar. For the last track, Lionel Cordew took over the drum seat, guitarist Gerey Johnson joined the band, to play Stevie Wonder's "Master Blaster", as an additional bonus, keyboardist Joe McBride sat a the keys to add a smoking organ solo, bringing another outstanding midnight jam to a great end.

Berks Jazz Fest 2014: Jeff Lorber Fusion

At 10pm the Jeff Lorber Fusion appeared in a club setting at the Jazz Base, the lineup consisted of Jeff Lorber on keyboards, Jimmy Haslip on bass, Eric Marienthal on sax, Randy Brecker on trumpet and Lionel Cordew on drums. This was their second set that evening, they did "Hacienda" from their current release (which got a Grammy nomination), followed by "He Had A Hat", then they did a Zappa track called "King Kong", followed by "Monserrat" featuring the horn section. The band was always tight and groovy, both Randy Brecker and Eric Marienthal were smoking, delivering numerous outstanding solos, Jimmy Haslip contributed a few hot solos as well, while keeping it all together with drummer extraordinaire Lionel Cordew. They played for one hour and came back to do one encore, finishing one of the most memorable shows of the whole festival for me so far.