Can you call this “Americana-jazz”? Musicians like Marc Johnson and Bill Frisell have been plundering the musical treasure chest of country, folk, southern rock and slide guitars for a while now, and blending this into an improvised music that does indeed evoke the atmosphere of this CD’s pithy liner notes, including endless prairies full of high grass, telephone poles flashing by and dusty gravel roads in the summer. On Running Outside this instrumental “road movie-jazz” was put together by three Dutchmen and the American-bred contrabassist Paul Berner, who has been living in the Netherlands for the past fifteen years. The two guitarists Ed Verhoeff and Peter Tiehuis, with their acoustic, electric and slide guitars, conjure up a whole range of colors. The dry, acoustic drums of Hans van Oosterhout and Berner’s contrabass contrast well with the occasionally heavy guitar effects. And yet it all sounds like one organic whole, which is partly thanks to the excellent production. Band leader Berner received a solid classical contrabass education in the States before he plunged into jazz, and that can clearly be heard in his robust tone on gut strings and his frighteningly accurate intonation. Highly recommended for lovers of melodious instrumental jazz.
By Martin Zand Scholten
Who is it?
Contrabassist Paul Berner was interviewed at length about this project in the September ’06 edition of Gitarist. He was born in America and played with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, the Monty Alexander Trio and Peter Erskine, among others, before he moved to the Netherlands in 1990. Here he has played with jazzers such as Toon Roos and Jesse van Ruller. For this CD under his own name he asked two of Holland’s top guitarists to work with him, as well as a drummer. One of these two is Peter Tiehuis, a man with an extensive résumé - while I was writing this he was on TV for the second time this past week with the Metropole Orchestra, this time backing Trijntje Oosterhuis. The other guitarist is Ed Verhoeff, who has worked with Mathilde Santing, Ramses Shaffy and bassist Hein van der Geijn. On drums is Hans van Oosterhout, who has played with John Scofield, Chet Baker, Toots Thielemans and who often tours with Dee Dee Bridgewater.
What do they do?
Berner is the bandleader and composer of all but two of the pieces. "Jazz is kind of boring," said Berner with a wink in his interview, and indeed he has chosen a more “Pop” approach for his compositions, while retaining the freedom of jazz. He deliberately chose for the combination of two guitarists, knowing that there would be the risk that the two of them could get in each other’s way. That is not the case here. Verhoeff and Tiehuis complement each other very well and blend to such an extent that it is sometimes difficult to say who is who. Paul Berner fits in with them seamlessly and also creates the space to feature his contrabass. However, the emphasis here is on the songs. The sound is a mix of the Pat Metheny Group, Bill Frisell and country-influences, but with the compact feel of a jazz quartet. The concept is very successful and there is a lot to listen to: Berner’s Charlie Haden-approach on contrabass, the guitar work of the duo and the drum work of Hans van Oosterhout.
Should I buy it?
Yes. In addition to that, this CD is out on a small record label, and I believe that serious music originating in the Netherlands should always be supported.
By rakenDra Smit
...From the very first note, the sound quality is striking: the nice crispy drum sound for instance, which you normally don’t hear on jazz recordings. We’re treated to a kind of cross-over of country, folk, rock and jazz that combines the best of all of them. All the musicians excel in their field. Drummer Hans van Oosterhout is a groove-machine with whom contrabassist Paul Berner locks in mercilessly. Both guitarists comprehend and complement each other unerringly. The band plays together on a very high level, and this, in combination with the strikingly good sound production, makes this album one of my personal favorites of this month’s album reviews. Key word: Sophisticated.
1 December 2006
by Henk Aalbers
Quite a risk as a contrabassist to surround yourself with two guitarists (and a drummer). But Paul Berner, who has been living in the Netherlands for the past fifteen years, knows how to take care of himself in this setting. He not only puts his stamp on this music as composer, as bassist he doesn’t get snowed under for a moment. Although top guitarists Ed Verhoeff and Peter Tiehuis play a prominent role and get the space for many a swirling solo, the music is always in balance. Moreover, Berner takes the lead himself in a number of the tunes. On this album he turns his back on ‘pure’ jazz. We hear rock, country, folk and jazz. He forges these styles together into a surprisingly fresh sound, which would be more at home in a pop venue than in a jazz club. A beautiful album by top musicians (drummer Hans van Oosterhout hasn't been mentioned yet) who prove that accessibility and surprise can be an excellent combination.
Jazz Review (USA)
6 December 2006
By Gerald H. Beulah, Jr.
The first thing you notice about the new Paul Berner CD Running Outside is how closely the packaging resembles a Pat Metheny project. A quick trip to his website affirms that someone in his record company’s marketing department thought “Ah Ha!” and matched color schemes, fonts and photos to subconsciously steer the demographic into likening the record to PMG music before the initial listen.
A bonifide confirmation is immediately struck with the first note of the opening tune “Shirts and Skins.” Paul’s acoustic bass glides atop Hans van Oosterhout’s staccato drumming while guitarists Peter Tiehuis & Ed Verhoeff excellently skate through a Methenian melody. You anticipate a familiar ride!
This album is very impressive. Paul Berner, who now resides in Holland, has certainly been around the block and back. He’s worked with Dizzy, Hamp, Stan Getz, Peter Erskine and Joe Lovano to name a few. His bass is clear, articulate and full of imagery. The quartet he’s assembled is immaculate and is able to convey a ‘bold sensitivity’ with every phrase.
Neither the CD liner notes nor his website provide information on which equally talented guitarist is playing lead or rhythms on which song, so you’re left to speculate and it’s shameful because when the wonderful effects on “Bent Fender” transform the song from an 11 AM Sunday Mornin’ Iowa sing-along into a Midsummer’s Manhattan Night groove, you’d definitely like to give the guy his props.
The band’s version of Gershwin’s “I Loves You Porgy” although sincere, doesn’t arouse you until the guitarist’s subtle counter-melodies adjust the atmospheric conditions to bring a post-modern perspective to this jewel of a classic.
A cover of Springsteen’s “Ain’t Got You” is no more than a 6-minute jam session, albeit fun and very groovy. You feel as if the band is set up on a back porch somewhere in the open country, whittling away at the time and allowing the muse to guide them over the repetitive analogy.
"Five Dollar Down” is the all out Rock Fest with a tantalizing guitar melody and wicked solos. Hans van Oosterhout’s tom work is very clever in keeping a softer dynamic to stay in line with the scope of the album, thus keeping the band within the reins while letting them get loose.
“The Great Divide” epitomizes the hallmark of the Berner’s writing skills and is my favorite tune. It’s a song that takes the necessary time to highlight his virtuoso playing and interaction with the agile guitar work. The drummer’s brushes and cymbals radiate a kind of wonderland experience that whisks you along with ease. The irony of this excursion is that there is no clear-cut melody line for you to sink your teeth into. It’s a perfect statement about a moment in time that exists ‘just because…’
But if it’s melody you’re after, you’re certainly in for it on the title track “Running Outside” and you’ll likely hum and/or sing it well after the song ends. The combination of electric and acoustic guitar gets under your skin and whisks you in to a split tempo, split personality of rough and smooth, wet and dry, sugar and salt anomalies of what one might witness when, well, running outside, through the trees, over the bridge and by the river. Great tune!
The concluding track “Old Model A” is a slippery waltz that collects the thoughts of its performers as reverb drenched guitars ease in and out against the gritty pavement of the drummer’s brush-stained snare. Berner’s bass is emboldened and solid providing the perfect summation to a wondrous story, but like every great author, he’s content to let the characters speak for themselves as well they do with whispering wisdom.
If you have a shred of appreciation for Pat Metheny, you will be drawn into the obvious web these guys have spun to captivate your senses. Although this is by no means a ‘copy cat’ album, you’re provided with the same wide-open sensibilities of small towns, prairie fields, brisk starry skies and fiery jazz guitar. You almost wish for a Lyle Mays passage, but these great players stand on their own, without a single keyboard or synth in sight and they provide a darn good time.
19 November 2006
By Frans van Leeuwen
Jazz-rock exists in abundance, but jazz with a strong country music influence is scarce. On this CD bassist Paul Berner, a resident of the Netherlands, ventures in the footsteps of the most noted in that arena: Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell. It’s not a coincidence that both are guitarists, and Berner also has two in his band: Ed Verhoeff and Peter Tiehuis. That Berner is nevertheless the boss is made clear by his six original tunes and the fact that he frequently plays “the song” himself, including on Ain't Got You by guitarist Bruce Springsteen.
By the emphasis on beautiful melodies, the transparent sound and the well-judged drumming of Hans van Oosterhout, Running Outside is also a first-rate record for people who think they don’t like jazz.
14 November 2006
By Ton De Lange
Lucid Jazz Album from Paul Berner
...‘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...
Draai om je Oren
10 October 2006
By Rolf Polak
Contrabassist Paul Berner moved from California to the Netherlands fifteen years ago and in 2003 harvested critical acclaim with his album Open Country, recorded together with pianist Monty Alexander, vibraphonist Frits Landesbergen, guitarist Ed Verhoeff and drummer Dré Pallemaerts. The fact that Alexander took part was a wonder, because this virtuoso pianist almost never does guest appearances! But Berner succeeded, partly because he himself had at one time been a member of the Monty Alexander Trio.
During his years in New York Berner worked with many jazz greats: Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Stan Getz, Mel Lewis, Peter Erskine, Joe Lovano and many others. And since his arrival in the Netherlands in 1990, he has played with such well-known musicians as Eric Vloeimans, Toon Roos, Jesse van Ruller, Frits Landesbergen and Mike del Ferro.
For Paul Berner Running Outside had to be an 'initiative-taking jazz album', which would put jazz back in the middle of things; it's his opinion that at this moment other music styles are more interesting than contemporary jazz music. And the contrabassist's need to create this album in this new musical direction is shared with the other members of the Paul Berner Band, made up of two prominent Dutch guitarists: Ed Verhoeff and Peter Tiehuis, who had never worked together before, and one of Holland's most in-demand drummers, Hans van Oosterhout.
One of Berner's musical objectives is to bring together clarity and emotion in contemporary jazz music. He achieves this clarity in form, depth, content and emotion by regularly finding the sensitive spot in his playing. Even so, Running Outside is in fact not really a jazz album, because the group explores so many different styles through compositions by Paul Berner, George Gershwin and Bruce Springsteen, and therefore just as many different moods. Each number, even if it is just a simple melody, is transformed into an almost orchestral event.
The album is made up of eight numbers and jumps off with the splendid Shirts And Skins, a composition with a very appealing melody that will stick in your head the whole day if you're not careful. In Springsteen's Ain't Got You Berner plays a magnificent bass part, with a tasty, swinging Hans van Oosterhout supporting him with a sophisticated beat. Together they will nearly blow your speakers out!
Running Outside is an extremely captivating album without a dull moment, which just carries the listener along and is frequently very moving. And succeeding in that, the Paul Berner Band has then also succeeded in the ultimate aim of making music: creating emotion.
2 October 2006
By Ton Ouwehand
It's great that the American bass player Paul Berner has come to live in our country. That was already clear on his CD Open Country, where he led a band including guitarist Ed Verhoeff, vibraphonist Frits Landesbergen and drummer Dré Pallemaerts and on which, just to add to the fun, his previous employer pianist Monty Alexander filled a guest role. But the band that Berner now has put together is even more attractive. It is a sixteen-stringed quartet with, besides the bass-playing boss, drummer Hans van Oosterhout and two top guitarists: Peter Tiehuis and Ed Verhoeff. The compositions that Berner wrote for this combination have melody, harmony and cover all the moods from extreme subtlety to civilised rocking. Both guitarists are known for their tasteful note choice and beautiful sound. Clearly neither sees this group as an excuse to show himself off at the cost of the other. No guitar battles here, rather two players who work together to build a fantastic joint guitar sound. In terms of mood the group is an answer to Bass Desires. In which Berner doesn't have to take a back seat to Marc Johnson and Tiehuis and Verhoeff certainly don't have to take a back seat to Bill Frisell and John Scofield.
1 October 2006
by Jaap Lüdeke
It has always been assumed of bassists, Paul Berner included, that they would occupy themselves musically strictly with the supportive role: pluck in four and don't complain. While soloists disappeared from the stage after their long-winded choruses - time for a glass - the bass player was always ready to provide the next horn player with the necessary support. Even as early as the 50s, at the time of Jazz at the Philharmonic, Ray Brown used to complain bitterly about this.
Paul Berner (4 May 1953) has broken out of this pattern in a rather chic manner. His just-released second CD under his own name, Running Outside, is testimony to this. The absence of a pianist gives the guitarists Ed Verhoeff and Peter Tiehuis a chance to do the honours. Meaning, if one solos, the other accompanies. Logical. Does the presence of these two guitarists make this a rock album? No. Rather it is new proof of a recent trend in modern jazz wherein groups will, in a certain way, mix electronic sounds with acoustic sounds. And the latter is provided by the contrabass in the skilful hands of the leader. Berner's current credo runs: get off the beaten path. The versatile Hans van Oosterhout knits all the pieces together very ingeniously, to Berner's great pleasure. Berner had a thorough schooling in his home country, the US. In 1979 he moved to New York City, where he was immediately drafted by the legendary trumpeter Red Rodney. A recording date followed a year later: Live at the Village Vanguard with Rodney; it is now available as a CD on 32 Records. Paul also paid his dues in the orchestra (and the bus) of Lionel Hampton. Since 1990 he has lived and worked in the Netherlands. More information concerning this solid musician can be found at www.paulberner.com.
27 September 2006
by Erno Elsinga
The musical career of Paul Berner is quite remarkable. While in the 1980s he chose strictly for jazz and was a member of the Monty Alexander band, the Red Rodney Quintet and played with such greats as Stan Getz, after he traded the United States for Amsterdam, in 1990, he returned quite naturally to his real roots: pop, (country)rock, folk and a dash of jazz.
Running Outside, Berners second album, is testimony to a fresh approach to discreetly interweave these styles together. Catchy tunes alternate with thundering guitar work by Ed Verhoeff and Peter Tiehuis, based on the American pop-rock tradition. The simplicity of the compositions - thereby giving complete freedom to the soloists - the warm, fat sound, and the incredibly compelling drumming by Van Oosterhout makes Running Outside a tasty, easy to listen to album. Sweeping grooves and licks, sometimes referencing American guitar bands such as the Allman Brothers Band, alternate with melancholy introverted numbers. That some guitar lines lead into a tune that sticks with you proves that Paul Berner is also a first-rate 'songwriter'.