Jazz in Berks County, PA: Moved from March to April
More MUSIC than can be imagined
Berks County is just beyond the Philadeplphia greater metropolitan area, shaking hands with it on the western side. This leads to many benefits: proximity to the "big city" without the big-city related costs in housing, insurances, or taxes. Culturally, Berks and its county seat, Reading, have always been full of music-making. Even in "normal" times, there are far too many performances by local musicians and guest groups than one could attend if cloned a few times over. However, in the spring, "normal" goes out the window. The number of music performances soars over the top as the JazzFest takes over.
The festival runs every spring. Nationally and internationally known artists appear at the main venues in the afternoons and evenings. As for styles, any sort of cool funk, big band, Dixieland, soul, bluegrass, fusion, new age, horn group, vocalist, ragtime or combination one can imagine will be here. Besides the larger showcases, there are the intimate cabaret settings. For several years, a national historic site, Hopewell Furnace, even hosts a jazz performance as part of the festival. For the full run-down, check out www.berksjazzfest.com.
Local Berks Gem
the Fringe festival!
Of course, when anything this big, this delicious, and this inspiring is occurring, everyone (it seems) jumps on the bandwagon. (Pun intended.) Many other eateries in the county will be offering live jazz music during the fest. As it so happens, often my top choices are performing concurrently and I must make the difficult decision. But if this is the worst of my problems, I am blessed indeed!
Local year-round talent
Reading and Berks have quite a bit of jazz.
A nice, intimate "jazz night out" for the past several years was Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at a local hotel. Sadly, it has stopped running.
Pete Souders is a local sax man who plays it all, from soprano to bari. He puts together quartets or other combos as the mood hits him. When he owned Ortlieb's Jazz Club in Philly, he sat in with some of the best!
Let's Dance and Swing Fever are two local "big bands" playing music primarily from the 1940's big band era. We can catch them at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum's WWII reenactment weekend and at music nights at the local parks.
This local guitarist deserves a paragraph of his own!!! He is the winning combination of an extremely talented musician and a very nice, down-to-earth guy. It doesn't get any better in my book. David has done the band-member thing and now has been on his own for many years. Wyndham Hill sought him out and he has earned a Grammy. Yet, David shares his talent with us and is regularly seen at the Jazz Base or Borders Bookstore or the Reading Public Museum. I have particularly fond memories of him goofing around with Michael Manring at a performance -- you can just feel the genuine friendliness and funloving in him!
Count on it
If you are a jazz aficionado, there will be something (probably many things) to delight you at the Berks Jazzfest. The offical acts are at the link above. However, there are many more unofficial acts which will crop up all over the county as the date draws closer. And please do not fret if you cannot make it to the area during the official fest. As one can see, we have it happening ALL year round.
Maren Morgan has been known to get down and dirty on percussion during numbers such as "Sing, Sing, Sing" and "Alexander's Ragtime Band." And now, she is learning clarinet - WooHoo!
The jazz beat that moves you
Copyright text and one photo 2008 Maren E. Morgan
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