[Dixielandjazz] Berk's Jazz Fest

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Mar 27 21:58:28 PST 2003

Yesterday we did our "double" at the Berk's Jazz Festival. First over
lunch in a restaurant and then a 7:30 PM Headliner opener for the Dirty
Dozen Brass Band.

To recap Reading, it is a 10 day "modern" jazz fest in Reading PA, USA,
a city of 85,000 people. They spread out the performances in 42 venues
and there are 121 separate performances this year. 45 were "ticketed"
events by "headliners and cost anywhere from $10 to $45 per performance.
The rest were free, except that you have to buy lunch or dinner in a
club setting. Their line up is Smooth Jazz, Blues, Modern Jazz and this
year, 3 OKOM bands plus the Dirty Dozen. (Some top jazz names perform

Our lunch gig was sold out months in advance with approximately 190
people. Very successful, ovations after each solo and after each tune.
Standing Ovation at end of gig. As good as it gets in a restaurant with
no liquor license.

Our opener for Dirty Dozen was extraordinary. It was the best "concert"
crowd reaction I've experienced as a performer since a concert I did
with Roy Eldridge on the shore of Long Island at Southampton in the
1950s. We were in a concert setting in the ballroom of the Lincoln Plaza
Hotel, with about 450 audience at $30 a head for 45 minutes of Barbone
Street and 45 minutes of Dirty Dozen. Two other headliners that night
had ticket prices of $16 and $18 so we were happy at the crowd size, not
quite a sell out.

Everything clicked from the very beginning. The program director from
the local radio station introduced us. She is just over 5 feet tall,
slim and beautiful, dressed in jeans and a black tank top with many
beads which we draped over her prior to going on. (We met her last year
and are friends) She tells audience "these 6 old guys have 294 combined
years of jazz experience".

I grab the mike and say, "Yeah, we are the Antique Road Show , here in
Reading tonight. They let us out of the home till midnight." Big laugh
and the drummer immediately goes into a street beat roll off and we go
into Bourbon Street Parade. Cheers and whistles on each solo which
energizes the band. Huge cheers and whistles at end of song which set
the tone for the rest of our 45 minutes.

We do our usual "connect" routines and on the third song in, I sing "I
Want A Little Girl" to gal who announced us. Lyrics are a perfect fit,
as she runs up on stage with us and stares into my eyes as I sing to
her: "She don't have to wave her hair", while stroking her very straight
hair; "Or dress in fancy clothes" while standing back and
looking/pointing to her jeans and black tank top. Etc. At end of tune,
she gives me a hug and kiss and darts off the stage while the crowd goes

Rest of numbers were up tempo and the crowd was giving us so much energy
feed back it just got better and better. At end of program, (Sweet
Georgia Brown, which includes a "big band riff / drum solo on the first
out chorus) they leaped to their feet and gave us a full 30 seconds of
standing ovation, whistles, stomping etc.

As we tried to leave the hall, we were besieged for autographs by the
younger audience members and requests for CDs by the older members. I
had pre printed CD order forms and left all 50 on the sales table. I
also left all 100 schedules on the table. Today, when calling the table
volunteers for a count. All CD order forms and schedules were taken by

I never did get to hear The Dirty Dozen, because all of us in the band
were just blown away by what happened and we went out celebrating with
some friends.

Like I say, I haven't experienced anything like that in 50 years with a
concert audience, and Berk's asked us to save the date for 2004. All of
the sweat equity and promotion we've put into our performance persona
seems to be paying off big time. It was an unbelievable day for all of
us in the band and we're talking about guys who have done some big time
gigs in their younger days. We can hardly wait for our concert at a
local High School tomorrow night in the hope that we can do it again.
And for Sydney's in Rehoboth Beach DE, for Louis Armstrong's birthday
bash where we get a "club" crowd reaction that's tops too.

Steve Barbone

PS. The radio station will plug our CD all year as soon as I get the
copies. How lucky can one get?

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