Berks Jazz Fest celebrates 25th Anniversary this month
Gerald Veasley | photo via

The Berks Jazz Fest began life in 1990 as a way to bring visitors to the Reading area for something other than outlet shopping. In the 25 years since it’s taken on a life of its own, becoming a highlight of the region’s cultural calendar each spring. While the festival’s tastes run toward the smoother side of the jazz spectrum, the ten-day fête habitually boasts an eclectic and diverse line-up. Below are a few highlights from this year’s more straightahead offerings during its April 10-19 run.

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

The festival opens with a performance by Wynton Marsalis’ renowned big band, the main outlet for the trumpeter’s conservative jazz evangelism. While it doesn’t stray outside of its leader’s well-documented boundaries, the JALC Orchestra assembles some of New York’s most skilled musicians to execute its vigorous swing.

April 10, 7:30 p.m., Santander Performing Arts Center

Gerald Veasley

Nearly synonymous with the Berks Fest at this point, Philly bassist Gerald Veasley has played nearly every edition, briefly lent his name to a nightclub at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, and launched his Bass Boot Camp classes at the festival. He’ll play multiple times over the course of the fest’s ten days, including hosting the weekend Midnight Jams; performing with the Soul of Jazz ensemble on April 11; co-directing the All-Star Jazz Jam with trumpeter Rick Braun on April 16; and taking part in saxophonist Kirk Whalum’s Gospel According to Jazz Celebration on the fest’s final day.

Mindi Abair & The Boneshakers

While Abair achieved success as a smooth jazz saxophonist, she also harbored a love for rock that manifested during her experiences touring with Aerosmith. She loosed that part of her personality on her most recent CD, Wild Heart, and will surely bring it to the fore in this show, which features former Was (Not Was) vocalist Sweet Pea Atkinson.

April 11, 2 p.m., Crowne Plaza Reading Ballroom

Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia

Trumpeter and Temple University music director Terell Stafford brings his stellar Philly-centric big band, with special guest appearances by local tenor legends Bootsie Barnes and Larry McKenna.

April 11, 7:30 p.m., Miller Center for the Arts

Billy Cobham’s Spectrum 40 Band

Drummer Billy Cobham made a defining impact on jazz fusion through his work with Miles Davis and with John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra. Spectrum 40 was assembled to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his landmark debut album, Spectrum, and features keyboardist Gary Husband, guitarist Dean Brown, and bassist Ric Fierabracci.

April 15, 7:30 p.m., Crowne Plaza Reading Ballroom

Strings Attached

A six-string summit convened by fusion great Larry Coryell, featuring guitarists Vic Juris, Jack Wilkins, Joe Cohn, and Philly’s own Jimmy Bruno.

April 17, 7:30 p.m., Miller Center for the Arts

Kind of New

Keyboardist (and Berks regular) Jason Miles and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen recently released their duo project Kind of New, taking inspiration from former Miles employer Miles Davis’ electric period. They’ll reconvene at Berks with a pair of heavy duty special guests in saxophonist Joe Lovano and guitarist Lionel Loueke.

April 18, 7:30 p.m., Miller Center for the Arts

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