Tears and laughter punctuated remembrances of longtime Institute of Jazz Studies associate director Ed Berger, during a celebration of his life on August 18 at the Dana Library.
Berger, who died of heart failure January 21 at his home in Princeton Junction, joined the staff of the Institute in 1975. He filled many roles with uniform excellence: administrator, librarian, educator, discographer, scholar, editor, photographer, author, record producer, and label owner. He was known by those who met him in casual encounters and others who interacted with him over decades for his dedication to disseminating jazz history and for his compassion, modesty, and quiet killer wit.
Among those taking the podium in the Dana Room included Institute colleagues: former director Dan Morgenstern; director of operations Vincent Pelote; executive director Wayne Winborne; associate director Adriana Cuervo; archivists Elizabeth Surles, Angela Lawrence, and Tad Hershorn; public service associate Joe Peterson; and collections manager Elsa Alves. Morgenstern, who led the Institute for 36 years, stressed his admiration for Berger’s expertise and many talents that, along with the efforts of Pelote, positioned the Institute to extend its international reputation.
Hershorn produced a slide show of images of Berger’s life and photography, entitled “Triumph of the Quiet Man,” which focused on his family, jazz photography, and years at the Institute. (Among the photos was one of his father Morroe Berger, a famous Princeton sociologist, whose work took him to the Middle East in the 1950s and 1960s. Ed’s picture shows his father with Malcolm X in the living room of the Bergers’ Cairo apartment in 1964 listening to recordings of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.)
Other guests included vice president for information services and university librarian Krisellen Maloney and Tom Frusciano and Erika Gorder from Special Collections and University Archives.
Musical tributes were offered by Newark veteran tenor saxophonist Leo Johnson and New York singer and pianist Daryl Sherman, both of whose CD covers were graced by the work of Berger (gratis, of course). Drummer Kenny Washington, one of the busiest drummers in New York and a frequent Institute patron, said Berger was one of the go-to guys to answer questions on the history and the music, as did Scott Wenzel, a 30-year veteran of Mosaic Records, jazz’s premiere reissue label.
Berger’s younger brother Ken, also of Princeton Junction, who–along with another brother Larry of San Francisco–provided images for the slide show, represented the family at the event at Dana Library.
Another gathering in Berger’s honor will take place between 3-5:30 on Sunday, September 24 at Jazz at Lincoln Center, where Berger taught courses as part of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Swing University. Please RSVP by September 1 by contacting Larry Berger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Berger-Carter Jazz Research Fund at the Institute, memorializing the relationship between the Berger family and jazz great Benny Carter, will soon be renamed to include Ed’s name.