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Bob Berg, 51; Saxophonist in Davis' Jazz Fusion Band

December 09, 2002|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Bob Berg, a jazz saxophonist best known for his work in the Miles Davis fusion band in the 1980s, was killed Thursday in a highway accident in Amagansett, N.Y. He was 51.

Berg's sport utility vehicle was struck by a concrete-hauling truck that skidded across a snow-slicked road, police said. Berg was pronounced dead at the scene. His wife, a passenger, suffered facial lacerations.

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Berg began studying classical piano at age 6. He had switched to saxophone by 13, studying at the High School for Performing Arts.

He was admitted to the Juilliard School in 1968, where he studied classical saxophone.

His focus turned quickly to free-form jazz, where he was greatly influenced by the work of John Coltrane.

As the 1960s came to a close, Berg found work as a bebop player in a band led by the organist Brother Jack McDuff. In the 1970s, he played in groups led by the pianists Horace Silver and Cedar Walton.

After several years with Walton, Berg joined Davis' jazz fusion band, which mainly used electric instruments. The band drew on a variety of idioms including rock, soul and funk.

Several albums and tours came from the association with Davis, which was followed by a solo recording career and a collaboration with guitarist Mike Stern.

In the 1990s, Berg turned to acoustic jazz, playing in pianist Chick Corea's quartet.

Berg later formed his own quartet, which toured extensively in the Caribbean and Europe.

In addition to his wife, Arja, and their two children, Berg is survived by his mother and a brother.

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