July 12, 2024

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Interview with Will Bernard: Music brings us out of our normal day to day thinking

Interview with guitarist Will Bernard. An interview by email in writing.

Dear readers, get to know more about our US/EU Jazz – Blues Festivals and the activities of our US/EU Jazz – Blues Association in the capitals of Europe, we will soon publish program for 2024, enjoy in the July – August – Brussels, Berlin, Prague, Warsaw, Sofia, new addreses this year, also in Amsterdam, Budapest and Liverpool.

JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music.

Will Bernard: – I grew up in Berkeley, California. There was a lot of music in the air and I was first interested in Classical music folk and rock . Jazz came later in High School when I studied hard.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023

JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

WB: – I have influences from all over. My first guitar technique came from studying the classic rock guitarists like Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. As a teenager studying with Dave Creamer really helped me as a jazz guitar player. I studied mostly classical music in College and worked on fingerstyle technique and all sorts of other things. These were the basic building blocks.

JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

WB: – I find that recording myself on a regular basis and listening carefully to what I am doing really helps me with technique. I also use various looping pedals to work on my rhythm. I use that for orginal music, standards and anything else I can think of.

JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

WB: – I try to study all kinds of music and bring it into my sphere In terms of trying not to cop the style of guitarist I hae been influenced by, I consciously try to weed out cliches of these players and try to come up with my own take on whatever it is I get from them. I think if I take technically ideas and use them my own way it is a solution. I think it’s difficult sometimes because reviewers will pigeonhole you in one camp or another and compare you to whomever is most well known in that particular area.

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JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

WB: – I find that there is a lot of different ideas about this. I don’t think intellectual music is necessarily devoid of soul like some people do. I think there are different functions that music has and some is reflective and some is meant for good time partying and good for dancing or moving your body. I am glad I can experience both.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

WB: – I think that if the musician or artist is happy with what they are doing the audience should be able to get into it. We are all humans after all. I think it’s too bad that people can be so narrow minded.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

WB: – Well I have had most of my success starting with the movement in the 90’s where young people got interested in jazz because it was sampled by hip hop artiests. All of a sudden it was cool to like jazz and there were tons of groups playing what they called rare groove or acid jazz. From that genre, the audience broadened a bit to learn about other kinds of jazz. I think that process is still happening today and I have no doubt it will continue in one way or another. Studying Charlie Parker and Coltrane is like studying Bach and Beethoven for Classical musicians. It will always be part of the canon.

JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

WB: – Meaning of life question! Ok. I think that music brings us out of our normal day to day thinking like “ What are we going to have for dinner?” Or “What color socks should I wear today? “ We we listen we can go somewhere else that is not clearly defined but is still very human.

JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

WB: – I would change the fact that jazz and non pop music is such a small part of the overall picture. Jazz used to be the pop music of the day and now it is just a small percentage of the overall market. I would also change the way society thinks of artists and musicians they should be thought of as essential workers. When you look back at previous civilizations what are things that remain of interest?

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Association 2023

JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

WB: – I listen to the old stuff but I also like to check out what the current cutting edge people are doing. I’ve listening to Wes, Jim Hall, Django, a lot of country blues and New Orleans music. New music I like is the group of musicians that include Time Berne, Ches Smith, Craig Taborn etc and other people that play at the Stone. I also try to go and listen to live music at least once a week. I ill mostly to jazz clubs at the city but I also will go hear symphonic music and music from all over the world. I also try and hear everything I can when I am at festivals and can walk around and check out what people are doing.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

WB: – Back to listen to the Duke Ellington band in it’s heyday. Also see Wes Montgomery play and Coltrane. Sly and the family stone. See Stravinsky conduct one of his orchestral pieces. That’s todays answer.

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Interview by Simon Sarg

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