Volume 2 - Issue 7, 2012

Jazz In Pink!

Mariea Antoinette, Karen Briggs, Darlene Moreno, Paula Atherton, Cindy Bradley, Gail Jhonson , Althea Rene, Danielle "Pocket" Brown, Lynne Fiddmont, and Robin Bramlett

Berks Jazz Fest - Logo

For those Washingtonians who are still experiencing “Smooth Jazz” withdrawal pangs from the sudden departure of 105.9 FM a couple of years ago, I highly recommend a two hour drive to my home town in Berks County, PA to get a fix that will last you the rest of the Year!

For the uninitiated, the Berks Jazz Festival is the kick-off event for the year around jazz festival season in humble Reading, PA, better known as the Outlet Capitol of the USA, because they not only sell direct to the public through authentic factory outlets, but they actually make the stuff there, not just rent a big box on the beltway!

Let me tell you what you missed last weekend: George Benson almost brought down the balcony at the old RAJAH Theatre in downtown Reading, as he showcase his new CD release “Guitar Man” which has climbed to the top of the charts over the last 25 weeks.

At the same theatre on Friday night, The Manhattan Transfer was the opening night performer before an eclectic audience of baby boomers. The group performed their “Definitive Pop Collection” that garnered them 12 Grammy nominations and showcased “The Chick Corea Songbook” collaboration with, you guessed it, Chick Corea, who is scheduled to close out the festival on April 1st.

In between you can expect to see an evening with Boney James on Friday 3/30; Brian Culbertson and David Benoit the same night at a cross town venue; Mindi Abair with special guest Jeff Golub and David Pack at the late night performance; and Gerald Veasley & Friends jamming all night long at his “Jazz Base” venue at the Crowne Plaza festival headquarters.

And, that's what's jumpin' off next Friday night! During the week there are community concerts sponsored by the local Media Partner from the Reading Eagle and Boscov's Department store at my local high school and classic venues like the Scottish Rights Temple that will feature home town keyboardist Greg Hatza, a military jazz ensemble led by guitarist Brian Bromberg; living legend Pat Martino Trio; Chuck Loeb & Friends featuring Rick Braun, Gerald Albright, Matt King and virtuoso violinist Karen Briggs.

And just in case you didn't get the full scope of the talent, Spyro Gyro with Nic Colionne; Will Downing and Gerald Albright; The Groovemasters; and Incognito with Maysa will be playing at various venues around town on Saturday, March 31st alone.

What people don’t get until they experience the Berks Jazz Festival first hand, is that this is a funky family reunion of the best international jazz performers who are throwing off the winter doll drums and having fun reconnecting with their friends and the audience.

This eclectic band of brothers and sisters not only connect with the audience in individual performances, but they continue to let their hair down by participating in late night jam sessions hosted by Gerald Veasley at his Jazz Base at festival's Crown Plaza hotel headquarters.

Veasley has taken on the personal mission to promote a level of collaboration, local education of high school musicians, and provide a platform for up-and-coming performers that you will not see at any other two week-long festival in the world.

From left to right Lynne Fiddmont and
Band leader Gail Jhonson with white keyboard


For pure audio visual impact nothing prepared me for the nine dynamic musical wonders called Jazz in Pink, an all-star female ensemble with an eclectic unexpected punch! Led by pianist Gail Jhonson from Detroit who is better known as Norman Brown’s music director, backed by drummer Danielle “Pockett” Brown, outrageously glamorous saxophonist Paula Atherton in a pink bustier, statuesque guitarist Darlene Moreno from Pittsburg, and curvaceous vocalist Lynne Fiddmont, I was perfectly satisfied with a quartet fronted by a fabulous torch singer.

Then came waves of unexpected performances from flautist Althea Rene, who strutted her curvaceous stuff across the stage in 4 inch high pink pumps without missing a beat; harpist Mariea Antoinette who unexpectedly emerged from the crowd down the center aisle with an electric harp accenting her stunning figure. But, the ultimate crowd pleasing diva Karen Briggs on the electric violin and a range of mood altering Neo-Soul, and soaring classical offerings accompanied by her evocative facial expressions.

Topping off the horn section was sinewy trumpeter Cindy Bradley with offerings from her latest Trippin’ N Rhythm release Unscripted, who teamed with saxophonist Paula Atherton and bassists Sundra Manning and Robin Bramlett to bring down the house.

Ten talent musicians in pink was an audio visual treat that I won’t soon forget!


Peter White, Nic Colionne, Walter Beasley
and Gerald Veasley

Just when I thought I had 24 hours to recover from the Friday night Pink Fest, the same Crown Plaza venue flipped the script and went pure testosterone on Saturday night. With a live radio and TV feed around the nation, the WFMZ Jazz Stars led by ring leader Gerald Veasley hit the stage with a vengeance.

Legendary Dave Koz musical director Brian Simpson of “Smooth Jazz Cruise” fame, coordinated a fast and furious tag team match that began with he and guitarist Peter White matching licks on a white “keytar”, followed by a knock down drag out horn section featuring performers Walter Beasley, Kim Waters and outstanding newcomer Elan Trotman in his signature stingy brim hat rocking the house.

And then an hour into the two hour long set things got stupid, when Nic Colionne strutted on stage with an orange stripped Zoot Suit with white fedora and matching two tone kicks and announced, “It’s time to get wild and loose”, as he warned the ladies in the audience that,you better take that wig off and put in your purse.

The energy soured as the group seamlessly cruised through a medley of funk and soul and rock featuring Albert WaWa Lagrange setting the pace through classic hits from Brick House through the Ohio Players to James Brown. Outrageous solos that showcased best-of-festival drummer Third Richardson back for his second set of the day after performing an afternoon gig with internationally revered guitarist Mark Antoine.

After two standing ovations and call backs, the group finally wound down long enough to sell some CDs in the lobby and take a break before sitting in again with Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base after Midnight jam session with Rick Braun, Jeff Kashiwa and Brian Bromberg.


Into The Woods
Britney Coleman as Repunzel, Nik Walker, Jenny Latimer as Cinderella; and Lauren Kennedy, the Witch photo by Oswald Copeland.

For pure fun there is a rousing over-the-top musical featuring a lifetime of fairy tale characters at Baltimore’s famed Centerstage. INTO THE WOODS takes you on a magical two hour journey through everyone’s favorite fairy tale characters including Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack-In-The-Bean-stalk and Little Red Riding Hood.

Tying it all together is a theme of overcoming your fear. INTO THE WOODS, with a softer and much more humorous edge then a horror show because we know that Cinderella ultimately will find her prince, but who would suspect he would cheat on her with the butcher’s wife?

What makes the musical flow like a one hour sitcom is the wildly eclectic characters crafted by an ensemble of New York actors making their Centerstage debut such as Justin Scott Brown as Jack; the vivacious Britney Coleman as Rapunzel; the racy Lauren Kennedy as the Wicked Witch; Jenny Latimer as Cinderella; Eric Liberman as the cautious and henpecked Baker; the spunky Dana Steingold who will remind you of SNL and Seinfeld star Julie Louis Dreyfus as Little Red Ridinghood; and Nik Walker as Cinderella’s Prince and the dual role of the salacious Wolf who devours Little Red Ridinghood and seduces Centerstage veteran Danielle Ferland as the Baker’s Wife.

You can tell the cast is having fun and the music and mood is infectious as they romp INTO THE WOODS and realize they have to take the journey because life is unpleasant especially if you’re a peasant, but no one’s really alone!

Playing through April 15th, I highly recommend scoring some hot tickets to this feel good musical with decidedly adult themes and ironic humor by visiting www.centerstage.org

Business Calendar

2012 OSDBU Procurement Conference, Thursday April 19, 2012 at the Walter Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place, NW, Wash., DC 20001. From 9 am to 5 pm, register at; www.osdbu.gov

Maryland Washington Minority Contractors Association (MWMCA) is hosting their 9th Annual Spring Breakfast on Friday, May 11, 2012 at Martin’s West on 6817 Dogwood Road, Baltimore, MD 21244 from 7:30 am to 12:30 pm.

Honored guests include Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony G. Brown; 2012 WBE of the Year Cheryl London of the Chereco Company; and 2012 Minority Health Care Group of the Year Mercy Health Services represented by President & CEO Thomas Mullen.

The event will be hosted by MWMCA President WAYNE FRAZIER whose staff can be reached at 443-759-8580 or by email at:
springbreakfastinfo@mwmca.org or go directly to their website for registration information: www.mwmca.org

2012 Federal Procurement Conference – Sponsored by the Montgomery County Chamber Community Foundation on May 3rd, 2012 from 7:30 a. m. to 3:00 p. m. at the Universities At Shady Grove conference center, 9630 Gudelsky Drive, Rockville, MD.

The 2012 Federal Procurement Conference attracts businesses ready to do business with federal, state and local governments, primes and offers a unique The MATCHMAKING feature that pre-selects small business to be matched with government acquisition representatives and prime contractors through the MCCCF conference website at: www.montgomerycountychamber.com/govconnet

The 2012 Federal Procurement Conference attracts businesses ready to do business with federal, state and  local governments, primes and each other. The conference WORKSHOPS provide businesses with access to experts and information about procurement opportunities and best business practices. 

The EXPO is a great way to connect one on one with hundreds of government and business representatives. The MATCHMAKING with government acquisition representatives and prime contractors is offered to pre-selected businesses.

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