Program : 
Sweet Thunder: Piano Virtuoso Shelly Berg & the Jim Cullum Jazz Band

The Jim Cullum Jazz Band with Vernel Bagneris and Shelly Berg, May 2007. Photo courtesy Riverwalk Jazz.

The LA Times calls him "a whirlwind of motion on the piano bench." He's a composer, arranger, educator, conductor and jazz piano virtuoso. And he has recorded with Woody Herman, Louis Bellson, Freddie Hubbard and Randy Brecker, among others. His own solo CDs have garnered critical acclaim. Recently he arranged songs on the popular album Ray Sings—Basie Swings (Concord 2006).


"Sophisticated Lady" sheet music courtesy Smithsonian Institution Nat’l Museum of American History

This week on Riverwalk Jazz pianist Shelly Berg joins The Jim Cullum Jazz Band on The Landing stage in San Antonio for a no-holds-barred jam session.   Shelly's interest in jazz covers a wide spectrum of styles and periods—from James P. Johnson and Fats Waller to Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson. He credits his father, jazz trumpeter Jay Berg, with getting him started on the jazz path.   At this session Shelly and the Band take off on familiar Fats Waller jam tunes, "Black and Blue" and "Ain't Misbehavin'," and Shelly tackles the difficult Waller piano solo "Valentine Stomp."


"Ain’t Misbehavin’" sheet music, 1929. Image from Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Duke Ellington's spirited "Jubilee Stomp" and the familiar ballad "Sophisticated Lady" get wonderfully nuanced readings. About Duke Ellington, Shelly says:  


"In some ways, Ellington is the most important figure in the history of jazz. When we think about jazz truly becoming an ‘art’ music and entering the realm of 'classic music' in the best way, we think of Ellington. Even in early Ellington pieces like 'Black and Tan Fantasy' you hear complete genius."  



Shelly Berg. Photo courtesy University of Southern California

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Shelly Berg was accepted at the Cleveland Institute of Music at the age of 6 and began his professional career at 13. Today Shelly is a national leader in jazz education. He is past president of the International Association for Jazz Education and was Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. Berg is Dean of the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami. He is the author of Jazz Improvisation: The Goal-Note Method and The Chop-Monster Jazz series.  


Photo credit for Home Page:Piano Virtuoso Shelly Berg. Photo courtesy Riverwalk Jazz.