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.

Thanks to Jeff Berlin for answering our questions! This is an album with some real MOVES! Got yours yet?


© 2013 CL Seamus for Thunder Row

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