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Jeff Berlin

Interviewed by Gary Hill

Interview with Jeff Berlin from 2018

MSJ:

It's been a few years since we've done an interview with you at Music Street Journal.  What's been new in the world of Jeff Berlin?

Lots of new things -  firstly, I’ve been writing almost nonstop all kinds of new music. This is new for me as writing tended to be more of a task than a flowing event. The results have been so positive and so excited me by the results of what I was writing, that I started taking composition classes with Mark Volker at Belmont College in Nashville. I want to know more about the academic manner that many of the great composers seemed to have learned.

My bass playing is absolutely at its peak, possibly a legacy from the therapy that I concluded a couple of years ago. At sixty years of age, I needed to resolve personal issues that haunted me since I was a child. I was so successful from my efforts that every day is really a beautiful day for me. One of the legacies from my therapeutic work is that (quite unexpectedly) my bass playing changed. Ideas seem to flow out of me now. It is very strange and very wonderful to experience this.

I live in Nashville and I do sessions. I am planning my Jack Bruce recording ASAP. I still tour and host clinics. I am off to Equador in two days to do a concert followed the next day by a bass clinic. Finally,  I took around six months last year to write out an educational learning program that I feel is one of the most sequential bass educational programs one can find. I am promoting this while putting new ideas together for my next educational undertaking that I will start to write sometime this summer.

MSJ: What's the best thing that's ever been said about your music?
That people love it. I’m fairly “classical music” oriented, and what I write reflects this. I love harmony and try to write music that has meaningful motion within it.  I write with a goal, to impress people. Beethoven did this. He believed that everything that he composed would be loved by people who heard it. While I know that I am no Beethoven, I do understand the sentiment. I write imagining what people will be hearing. One piece that I just released as a single is my redo of my old song "Joe Frazier." The new one, called "Joe Frazier Round 3" is simply a train barreling down the track. I view it as one of the best new bass releases I ever recorded.
MSJ: As a bass player, I'm curious to know what advice you'd give to people starting the instrument.
If I could influence new bass players, my advice would come with both good and bad news. The good news is that everyone reading this would benefit by practicing quality reading every day, even while they are jamming at night and listening to different CDs. Learning quality academic music isn’t a replacement for what one wants to play on their bass. It is an addition to their day. and even the newest players to bass should start to practice reading music.

The bad news is that bass players have been influenced to not see this as truth. This explains the proliferation of neck graphs, fret-board images and tablature. It is sobering to notice that music is even barely mentioned. A child of three who begins to learn piano or violin is given music to practice from day one. Anyone who chooses to pay money to learn how to play should embrace their example.  Bass players are taught that groove is first in music, but ironically it isn’t. It is last, and it is no more or less important than any other aspect of bass playing. Notes are first, and here is proof: Before one can play a groove, people have to first know what the notes are to play, or else you won’t have anything to groove on.

MSJ: What's ahead for you?
My Jack Bruce record is forthcoming - my classical record as well. Plus, I want to record my new music. Tours are being booked for 2019. I haven’t toured in the U.S. for a long time. I might do this next year. I’m flying to Equador in a couple of days for gigs and clinics. This fall, I have clinics booked in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Chile. Plus, I have gigs booked during this tour as well. Plus, I’ve been actively promoting "Joe Frazier Round 3," as I am confident that people will be impressed. I’m promoting my reading course also.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
I haven’t listened to recorded music in a long time. Perhaps it’s time to seek something out.
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
I just finished Letters to a Young Contrarian by the late Christopher Hitchens.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
At this year’s NAMM show, I met one of the bass players from the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, David Allen Moore. I was immediately impressed with him, knowing what he had to accomplish as a musician to acquire a position with this world class symphony orchestra. I mentioned to him my adoration of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. He told me that the symphony was on their performance schedule and he invited me to attend a rehearsal and the concert. So, I flew from Nashville to L.A. and experienced one of the most moving musical experiences of my life. I attended a rehearsal of the symphony without the chorus, the first time that I heard the fourth movement completely as an orchestral work. I always wanted to have this experience, and it happened for me. The next night, I was enthralled at hearing the symphony under Gustavo Dudamel’s baton.
MSJ: Do you remember the first concert you attended?
If I am not mistaken, it was Cream at Madison Square Garden in 1968.
MSJ: Have you come across any new gear recently that you love?
New? No! I’m not really excited by gear for the most part. My Markbass combo amps amazed me from the very first time that I plugged into one. I still feel this way about them as the bass tone they produce thrills me each time that I play through my amps. So I guess you can say that I truly love my Jeff Berlin and Players School amps. My bass is built by Cort called, "the Rithimic." I truly feel that it is the best four string passive bass I ever played. I view this bass as the greatest four string passive bass guitar since the 1962 Fender Jazz Bass. But, in general, gear for me is more a service oriented thing; it needs to provide the most basic promise which is to sound great and play with ease. If I get these needs satisfied, then (for me) the music and the sound of what I produce as a live or recording musician is up to me.
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Yes! People have been very generous with me as I try to make up for my pre-therapy behavior. I changed a great deal of how I feel and how I see things in the world, and people have been great about it. So, I want to say thank you to people that take to time to get to know me. I really appreciate it!

 

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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