"Remembering Joe Sample” At The Berks Jazz Festival


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One of the featured attractions at this year’s Berks Jazz Festival (its 25th anniversary show) will be a special performance on Saturday, April 18, 2015, at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Reading, PA called “Remembering Joe Sample.” This special tribute to the world renowned pianist and composer who passed away last September was organized by musical director Bobby Lyle and festival promoter John Ernesto; and will feature a stellar lineup of artists—many of whom performed and/or recorded with Sample.

It was a sad day for jazz fans as they lost their ambassador last fall (September 12, 2014) when Joe Sample died of mesothelioma, leaving a void in the smooth jazz/contemporary piano world. Gaining his fame in the early 1960s, and then topping charts with the award-winning Jazz Crusaders, the keyboard player who was comfortable in all musical settings, ranging from zydeco to playing blues with Eric Clapton to playing straight-ahead jazz.

Sample also played a tremendous role in branding the sound of the Houston-based Jazz Crusaders.

The horn section will consist of saxophonist Wilton Felder, who along with Sample, trombonist Wayne Henderson, and drummer Stix Hooper founded the famous Houston-based group called the Jazz Crusaders. Felder will be joined by trumpeter Rick Braun, saxophonist Everette Harp, and trombonist Jeff Bradshaw. The rhythm section will consist of Nick Sample (Joe’s son) on bass; J.J. Williams on drums; Randy Jacobs on guitar; Doc Gibbs on percussion; and musical director Bobby Lyle on piano. Vocalist Lizz Hogue will recreate some of the tunes made famous by the Sample/Randy Crawford collaboration, including “Street Life.”

Joe Sample, who was a pioneer of contemporary jazz piano always reached back to the primary sources of jazz and soul music to create his personal interpretations of many composers. For nearly five decades Sample was an integral innovative, and best-selling part of jazz history; and the world lost one of its legends last year with his passing. “Joe Sample and I became very close in the last few years. He was like a big brother to me and there was always tremendous musical respect between the two of us, thus, his loss hit all of us very hard. But putting this tribute together for the festival will allow us to celebrate the man and his illustrious musical life. For me it has truly been a labor of love, an honor, and a privilege. Showcasing some of his brilliant compositions for the audience will be a wonderful way to salute a musical icon whose legacy spanned decades and will live on forever.” —Bobby Lyle

In the history of the Berks Jazz Festival, and starting from its launch in 1991, Jazz Crusaders Joe Sample has been a featured performer four times (2000, 2002, 2006, and 2011). Berks Jazz Festival has always been about cultivating, promoting, and supporting the arts in the community of Pennsylvania through collaboration, education, and presentation. It continues that mission and propels excellence in jazz by featuring the cream of the crop in the jazz world. Joe Sample has been among the world’s jazz royalty throughout the years and has graced Berks Festival’s stage alongside Lalah Hathaway, Boney James, Spyro Gyra. Kirk Whalum, Yellow Jackets, Kurt Elling quartet, Betty Carter, Jeff Lorber, Najee, etc., throughout his years of his attendance there.

Longtime friend, neighbor, and fellow pianist Bobby Lyle is paying homage to Joe Sample during the Berks Jazz Festival with this special concert. Throughout his musical career, Lyle has developed an international reputation not only for his incredible piano technique, but also for his versatility and ability to constantly reinvent himself, both as a leader, sideman, and even as music director for superstars Bette Midler, Al Jarreau, and Anita Baker.

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