Open Country

Paul Berner

Haarlems Dagblad
14 November 2006
By Ton De Lange

Lucid Jazz Album from Paul Berner
‘Night in Tunisia’ is a classic by trumpeter and jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie. Contrabassist Paul Berner is proud, and rightly so, that he has played that tune in New York with Gillespie. But the American living in Haarlem is also proud of ‘Running Outside,’ the new CD by his band. And rightly so again. This is partially due to his unique collaboration with two Dutch guitarists with international appeal: Ed Verhoeff and Peter Tiehuis.
Berner composes on the guitar and wanted a line-up with two guitarists for his afore-mentioned second album. “But when that idea came into being, I was at first a little hesitant. Just try to find two guitarists who can grasp your artistic vision: an instrumentation which brings the bass up front naturally. Moreover I didn’t want pure jazz guitarists, because then there’s a big chance that there would be nothing left of the contrabass sound.”
To make it even more complicated, he couldn’t offer much in the way of money and the compositions were not yet finished when, after Verhoeff, he also approached Tiehuis. He was curious, however, after talking with Berner about the music that Berner was envisioning.
“And at the first rehearsal everything just came together right away, very instinctively. As if it was meant to be. Incredible.”
Verhoeff, who can also be heard on the first CD ‘Open Country’ (2004), had never played with Tiehuis before. Berner: “It’s a dream come true, having those two in your band.”
After a period in the eighties and nineties as a member of fusion band Batida, Tiehuis has been too seldom seen in jazz venues. His steady gig is with the renowned Metropole Orchestra, where the modest guitarist, prized for his sound and enormous musicality, also has to work within the restrictions of a large ensemble.
“But I played with him one time in a smaller group, with pianist Kenny Werner, among others. You can’t believe your ears! This is not your standard guitarist, if you know what I mean! What he with does all kinds of effects and volume pedals: a sort of Jimi Hendrix goes jazz. But then not over the top, not hitting you over the head with it. Outstanding soloing, without sticking out. Something like that.”
The two six-string virtuosos complement each other. “Ed is a jazz guitarist who knows how to use rock- and pop influences and with Peter it’s the other way around.”
‘Running Outside’ is a CD which deserves to sell on a large scale. Tiehuis, Verhoeff, Berner and drummer Hans van Oosterhout sound as if they’ve been a band for years. There are several winds blowing in this refreshing music, from jazz and blues to country, folk and hard rock.
Sometimes the approach makes one think of formidable predecessors such as ‘Nashville’ (1997) by guitarist Bill Frisell and ‘The Sound of Summer Running’ (1998) by bass player Marc Johnson, with the guitar duo Frisell and Pat Metheny. The rural country mood of the American West, catchy little melodies, simplicity, swaying guitar sounds.
“Now it looks like I’m imitating them, but that’s not so. At the time I was composing my music I didn’t even know about those records yet.”
Actually it all leads back to his roots in the country village of Reinbeck, in the middle of the state Iowa.
“But okay; I take it as a big compliment when our CD is compared with those records. Making music with clarity, that’s what it’s all about for me.”

All Music Guide
13 July 2005
by Scott Yanow

Alive in New York by Red Rodney

This is the third of three Muse LPs documenting a couple of gigs that the Red Rodney-Ira Sullivan Quintet had at the Village Vanguard in 1980. The five selections on the album (three originals, Recorda-Me and a second version of Thelonious Monk's Let's Cool One) do not sound at all like leftovers and are actually up to the high level of the two previous quintet albums. Trumpeter Rodney, Sullivan (heard here on flute, alto and tenor), the up-and-coming pianist Garry Dial, bassist Paul Berner and drummer Tom Whaley all sound in inventive form as they take post-bop improvisations. This was a perfect setting for Rodney in particular, and all of the underrated band's six recordings are rewarding.

Draai om je Oren, Dutch Weblog
28 May 2004
by Cees van der Ven

Paul Berner Band successfully brings in the customers for a tour of the Open Country

The attentive audience at Kraai & Balder on Friday 14 May got a concert straight from the top shelf. And with a band like this, that is just what one would expect: bandleader Paul Berner on double bass, Frits Landesbergen on vibraphone, Ed Verhoeff on guitar and Hans van Oosterhout on drums. The quartet's pleasant, transparent group sound was very pleasing, and they played with energy and passion. Berner presented mostly music from his (rightfully) well-received CD Open Country, in a way that made the program varied and interesting. The group succeeded in bundling those diverse sounds, so to speak, into a clear, colorful rainbow above the open country.

The hallmarks of Berner's bass playing are a splendid tone and passionate playing. This evening showed once again how easily Ed Verhoeff fits into every group with which he plays. His playing was convincing and tasteful, such as in the ballad Heartland in which he was supported perfectly by Hans van Oosterhout . Hans is not a man of grand gestures; he derives his eloquence from solid and inspired playing, carrying the audience along with him. Frits Landesbergen was in top form on Monk's In Walked Bud. It's a shame that we hear this instrument so seldom in concerts. The audience, listening intently, enjoyed this Dutch vibraphone giant to the full measure. It's not for nothing that the Jamaican pianist Monty Alexander -with whom Paul Berner also played for a time- recently called on Landesbergen to accompany him for a concert tour. This concert by the Paul Berner Band was the second to the last concert of the season for Jazz at the Crow, but certainly not the least.

April 2004

Gerard Kleijn Groep
New World

This is Dutch trumpeter Gerard Kleijn's third recording as a leader, and as with the others it is issued on Munich Records. David Dupont spoke about the trumpeter's distinctive voice in an earlier review (2003) of Kleijn's 2002 Love Quotes, and he continues to impress here. To his credit, he has kept his band together, and the cohesiveness of the group shows, as there are consistently excellent contributions from each of the band members, notably bassist Paul Berner and guitarist David Golek. Kleijn is squarely in the Miles Davis/Freddie Hubbard/Wynton Marsalis lineage, and what is most striking is Kleijn's confident though far from cocky, demeanor as a soloist. Even on the Rhapsodic SAMSARA, Kleijn's muted improvisation flows energetically, and the listener does not sense that he is ever simply running through changes. His Exploring the Blues begins with an attractive stop time intro, followed by a long, somewhat prosaic electric guitar solo, then by a stunning trumpet improvisation taken at a slower pace and notably void of cliché and firmly rooted in the blues, with a short, thoughtful acoustic bass statement inserted before the electric piano and drums kick in delicately. Kleijn refreshingly refrains from flash, and he picks his notes carefully though not without taking some chances, as is evident on Amor a Primera Vista, where his bittersweet tone infuses the higher register without any hints of pomposity. To be sure, there are times when Orjan Graafmans Fender Rhodes sounds dated (he is much more effective on acoustic piano), and when you sense that he is not adding anything new to your understanding of the instrument. It is Kleijn, though, who is the leader and dominant voice, and when it is all over, you cannot but sense that is he trumpeter worth getting to know.

De Telegraaf, Amsterdam, Holland
22 January 2004
By René Steenhorst

American bassist at home in the Netherlands
Jazz 'for a living'

Strange to hear it from an American."If I tell people in the US that I play jazz for a living, then most of them look at me like 'What kind of strange bird is that?!' "

Anyone who knows Paul Berner, knows that there.s nothing wrong with the man who was born on the Great Plains, who comes from a family that made a lot of music and listened to a lot of music, and who takes his profession very seriously. What.s more: Paul Berner (50) is an outstanding bassist that--and this is strange--has only now made his debut album: Open Country, a surprising and impressive Baileo release. With as special guest: the American pianist Monty Alexander.

Cradle of Jazz

But still, very curious: Americans who are dumbfounded when someone announces that jazz is their profession. And that in a country that is generally considered to be the cradle of this style of music.

Paul Berner, at home in Haarlem, nods and smiles: "That's right, you would think that every American would consider jazz as something that is in its essence part of America; but that just isn't so. The average American hardly even knows what jazz is. In New York and L.A. they know, at least in certain circles. But in the rest of the country, scarcely. That's because there are so incredibly many radio and television stations broadcasting all kinds of music, 24 hours a day the whole year long. So if you love Country and Western, then that fills your life, because you listen to nothing else. And hard rock? You can hear it very minute of every day if you want. Consequently people don't even know that there is a whole other world of music out there."

This constant availability works to the benefit of one-sidedness in the individual listener, according to Paul. An attitude that he hasn't found to such a large degree in the Netherlands, having lived here with his family since late 1990. "When I was first here, and told someone that I was a jazz musician, then they would say: 'Really, how interesting!' I thought that they had misunderstood what I said! I wasn't expecting that kind of enthusiasm for jazz music here, but it is here. Here art is considered to be an essential part of life; in America, at best, entertainment. In the Netherlands the awareness of the public is much broader and as a musician you are appreciated."

Paul Berner. As a young musician from a small town he moved toNew York in 1979. He lived there for many years, together with his Dutch wife Monique. That's where he learned the jazz profession ("I really did every kind of gig there") and played with countless "big names" in the jazz world, such as Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Stan Getz, Mel Lewis and the Jazz Orchestra, and others. He was also a member of The Lionel Hampton Orchestra for a few years and worked with the trio of pianist Monty Alexander, with whom he has played regularly through the years.

Jazz Talent

The Netherlands came into the picture when Paul and Monique asked themselves what the advantage of N.Y. was over Holland: "All the jazz greats live in New York, in a slightly better neighborhood and in a slightly better apartment. But the difference wasn't all that great. Now we live in Haarlem, and that's just as good. You find fantastic jazz players everywhere in the Netherlands, while in the States the good players have all moved to New York and L.A."

Paul feels it's a great honor that Monty Alexander consented to be a special guest on his debut album. "Exceptional, when you consider that he normally only records with his own band. This gives my album that something extra."