When you’re a professional musician, you spend a lot of time waiting by the phone.
Colorado Springs pianist, composer and music teacher Reggie Berg recently answered a call that offered the opportunity of a lifetime: to perform with Postmodern Jukebox, a jazz collective that tours the country doing fresh covers of popular songs. The collective also posts gorgeous retro-styled videos of the songs, including a jazzy version of Radiohead’s ”Creep” and, most recently, a cover of David Bowie’s ”Life on Mars,” on the Postmodern Jukebox YouTube Channel.
New York City-based musician Scott Bradlee created Postmodern Jukebox, “a rotating collective of musical outcasts,” five years ago “as a way to bring the classic sounds I loved back into the mainstream, and to build a platform to celebrate real, unadulterated, deserving talent,” he states on the PMJ website. The collective has grown to include nearly 50 singers and 50 instrumentalists with a fan base numbering in the millions.
Berg, 32, will join Postmodern Jukebox for 10 days in Las Vegas starting Friday.
“I got the call back in March. They said the original roster they had wasn’t going to be able to fit the bill for this leg of the tour,” said Berg, who teaches jazz piano at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Colorado State University-Pueblo and gives private piano lessons. He also plays piano with local jazz band The Hennessy 6, has toured with the Air Force Falconaires, has performed with an Incubus cover band and previously led the Reggie Berg Trio.
“It’s really awesome to be a part of a collective where not only I’m a huge fan, but also feel I have so much to learn about how to be a better musician for the audience of today,” Berg said.
He was asked to audition online by playing “Creep” by Radiohead and “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga. “They said, ‘Here’s the music. All you have to do is record.’ And I did,” Berg said. “I sent it in, and they said I was in.”
Once he had the approval, he set about putting together his performance outfit, which had to be reminiscent of the 1920s. It includes a straw hat, striped black suit coat, vest and sparkling bow tie.
“When I read Scott Bradlee’s biography, ‘Outside the Jukebox: How I Turned My Vintage Music Obsession Into My Dream Gig,’ the concept of how he came to this idea is, he got busy as a wedding pianist and background pianist. Later on, that turned into him playing more of what he wanted to be playing. It became more about ‘what are people going to like and I can still be myself,’” Berg said. “I think the whole Postmodern Jukebox thing is they look for people who are already doing that.”
Before moving to Colorado four years ago, Berg lived in New York City, playing whatever gigs came his way. The Indiana native came to Colorado to earn a degree in classical composition from the University of Denver and settled in Colorado Springs. He previously studied at the Eastman School of Music and Mannes The New School for Music.
When it comes to making a career as a musician, Berg said, he got a solid piece of advice from a teacher: “I know you want to be famous, but you’re going to be playing in hotels. If you don’t, you’re probably not going to be playing piano for too long.”
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