Howard Berkson (1976) Bass and Guitar
The commitment and dedication to jazz music, and more specifically, the Jazz Ensemble program, at New Trier West High School, under the direction of Roger Mills (and with memories of all the successes and failures that came with it), helped shaped both what I would do in life, and how I would go about life. The commitment, dedication, perseverance, and ultimately the leadership skills, developed as a member of the Jazz Ensemble, were lessons that followed me everywhere throughout my life and professional career.
Just as important, were the NTW Jazz Performances…for without them, I would not have started my path into music school at Northern Illinois University. This in turn created the opportunity to transfer to Indiana University’s business school, which then paved my way into law school. This ultimately led me into a successful real estate development career that eventually gave me the financial ability to fulfill a lifelong dream of mine – the creation of Anthology, “Fine-Tuned Music & Cuisine”, located in San Diego, California.
During my senior year in high school, the NTW Jazz Ensemble appeared, in concert at Northern Illinois University. At that time, during the spring of 1976, I had very average grades and was having trouble finding a university of my choice. Our Director, Roger Mills, had a contact there by the name of Rufus Reid. Rufus was a legendary bass player at the time (and still is), and he was at Northern Illinois University on a one-year sabbatical from New York. His bass book at the time, “The Evolving Bassist” was one of the main books of bass teachers. After the concert at NIU’s music hall, and through Roger’s contacts, I reached out to Rufus, and he invited me to audition for admission into the music school at NIU. I really practiced for that, did not think I did that well, but somehow thru the Grace of God I passed the audition. This serendipitous performance by the NTW jazz ensemble at NIU and the subsequent audition is what gave me the opportunity to go to college. Unfortunately, when I arrived, in the Fall of 1976, to start my freshman year, I found out that Rufus had returned to his native New York to teach and perform. To make a long story short, I wasn’t enjoying the experience, and with better grades after the first year, was able to transfer into Indiana University Bloomington’s business school the following year.
More to the story…
And then one day in 2011, I was walking the streets of New York City and entered Carnegie Hall for a tour. The poster outside the Hall had a picture of the Rufus Reid Quartet performing at Carnegie Hall that night! Talk about the universe…I couldn’t stay around very long but sound check was happening in a couple of hours and I located the manager of Carnegie Hall. I told him the story of my connection to Rufus Reid and asked him to give my name and number to Rufus or his agent/manager as soon as one of them arrived. Next day, Rufus called me and I relayed my story to him — 37 years later!!!! I had the opportunity to thank him for my life’s good fortune and how grateful, I was, that 37 years earlier he started my path to where I was today. He certainly was as an Angel in my life…for without the performance at NIU that year, without Roger’s contact, without Rufus being at the concert, without the audition, without the admission to NIU, who knows how my life path would have changed. We all have memorable moments in our life, and this was certainly one of them for me.
Anecdotal comment: I brought his quartet to San Diego to play at Anthology the following year. What a thrill introducing him to the crowd and repeating the story with him on stage with me. Talk about coming full circle!
So back to my life in music which started with the NTW Jazz Ensemble…
I am particularly proud of Anthology that I conceived and built in San Diego. I have provided, within this bio, the website reference to Anthology San Diego (http://www.anthologysd.com) which is a synopsis of the internationally acclaimed, award winning, 325 seat supper club, that I built in 2007 at a cost of nearly $6 million dollars that I developed in downtown San Diego.
There is a seven-minute video embedded on the above website which shows the construction from beginning to end, discusses my vision in developing the modern supper club, and some of the artists quotes from the stage (my favorites are Wynton Marsalis, Ramsey Lewis, and Benny Golson) within this video. In addition, there is a partial list of artist performance videos and photos of the many artists that graced our stage for all to enjoy in perpetuity.
From memory, some of the legendary jazz artists that performed at Anthology included Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Jazz Center Orchestra, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea solo (and with Return to Forever members Stanley Clarke and Lenny White), Freddie Hubbard, Al DiMeola, Benny Golson, Bill Frisell, Bobby Hutcherson, Branford Marsalis, Christian Scott, David Sanborn, Earl Klugh, Joe Levano, Eddie Harris, Gary Burton, Jeremy Pelt, Jimmy Heath, Joe Lovano, Joey DeFrancesco, John Pizzarelli, John Scofield, Kenny Garrett, Larry Carlton, Larry Coryell, Lee Ritenhour, Lenny White, McCoy Tyner, Natalie Cole, Nathan East, John Scofield, Pat Martino, Pat Metheny, Phil Woods, Ramsey Lewis, Rufus Reed, Stanley Clarke, Stanley Jordan, Steve Carlton, Terence Blanchard, among others.
My vision for creating the quintessential supper club – the modern version of the 40s supper club – came from the experiences and influences I developed early in life on the North Shore, and with my involvement in the NTW jazz program, directed by Roger Mills, along with the many influences, of jazz artists in downtown Chicago clubs, that I was exposed to in the early and mid-70s. I don’t know what I would have done without jazz in my life – it has always been a big part of my soul. The music and the need to showcase jazz music throughout my life was always important to me. When I had the financial ability to live my dream and create one of the greatest music venues in the world from scratch, I believe I achieved that based on the accolades of both jazz aficionados and national/international jazz artists that played at Anthology.
I closed and sold Anthology in 2013, but I believe it made memories that will last for generations. Please take the time to visit the website to enjoy all the artist performance videos and artist photos. I have been asked by the Library of Congress to donate our artist performance videos to their collection someday, and someday that’s where it will be. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy the music!
A quote to live by…
“Make the choice, adventurous Stranger, Strike the bell and bide the danger,Or wonder, ’till it drives you mad, What would have followed if you had.”
Howie Berkson Class of ‘76