Saturday, June 7, 2014

Midnight Jam Sessions - Unplugged

Attending the annual Boscov’s Berks Jazz Festival in April and getting to see some of your favorite musicians grace the stage, is in itself an thriling event, but to have the chance at attending a Gerald Veasley jam session is truly a whole other experience.

It is quite different from a scheduled concert because the audience has no idea who will show up and wow the crowd, but that is the beauty in a jam session, any artist performing at the festival may appear. Fortunately my husband and I had the opportunity to attend both this year’s jam sessions and believe me, I had to purchase tickets early because the venue is cozy but small, and the tickets are a hot item. There are no assigned seats so you pretty much sit where you can and the line is so long one would think they were giving something away.

Because the sessions do not start until around midnight, people are already fired up from either attending earlier shows or well rested waiting for what I have been told by veteran attendees, many festival goers only attend the jam sessions, and I was about to find out why. Last year this time we were unable to get tickets because all four shows over a course of two weekends were completely sold out.  Not this time, I purchased tickets way ahead of time.

Gerald Veasley, who is also an accomplished guitarist himself, has been hosting the jazz jam sessions at the Crowne Plaza Reading for many years. He has truly found his calling. 

Prior to the start of Friday nights jam session, we had the pleasure of hearing traditional jazz by a great group called, Terell Stafford Quintet.  I consider Jazz music an acquired taste, unlike anything you will ever hear, but to really understand and appreciate the art of this unique sound, traditional jazz is a great start.  These guys were exceptionally talented and displayed such poise and class while playing the piano, trumpet, saxophone, drums and stand up base guitar. I grew up listening to this type of jazz and although as a teen, I really didn't quite understand the sound and technique of the instruments, while listening to these guys play, brought back fond memories.

Let the jam sessions begin. Gerald Veasley pulled out all the stops for this one.  Saxophonist, Jeff Kashiwa - great musician, and so gentle with a saxophone; Guitarist, Nick Colionne - who I like to call the "godfather of guitar", and not a bad blues singer either, with his cool persona, electrified the crowd; Marcus Anderson - this young man has a very bright future in this business. He was just amazing to hear and I look forward to seeing him again; Steve Cole - He never ceases to amaze me and he is quite entertaining as well; Brian Bromberg - My husband and I had never seen him live before, but I must say, what he does with a base guitar is nothing short of spectacular. We both agreed we had never heard anyone play like that, just incredible. Gerald Albright - such a class act, but do not let that fool you, he can get quite loose and funky with a saxophone. Always a pleasure to see him perform; Norman Brown - the absolute highlight of the night for me. He gives guitar playing a whole new meaning.

As the evening progressed, the show just got more thrilling, and although you may not hear any particular song from the artists own personal music catalogue, It makes the event more interesting, because when the musicians play renditions of a classic rock and roll or motown sound, smooth jazz, traditional jazz or other music genres, the sessions becomes more about the artist and their instruments. 

Night two - Rick Braun together with Brian Bromberg - a match made in heaven indeed, but what was even more special, the drummers who play a very important role at concerts and jam sessions definitely deserve accolades. Carl Anderson who I saw at the Rehoboth Jazz Festival in 2013 and “Third” aka Frank Richardson III, who did a solo at Saturday nights jam session were very impressive.  I always say if a drummer is not sweating while playing, he or she is not really playing.  These two guys complimented the other musicians quite well, and made the sounds of their instruments even more incredible. Gerald Veasley rocked the house as well, and told a few jokes throughout the night too.  I loved how he connected with each and every musician that played both nights. It was very easy to see that he has built quite the reputation as not only the host of these events but he can rock his own guitar with the best of them as well.

When these artists play solo or together, they put on such an electrifying performance, I wondered where do they get such energy after playing earlier in the evening at scheduled shows for upwards of 2 hours or more . That is what make events such as a jam session a treat, because these musicians come with such high energy and enthusiasm to play, it really shows how much they love their craft.

If you have never attended a jam session, make a point of doing so at the next festival you attend.  It is unlike anything you will ever experience.

Have you ever attended a jam session? Do you like them better than a formal concert?

Your thoughts and comments are welcome and appreciated!

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