Special collaborations by artists have become a mainstay of the Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest.
“Our goal each year is to work with artists to create unique performances that only can be seen at the Berks Jazz Fest,” said John Ernesto, festival general manager. “We are fortunate to have special relationships with artists willing to take on the challenge of putting together these ensembles.
“This year, we are blessed to have several stellar collaborations scheduled during the 10-day fest.”
One of those featured ensembles is “The Heart & Soul of Sax” scheduled for Friday, April 13, 7 p.m., at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in West Reading. Memphis saxophonist Kirk Whalum is the mastermind behind the project that also features saxophonist Everette Harp and very special guests Maceo Parker, the soul & R&B saxophone icon, Dee Dee Bridgewater, legendary jazz vocalist, and The Berks Horns.
“When we came up with the concept for the show, I never thought it would be possible to have Maceo and Dee Dee be part of this soulful night of music,” said Whalum. “The Berks Jazz Fest team did an amazing job working with Maceo’s and Dee Dee’s management teams to make this dream ensemble a reality. “I am so looking forward to this concert. It is going to be a special night of music.”
The Heart & Soul of Sax will captivate your heart and soul.
Whalum is a peerless saxophonist and composer who brings a deep spirituality to everything he plays. Soulful, passionate and stirring are the words most often used to describe his music. His big, rich tenor sound is unmistakably his.
Whalum grew up in Memphis, soaked in gritty blues and soul music. The full force of Memphis’ pull on him remains.
Memphis soul soared in popularity due in part to Stax Records, which found worldwide fame by offering a soul-with-grit counterpoint to Motown’s soul-with-sunshine version.
Everette Harp started playing piano at age 2 and began practicing saxophone at age 4. Working as an accountant for a short time, Harp played in local bands before moving to Los Angeles in 1988. He immediately toured briefly with Teena Marie, and then internationally with Anita Baker. A meteoric rise was predictable because the man plays a smooth, real smooth, sax that conveys powerful emotions via lyrical playing, beautiful melodies and sensuous rhythms.
Maceo Parker is an iconic funk and soul jazz saxophonist, best known for his work with James Brown, George Clinton and Prince. He was a prominent soloist on many of Brown’s hit recordings and a key part of his band, playing alto, tenor and baritone sax. He has collaborated with Ray Charles, James Taylor, Dave Matthews Band and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Over the course of a multifaceted career spanning four decades, Grammy and Tony Award-winning jazz giant Dee Dee Bridgewater has ascended to the upper echelon of vocalists, putting her unique spin on standards, as well as taking intrepid leaps of faith in re-envisioning jazz classics. For 23 years, the 2017 NEA Jazz Master was the host of National Public Radio’s syndicated radio show JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater. She is a United Nations Ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Bridgewater shifted into soul mode for her latest CD project – Memphis: “Yes, I’m Ready” – a tribute to the Memphis sound. Guided by co-producer Whalum, she doesn’t overthink these classic songs at all: She simply digs in, irrepressible and charismatic as ever. The musicianship is tight, the arrangements much closer to authentic soul and R&B than jazz. And Bridgewater’s love for the legacy of Otis Redding, B.B. King, and other Mid-South legends is palpable.
The Berks Horns are Mike Anderson on saxophone, John Loos on trombone and Rob Diener on trumpet.