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August 29, 2013 - Image 118

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-08-29

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arts & entertainment


Music lovers will enjoy a
multitude of free jazz concerts this Labor Day weekend.


Suzanne Chessler

Contributing Writer

avid Berger's most recent record-
ing introduces unpublished songs
by the late film composer Harry
Warren, but none of those will be heard as
he appears in three separate concerts at the
34th annual Detroit Jazz Festival.
With his band from New York featur-
ing vocals by brilliant, young jazz phenom
Cecile McLorin Salvant, Berger will be
conducting some 15 new arrangements he
planned for her performance on Saturday
evening, Aug. 31.
On Sunday afternoon, he will be conduct-
ing an arrangement he wrote for a Dave
Brubeck tune showcased in the Dave Brubeck
Tribute Series. On Monday afternoon, he will
lead the Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra play-
ing The Music of Duke Ellington.
"I'm happy to be in three shows," says
Berger, 64, in a phone conversation from his
New York home. "Each one is quite different
from the others and will be high quality.
"Last year, I conducted a Duke Ellington
concert of sacred music at the festival.
That was the first time I was there, but I've
performed several times in Michigan. I've
been in the state conducting the Lincoln
Center Jazz Orchestra and The Harlem
"I think Detroit has the best festival in
the world. Every performer is handpicked
by artistic director Chris Collins, a great
musician, and selections are presented in a
very tasteful and professional way."
Berger, also a composer, has many proj-
ects in the works as he travels to the Motor
City — a Broadway musical about politics
and romance, a jazz version of Porgy and
Bess, a Duke Ellington Christmas show
and arrangements for other performers.
In October, his will be the house band
for the Mark Twain Prize for American
Humor, a televised public television show
honoring Carol Burnett.
"There's a lot of variety in my work,
which I like he says. "I'm fortunate that I
have a profession that pays me to travel:'
Berger, raised in a Jewish home where
classical and pop music were appreciated,

became fascinated with the piano as he
watched his mother play; he started taking
lessons by the time he was 5.
"We spent Sundays with my grand-
parents, and my grandfather always had
to watch The Ed Sullivan Show," Berger
recalls. "When Louis Armstrong came on,
my grandfather would call him 'the great-
est musician in the world:
"When I was in third grade, we saw a film
that had different musicians playing different
instruments and were asked if we wanted to
play. Since Louis Armstrong was playing the
trumpet, I wanted to play the trumpet.
"In junior high school, I was in the concert
band playing classical music and was asked
to join the dance band. That was the first
time I played jazz, and I was hooked:"
Berger wrote music for his high school
band, and the director introduced him to
professional instrumentalists in New York,
paving the way for early performance and
writing associations with those players.
After attending Ithaca College, Berger
spent summers at the Berklee College of
Music and the Eastman School of Music.
He earned his master's degree at the
Manhattan School of Music and played
with the Duke Ellington Orchestra and the
National Jazz Ensemble.
"I got a reputation for being able to
write and copy sounds off recordings
and started to work on shows, mov-
ies and records," he recalls. "I've taught
at Manhattan School of Music and the
Juilliard School for about 30 years.
"In 1988, I started working with Wynton
Marsalis at Lincoln Center, and we formed
the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. I con-
ducted that for the first six years and still
write for them and occasionally conduct
"I've had my own group, the David Berger
Jazz Orchestra, on and off for 40 years. We've
had most of the same people since 1996, and
it's been like a family and inspiring for me:'
Over the years, Berger has noted some
changes in jazz with the addition of longer
pieces, although improvisation remains at
the core of the style.
"Jazz encourages musicians to be them-
selves and create music of the moment," says
Berger, divorced with two grown children

and two grandchildren. "Imitating any
other musician means being a second-rate
someone else. Anyone playing jazz well is
"I think I was drawn to jazz by the
individuality. The rhythm of swing and
the language of the blues spoke to me as
American. I can't escape those sounds. It's
all about who I am:"
Berger, who has recorded a number
of albums, came to play Harry Warren's
songs at the suggestion of a longtime friend,
attorney Robert Schwartz, also a musician
and producer of two of Berger's albums — I
Had the Craziest Dream: The Music of Harry
Warren and his latest, Sing Me a Love Song
— Harry Warren's Undiscovered Standards.
Moving on to the Detroit Jazz Festival,
Berger thinks of the outdoor setting.
"When we perform indoors, we don't
need any amplification," he explains. "It's all
acoustic except for the singers.
"When we're outdoors, we're playing
for thousands of people. Acoustic sounds
would just go up into the atmosphere so we
need amplification for people to hear what
we're playing.

have starred in moody, "darker" films.
Foster, who has been dating Penn's
ex-wife, Robin
Wright, 47, for the
last two years, co-
stars in Ain't Them
Bodies Saints, a
gritty, modern film
that evokes the clas-
sic Western. It opens
Friday, Sept. 6.

Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara star
as a couple who go on a Texas crime
spree. Affleck's character is finally
jailed and, not long after, Mara's char-
acter gives birth to his child. Foster
plays a deputy sheriff who looks in on
Mara's character and the baby – and
maybe he is being more than just nice.
Opening Friday, Aug. 30, is Getaway,
starring Ethan Hawke as a race-car
driver whose wife is kidnapped.

David Berger appears in Detroit Jazz
Festival concerts on Aug. 31, Sept. 1 and
Sept. 2.

"The real upside of being outdoors is that
we get to play for more people. Because it's
all free, we're playing for people who love
the music, whether they're rich, poor or in-
between. Everybody is equal, and that's the
American way:" ❑

The Detroit Jazz Festival runs Friday-
Monday, Aug. 30-Sept. 2, in Hart Plaza
and Campus Martius in Downtown
Detroit. David Berger appears 9:30-
10:45 p.m. Saturday, 4:30-5:45 p.m.
Sunday and 3:15-4:30 p.m. Monday on
the Carhartt Amphitheater Stage. For
a complete schedule, call (313) 447-
1248 or go to www.detroitjazzfest.com .

Labor Day Fun

Other Labor Day
weekend events inc lude:

Peach Festival of Romeo: Aug. 29 Sept.
2, various locations. Savor peach pies
amid carnival rides, sports tournaments
and craft shows. www.peachfestromeo.


31-Sept. 2, various locations. Take in
parades, boat races and rides along
with ethnic music and foods. www.
hamtownfest.com .


Arts, Beats & Eats: Aug. 30 Sept. 2,


downtown Royal Oak. Become a char-
ity partner with the Jewish Federation
of Metropolitan Detroit, JARC or other
organizations while enjoying music, art-
istry and foods. www.artsbeatseats.com.

Michigan State Fair: Aug. 30 Sept. 2,


Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.
Experience the Shrine Circus, farming
achievements, music, and fun contests.
www.michiganstatefairl1c.org .

Hamtramck Labor Day Festival: Aug.

Michigan Renaissance Festival: Aug.

31-Sept. 2 in Holly (the festival continues
weekends through Sept. 29). Go back in
time with costumes, competitive meets
and foods. www.michrenfest.com .

Dancing in the Streets: Sept. 1, Main

and Washington streets, Ann Arbor. Try
different styles of dance, and watch con-
certs. www.aactmad.org .

Village of Franklin Roundup: Sept. 2,

central Franklin. See some fine art, and
participate in activities. www.franklin.
mi.us .


Nate Bloom

Special to the Jewish News

At The Movies
Sean Penn, 52, and Ben Foster, 33,

have much in common.
Both are sons of Jewish fathers
and non-Jewish mothers (Foster was
raised Jewish; Penn was raised secu-
lar). Both started young and, after a
couple of early "sunny" roles, mostly


August 29 • 2013


Toronto native Courtney Solomon,
41, directs this flick, which is part of
a whole series of
action films Solomon
is producing that are
being made relatively
cheaply and are tai-
lored to an interna-
tional audience that
loves action.


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