Kenny Berger: A Musician Grows in Brooklyn

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The borough of Brooklyn is known for many things such as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Brooklyn Dodgers, Coney Island, a unique way of pronouncing words in the English language (Brooklynese), New York pizza and bagels, and jazz musicians who grew up there such as Wynton Kelly, Herbie Mann, Eddie Daniels, Dave Liebman, Max Roach, Duke Jordan, Eubie Blake, etc. Add to that list our guest, Kenny Berger. Kenny is an unsung hero in the jazz community known not only as a terrific baritone saxophonist but also as a skilled woodwind doubler, first-rate composer/arranger, educator, and accomplished jazz historian and writer. In this interview, Kenny explains the jazz scene while growing up in New York in the 1950s-1960s and how important musicians during that time influenced and inspired him. He also offers an interesting perspective on how much the musical environment has changed in the succeeding decades. I first heard of Kenny in the 1970s when he was playing with groups such as David Matthews Big Band, Lee Konitz’ Nonet, and Chuck Israels’ National Jazz Ensemble. We first worked together in the 1980s on the Broadway revival of Gypsy and have stayed friends ever since. His unique approach to composition reflected in his many varied works, his comedic sense, and understanding of how to play well with others makes him a welcome addition to any performing experience. Please check out his many accomplishments at his website:

About the Artist: Kenny Berger has had a multi-faceted career as a performer, composer/arranger, and writer. His list of credits is long and noteworthy. As a jazz baritone saxophonist, he has played with The National Jazz Ensemble, The Lee Konitz Nonet, The David Matthews Big Band, Phil Woods Little Big Band, Don Sebesky, Bill Kirchner’s Nonet, as well as his own groups with trumpeter John McNeil. He has worked and/or recorded with singers Paul Simon, John Pizzarelli, James Taylor, Sheila Jordan, and New York Voices. As an arranger, he has written for Gerry Mulligan, Michael Brecker, Phil Woods, Lee Konitz, Dizzy Gillespie, etc. He has composed chamber works for clarinets, bassoons, and saxophones and written a brilliant book of etudes for bass clarinet. In addition, Kenny has also authored an article in the Oxford Companion to Jazz on Coleman Hawkins; co-authored the Hal Leonard transcription collection of Buddy DeFranco solos; written the liner notes for the Oliver Nelson Mosaic Collection; and contributed notes for the reissue of Coltrane’s Sound and Woody Herman (And The Herd) at Carnegie Hall, 1946.


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