A joyous mix of hits by Boney James at the Berks Jazz Fest

But the flow was not there.

Having performed at 20 of the previous 29 festivals, saxophonist Boney James is clearly a Berks Jazz Fest Favorite!

But as the featured performer at the closing weekend of the 30th Annual Berks Jazz Festival, the Boney James Band felt like an NFL training camp. Missing in action were veteran drummer Omari Williams and lead guitarist Rob Bacon, who were replaced by two unnamed performers who looked like Cowboys running back Zeke Elliot on drums and the Chiefs Orlando Brown at pulling guard!

Boney James at the Berks Jazz Fest August 20, 2021. Photo by Malcolm Lewis Barnes.

Boney still delivered his joyous mix of hits from his his latest release and 17th CD, Solid, which he described on his official website as a post-COVID breakout creation that inspired his return to the tour, including “Mr. Magic” from the man who inspired him to play the sax over 35 years ago — Grover Washington Jr.

“This record really flowed at an unusually quick pace,” Boney says. “There was a lot of positive energy in making this music. Solid is a very upbeat record. As I was writing them, these songs put a smile on my face.”

The joy was till there, but the flow was not. And it has a lot to do with Boney’s classic three-man slide step with Smitty Smith on bass and Rob Bacon on lead guitar. Boney’s new lead guitarist is a great player, but instead of the signature black deck shoes and jacket, my man had red Nike’s and hip-hop T-shirt!

The Boney James Band at the Berks Jazz Fest August 20, 2021. Photo by Malcolm Lewis Barnes.

Just didn’t flow and was not up to Boney’s usual high-performance visuals. But he covered the first three #1 singles from the now one-year-old Solid CD, and Jonathan Richards on keyboard provided outstanding vocals, and of course Boney’s sax is why people filled the historic Scottish Rites Cathedral.

“Some people say that the sax is the sexiest instrument there is,” said Boney, and the audience full of dancing ladies couldn’t agree more.

The 30th Annual Berks Jazz Festival, presented by Berks Arts, runs August 13 to 22, 2021, in Reading, PA. For more information visit berksjazzfest.com.

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