Tim Berne: RVAJazzfest Featured Performer

Tim Berne is the featured performer for the second annual RVAJazzfest. In as few words as possible, he chimes in on his early records, his career as a perpetual bandleader, his love/hate relationship with the New York Knicks and what he thinks of Richmond.

Our RVAJazzfest featured performer is Tim Berne. Berne will be teaming up with Bryan Hooten’s Ombak while in town to rehearse, perform at this event, and record an album. They’ll be playing material by Berne and by Bryan and other band members (who, by the way, are Trey Pollard, Cameron Ralston, and Brian Jones). More recommended reading is my interview with Bryan from December in which we discussed Berne’s influence on him. –Ed.

I emailed Tim Berne the following questions and he emailed back within a couple of hours. Actually, this was a rather slow response for him. He’s like a quick-draw gunfighter with email. When putting together the details of his part in RVAJazzfest, only minutes, sometimes seconds would go by between messages. I think he has an iPhone. I asked about some of his early records, his career as a perpetual bandleader, his love/hate relationship with the New York Knicks and what he thinks of Richmond. When reading the responses, one can sense a zen-koan like economy, directness and humor, qualities that also pervade his playing and writing.

The first time I heard your playing was on Ray Anderson’s Big Band Record, which featured the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band and home-state trumpet hero, John D’Earth. Can you talk about that sesson, which also included many of your current collaborators (Herb Robertson, Ellery Eskelin, Drew Gress, Tom Rainey)?

I love Ray and the others but I may have been the wrong man for the right job

Can you talk a little bit about the fact that you’ve spent the vast majority of your career as a band-leader, rather than as a sideman?

I started playing quite late and most of my heroes werte also composer/bandleaders so I thought that ‘s what everyone did. Kind of naive at the time

Throughout your incredibly varied projects, you seem to draw from a defined stable of musicians. How do you go about choosing players for each new band?

personality and and a big dose of individuality…sense of humor doesn’t hurt either

You said about your early career and study that “The more I learned, the less confident I got.” (From your interview with Ethan Iverson). Can you elaborate on that statement a little?

yeah I seem to become more insecure the more “established” I become….not sure why

Tim Berne
What was it like working with Zorn at the Soho Music Gallery?

fun and educational

What’s a day in the life of Tim Berne like?

Hmmm…starts with a lot of coffee after not much sleep…..lot’s of dreaming about musical possibilities and hopefully acting on the dreams during the day….more coffee…..movies and `food

The story goes that you didn’t pick up the saxophone until after hurting your ankle in an intramural basketball game while in college. Any interest in a pickup game while you’re here?

oooh…bad knees

At the time of this writing, your team, the Knicks, are 16-22. What do they need to do to turn it around and make the playoffs?

get Dwyane Wade and GARnett….coach..Jabbar?

This is your second visit to Richmond. What’s your impression of our fair city?

nice houses and people

A couple of other quotes for you to elaborate on, if you want.

“I always feel like I’m the worst player in the band.” (From your trio workshop at VCU a while back.)

I think it speaks for itself

“I’m not really known for my on-stage banter.”


Tim Berne with Tomasz Stanko

Tim Berne on Night Music

RVAJazzfest featuring Tim Berne & Ombak, Adam Larrabee Trio, and Trio of Justice takes place on Saturday, February 6, 2010, at 9pm at The Camel, 1621 W Broad St., Richmond VA. Click here to purchase tickets.

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Bryan Hooten

Bryan Hooten performs with No BS! Brass, Matthew E. White, and other Richmond-based groups. He teaches Music Theory and Jazz Orchestra at VCU.

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