FORT WAYNE—For many, jazz is considered America’s classical music and, by many accounts, the nation’s only true indigenous art form. Whatever the case, jazz has a long and colorful history full of compelling, uplifting, humorous and sometimes tragic stories.
The Acoustic SpokenWord Café is scheduled to spotlight a part of that history as told by a man who has known many of jazz’s shining stars when it presents “Jazz Stories With Kenny Bergle” at 8 p.m., May 11 at the Three Rivers Institute of Afrikan Art & Culture, 501 E. Brackenridge St.
For more than three decades, Bergle has had the opportunity to work closely with some of the top names in music, not only in jazz but in rock as well. As a senior sales engineer for Sweetwater Sound, one of the music industry’s most prestigious and fastest growing retail and educational concerns—based right here in Fort Wayne—Bergle often is called upon to make recommendations and supply crucial equipment to top performers in various genres. Among his clients have been guitar greats Joe Walsh and John Fogerty, R&B standout Maxwell and rapper Common. Bergle even can claim to be the man who turned Run DMC and Grandmaster Flash onto MIDI drum machines. He even earned a CD acknowledgement from the late Miles Davis and Julian “Cannonball” Adderley alumnus and Weather Report founder Joe Zawinul.
Working closely with such artists, he’s gotten to know them and has stories to tell. But, even before then, he was rubbing shoulders with the giants working at Fort Worth, Texas’ famed Caravan of Dreams Performing Arts Center. In addition to becoming a friend to a number of them, Bergle has remarkable behind-the-scenes stories to share with legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Miles Davis and many more. Himself an avant garde-leaning jazz guitarist who graduated from the famed North Texas State (now the University of North Texas) music program, Bergle has numerous musical insights he could share about jazz as learned from the masters. But, it’s the jazz history and life lessons he learned from them that he shares in his presentations—and tales of their humanity.
“They were all just normal people,” he said, adding that most were more than willing to have an everyday conversation in addition to talking about their craft. He has extraordinary tales, particularly, about the incomparable Oscar Peterson, who personally mentored Bergle in a number of ways, even as something of father figure.
“Oscar, toward the last of his life, befriended me,” said Bergle.
The piano virtuoso and musical pioneer even shared some of his most intimate thoughts with Bergle, including regrets about being angry with another legend, the late Milt Jackson, whom Peterson thought had carelessly stepped on his solos on the night of what proved to be their last performance together. Bergle said he was backstage when Peterson came back after the gig, fuming. He asked what was wrong and Peterson, told Bergle, “Milt just stepped all over me tonight. What’s wrong with him?” A few weeks later, Jackson was dead. It was then that Peterson realized his old friend and colleague had been very ill the night of that gig and was literally preparing to lie down on his deathbed.
Bergle and the Acoustic SpokenWord Café invite the public out to hear those inspiring stories. Like all Acoustic SpokenWord Café events, admission is $5.
For more information, call (260) 969-9442.
This article originally appeared in our May 1, 2013 issue.