A Conversation with Berkeley Fudge

Nov 10, 2015
transcribed by Lauren Miller

Berkeley Fudge is a veteran performer who has appeared with Sonny Stitt, Lena Horne, Gene Ammons, Roland Kirk, Don Patterson, Ruth Brown, Esther Phillips, The Impressions, The O’Jays, Bobby Vee, Thelma Houston, Lonnie Smith, and Richard Davis. He had served as artist in residence at Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In addition to having taught at the Milwaukee Area Technical College, has had served as the Milwaukee Jazz Experience’s Director of Music Activities and an instructor for their Central City Jazz Ensemble as well as Music Director for the YWCA Global Career Academy. As leader of the Berkeley Fudge Quartet, he received the 2001 WAMI (Wisconsin Area Music Industry) Award for Best Traditional Jazz Performer and Milwaukee Arts Board’s Outstanding Artist of the Year in 2003. Mr. Fudge was a faculty member of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music from 1972-2010, was a member of We Six and can be heard on the 2005 CD “Bird Say”.

In this interview, Berkeley Fudge (BF), Jamie Breiwick (JB), Adekola Adedapo (AA), Mark Davis (MD)

That’s where the players were… the young guys. Ever since there has been music. It was always the young guys that were doing it.

JB: Did you get to know Rashaan (Roland Kirk) pretty well when he was here?

BF: Knew him real good.

JB: Did you guys hang out, like practice together or play together ever?

BF: I would sit in with him, you know, because he came with Chuck Christopher, the alto player, and Don Richardson.

JB: Okay, I haven’t heard those names before.

BF: He was from a part of Canada.

JB: From Canada?

BF: Yeah.

JB: Manty told me about him, I think.

BF: The drummer was, ah… Rodger Rhodes was the bass player.

JB: Rodger Rhodes? Ok.

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The Milwaukee Jazz Scene is still not Dead or Dying

Having been deeply rooted in the MKE jazz scene for my entire performing career, I have a pretty clear picture of the state of the scene. I have seen it’s ebb and flow and have witnessed multiple waves of growth and promise. Is Milwaukee New York? No. Chicago? New Orleans? Seattle? No, but we DO have a proud tradition and lineage here, and many many talented players who have chosen to make Milwaukee their home. I originally posted this on the old “Milwaukee Jazz Blog”. When I/we were in the early stages of developing what would eventually become the Milwaukee Jazz Vision. There were a few specific items that were flash points of inspiration. One of them was an interview by a notable Milwaukee arts writer/critic, in which he implied that jazz in Milwaukee was dead or dying. I couldn’t help but feel like something had to be done to change this perception, as I knew that was far from the truth. Here is my revised top 10 list which discredits the aforementioned point. There are far more than 10 reasons, however this is just a start! Feel free to add more in the comment section…

1.  The Jazz Estate – We are lucky to have a club of this ilk in our fair city. Mike Honkamp, Brian Sanders,  Matt Turner and now John Dye, have kept the flame burning at this historic venue for well over 15 years – before that, the infamous “Wickman era”, Sal Monreal before that,Chuck and Ed Pociecha before that stretching back into the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. When musicians from out of town play at The Estate, universally, they feel the vibe & the history within its small confines. It is unmistakable. In its storied history the likes of Joe Henderson, Cedar Walton, Red Rodney, Eric Alexander, Al Foster, Chris Potter, Conrad Herwig, Brian Lynch, Eddie Gomez, Rudder, Arturo O’ Farrill, Jim Rotondi, Rick Germanson, David Hazeltine, Danilo Perez, The Bad Plus, Dan Nimmer, etc… For fans and musicians alike, the Estate is quite possibly the most important piece of the jazz puzzle in Milwaukee. I am excited to see what lies ahead under new ownership (John Dye of Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge). With a much needed facelift and a fresh perspective on the business side of things, the flagship of the Milwaukee Jazz scene returns this June and we are all waiting patiently! Every city needs a dedicated jazz club and this one has been it.
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