Sunday, 9 June 2013

Jeff Berlin's Low Standards

As a follow-up to our Thunder Row Review of "Low Standards", we were fortunate to have Jeff Berlin answer a few questions about the album.

JB: Thank you for giving me the chance to talk about my new CD.

TR: With so much to choose from for this album, what was left on the cutting room floor? Anything you regret not including in the collection?

JB: Everything that you hear is what I intended to record. I didn't leave anything on the cutting room floor. In fact, I kind of wish that I added another song or two.

TR: How did you choose these songs?

JB: I chose them because these songs are not typical of a standards-type CD. I like to play differently each time that I do a new CD. On "Low Standards", I think that this is about as different a CD that I have done. I like that.

TR: How was the album recorded? Was any of it done live with all of you in the studio together?

JB: Yes! Essentially, everything that you hear is live, including Richard Drexler's swapping of the acoustic bass for the piano during each tune. Richard is maybe the only player I know that is a virtuoso on both upright bass and piano. When I soloed, he played the acoustic bass and then he put it on the floor to walk to the piano to solo on it. I simply never heard of anyone else doing something like this. "Low Standards" never could have turned out the way that it did without Richard.

TR: How much does improv play in the recording of Standards? Do you enjoy straying from the straight and narrow of the accepted arrangements?

JB: As a sideman, it truly pleases me to provide what someone wants from me, in exactly the way that they hear it. As a leader, I take a much more centric position and try to go wherever the music leads me. This CD is all improvised, with a few rehearsed endings or sections that needed cohesion. I never just record without a plan in mind. And because I carry so much of the harmonic weight of each tune that we played, I practiced for a long time getting familiar with the tunes before we recorded them. It is only here, as a leader, that I take such liberties as a bassist.

TR: The album starts fast and lively, and ends on a more emotional, soft note. How important is the order of the songs in creating the feel of the project, and how did you choose this order?

JB: I swapped songs around for a little while, discussing with David Ruttenberg, the producer, what he thought about the order of the songs. This particular line-up seemed organically correct to both of us and so we opted for the list of songs in this order. But, I suppose that it could have gone in other directions. We just thought that a burning first tune might catch the listener's attention and so we put ESP first, trying out other combinations afterward.

TR: Tell us about working with Richard Drexler and Mike Clark. How long had you been planning the project and how did you get them interested?

JB: Richard and Mike are players with adventurous spirits. I've known Mike since the 1970's and Richard and I have worked together on my last 5 or 6 solo CD's and tours I have done with my own band. Their sense of creativity and the bravery to be spontaneous is evident on this CD. We all listened and responded to each other, and I believe that we have developed a sound that is our alone. This seems to happen with kindred spirits in music which the three of us seem to be.
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Thanks to Jeff Berlin for answering our questions! This is an album with some real MOVES! Got yours yet?

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© 2013 CL Seamus for Thunder Row





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