Mark Stryker, the music critic for the Detroit Free Press, writes:
I really appreciated your post about David Berger – a gifted and underrated musician. Now, guess where he lives – on a street on the Upper West Side named “Duke Ellington Boulevard.” It’s really 106th Street, but it’s also named for Ellington. Berger didn’t know this when a real estate agent showed him the apartment. He called his girlfriend at the time and she said, “Take it. It’s an omen.” The relationship didn’t last but, as I once put it in a story, perhaps too obviously, Ellington’s music remains Berger’s mistress.
Something else I remember Berger telling me. When he was a teenager, he used to go hear the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Band every week at the Vanguard. Thad was his idol and mentor. One night in the late ’60s he was in the kitchen when some Ellington veterans came in to say hello. (I think one was Jimmy Hamilton). After they left, Thad says to Berger, “Duke Ellington – greatest band in the world. ” Berger protested: “But your band’s the greatest!” And Thad says, “No, no, no. My band’s not one-tenth of what Duke Ellington and Count Basie are.”
I think Thad was selling himself a bit short, but I know what he meant.