Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead at VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest


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READING, PA -- March 11 -- An amazing variety of first-rate jazz music isn't the only mission of the VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest; education and furthering youth involvement in jazz as an art form is also a major commitment of the festival.

The Kennedy Center Presents: Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead, a music residency program for young people, is coming to the Berks Jazz Fest, Sunday, March 30, at 1:30 p.m. at the Miller Center for the Arts. There is no cost for tickets.

The 18th annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 28 through April 6 and offers fans a wide array of musical styles, including contemporary and traditional jazz, blues, big band and gospel. Shows are held at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Reading and Berks County, making it a truly unique festival. Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead program identifies outstanding, emerging jazz artists in their mid-teens and 20s, and brings them together under the tutelage of experienced artist-instructors who coach and counsel them, helping to polish their performance, composing and arranging skills.

In addition to being regarded by jazz insiders as perhaps the consummate jazz vocalist of the late 20th century, Betty Carter was very much devoted to jazz education. She originally brought her Jazz Ahead program, which has launched the careers of several of today's stars including Cyrus Chestnut and Jacky Terrasson, to the Kennedy Center in 1998.

Carter's adventurous scat style and distinctive interpretations put her on par with the other great ladies of jazz, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holiday and Carmen McRae.

In addition to her singing, she also helped nurture and develop many young musicians who have gone on to develop stellar jazz careers. In 1991, she was granted an award by the NEA, and in 1997 she was invited to the White House to perform and receive a Presidential honor for her work. Carter's death from pancreatic cancer on Sept. 26, 1998, brought to a close a remarkable career spanning nearly 50 years.

Other featured artists and shows at this year's festival include the return of the ever-popular Guitars & Saxes featuring Gerald Albright, Peter White, Jeff Golub and Jeff Lorber; jazz guitar great Pat Martino; blues legend Buddy Guy; master guitarist Chuck Loeb; saxophonist Eric Marienthal; alto saxophonist Candy Dulfer; the gifted and charismatic trumpeter Chris Botti; guitarist Paul Brown, vocalist Kenny Rankin, fellow guitarist Marc Antoine and saxman Eric Darius; Berks favorite and keyboardist Brian Culbertson; trumpet great Rick Braun and saxman Richard Elliot; and guitarist Nick Colionne with keyboardist Brian Simpson.

Additional marquee artists include popular keyboardist and vocalist Joe McBride; the Caribbean Jazz Project featuring Dave Samuels with special guest, reed player Paquito D'Rivera; saxman Euge Groove and keyboardist Alex Bugnon; violinist Regina Carter in a quintet; the Jump Rhythm Jazz Project, high-energy jazz dance performers; New York's Finest Jazz Band, an 18-member group performing jazz and pop standards; Sherrie Maricle and the all-female DIVA Jazz Orchestra; Simone, daughter of legendary singer Nina Simone, the Rob Stoneback Big Band; the return of Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band; and the considerable blues talents of Maria Muldaur, Bonerama, the Clarence Spady Band, Campbell Brothers and Eric Bibb.

Music director and keyboardist Jason Miles once again is bringing special ensemble shows to the Berks Jazz Fest. Miles and an all-star roster will be Celebrating the Life & Music of Grover Washington Jr., the late legendary saxman. The show, To Grover with Love, brings together some of the top names in the business, including Patti LaBelle, Walter Beasley, Everette Harp, Kim Waters, Maysa, Phil Perry, Chuck Loeb, Will Lee, Buddy Williams and Ralph MacDonald. The world premiere of Jason Miles/DJ Logic Global Noize features Christian Scott, Jeff Coffin, Bernie Worrell, Caf, Brian Dunne, Carl Burnett, Tim LeFebvre and Falu.

This story appears courtesy of All About Jazz.
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