Interview: Jeff Berlin

It’s an honor to ‘chat’ with one of the best players ever, he is the one, the only Mr. Jeff Berlin :).

> 1. Hi Jeff, how would you describe your musical and life approach?

JEFF – My approach is to do something every day to make my life happier. Also I like to do something everyday to make my music and playing better. I am happier now in my life than I have ever been and I feel that my playing shows my joy.

> 2. What are your music/bass influences?

JEFF – I have many influences. On the bass, my first and only influence is the great bassist Jack Bruce. I listened to Cream records and learned how to play from his playing. As I got older, the musicians that influenced me were not bassists but horn, and piano players. Guys like McCoy Tyner, Cannonball Adderley Gary Burton and Keith Jarrettre the guys that I listened to and learned from. I really never liked to listen to bass players, but instead preferred the great harmonies and melodies of no bass players.

> 3. Where do you find inspiration for your work?

JEFF – This might sound like a chliche, but my love for music is my inspiration. I have been playing some kind of an instrument for 54 years. I started on violin and moved to the bass after I heard the Bealtes play. To this day, to this minute, when you see me holding a bass guitar, you will see a teenaged spirit in full joy of the playing that is about to happen. I love it more and more, the older that I get.

> 4. You apostle the idea of not using the metronome,as we all have one inside of us? Can you tell us a way to practice that “thing” inside us?

JEFF – There are two ways only. You practice playing what you hear which means that you are being a self taught musician. Everybody is a self taught musician. Me too. Even the guys that study music have a self taught life away from their classes. Which brings me to the second way to learn how to play that “thing” inside of you. Before you can play that “thing”, you have to know what the notes are on your instrument. Most players don’t know what the notes are which is why they have a hard time being expressive as players. I have a school in Clearwater Floridia designed to solve exactly this problem. It is called The Players School of Music and we have a 100% improvement rate with our students because we can help them to learn the notes so that they can play their “thing”. But the notes always come first. This means that you have to study music to know what the right notes are. This is why a metronome cannot help you. How can you play in time if you don’t know what the notes are first.

> 5. What is your favorite bass gear for live? What about studio? Do you like direct recording to mix board or good old bass mic-ing is the way to go?

JEFF – Absolutely the best bass amps that I ever played in my career are Markbass. I use two cabinets, their standard 15 inch combo which they named after me, the Jeff Berlin combos. But I didn’t build it. I didn’t design it except to remove the tweeter because I hate the sound of a tweeter in a bass tone. I just fell in love with the natural tone of this cabinet and to this day, I still think that it is the best sounding amp that I ever played through. In the studio I both go d.i. and I also mike my two Jeff Berlin cabinets. I am still working on getting the tone in the studio that I get live which means that I have to keep trying different microphones in different positions.

> 6.Can you tell us a bit about that “play or die” period in your musical career? Or can we say that names like Jack Bruce,Jaco Pastorius,Bill Bruford,Jeff Berlin are “play or die” generation? Generation of great musical legacy?

JEFF – I am so fortunate because I was around to play during the “paly or die” period in music. During the 1970’s we jammed, studied, gigged, playing until dawn, wrote music together, toured together and always always, always tried to improve our playing simply because we needed to. We wanted to play or die trying, and as a young musician developing a career and a musical philosophy, I cannot think of a better philosophy to have.

> 7. Expirience with Jaco Pastorius?

JEFF – Jaco and I had the exact same friends, and we were in the exact same circles of people. But strangely we only met once or twice. He was always respectful of me, I assume because he know that I could play. I heard that he could be abrupt with other people, but with me, he was always nice. I liked him and I liked playing with him. We only played one afternoon but it was a nice day for us.

8.How much time and effort it took from the idea, let’s establish a school, The Players School of Music, and today, school with worldwide reputation?

JEFF – A school has to make you a better player. This is the only reason that I can see for spending money to learn. This is why in general, I am suspicious of many schools that teach groove, rock, performance, or chops. These are not lessons worthy of paying a tuition. Music is the only subject that is necessary to invest your money and I think that I can prove it right now. Can you name any subject whatsoever that you pay to learn, where the facts are not first in those lessons? If you cannot, then music lessons have to function the same way. In my school, we regularly triple the playing ability of my students in 3 months to a year, practically without exception. I don’t know of any other school in the world that can make this claim.

9.I see on your website, http://www.playerschool.com/, that often welcome in your school, well-known musicians such as Victor Wooten, Larry Coryell, tell us how the students react to the privilege that apart from you and your teachers have the opportunity to learn about music and playing of these musicians.

JEFF – Having these great players teach classes at The Players School is a lot of fun for our students, but actually these classes doesn’t help students to improve. A seminar is a discussion. My telling you how to improve cannot help you to improve your playing unless you have the right material to practice. Therefore, these seminars are more of an inspirational thing instead of a usable lesson for improving your playing. Most seminars are like this except for mine or people that think as I think. Because I know that seminars cannot help you to improve, I include information to make sure that you learn something to help you to play better when I give them.

> 8. What is you working philosophy when you decide “now I’m gonna make a new record” or a song?

JEFF – I go over ideas, trying to make them into concrete forms. I review my music, re-writing songs and arrangements. I practice soloing on the chord changes until I am sick of them. And then I practice them some more because I know that a CD lasts forever. I want to make sure that the work that I recorded is the best that I can do at that particular time. .

> 9. You are well known for transponding Tears in Heaven to bass?Is there a particular reason for choosing that song?

JEFF I chose Tears because it harmonically is an interesting pop song. I love some pop and some rock and I love recording and playing these styles when people hire me to play for them. But as a soloist, Tears in Heaven is a beautiful tune and it allowed me a lot of opportunity to arrange something different on a four string bass guitar.

> 10. You know, there are loads of people that really want to learn from you, is there any way it can be done over the Internet?

JEFF – Yes. When I am America, I do Skype lessons. Or people can come to the United States for a One Week Intensive and learn from me for five days. Or, maybe next summer I can come to Coratia and hold a summer class if you choose to organize this. I can bring all my great homework and help players to play better if they are interested.

11.Do you plan to visit Croatia?

JEFF – As soon as I can. Yours is a beautiful country and I have been there before. I would love to come back. I would love to play. And I would love to help the bass players learn how to play better.

Thanx Jeff, it was really nice to talk to you :).

Take care!

Posebno hvala Borisu Brčiću koji je omogućio ovaj intervju :).

Pozdrav,

bassylum crew.