Cover Story

André Berry
A Jazz Foundation Crafts this Bassist’s Licks

By Chris Campbell

It’s been said that great jazz bass lines are grounded in an awareness of sound, feeling and power. That basic philosophy has served renowned bassist and long-standing session specialist André Berry extremely well as he has laced the musical works of the contemporary jazz elite with those “money notes” so essential to enhancing the structure of a song and satisfying music lovers’ thirst for a good groove.

While he has shared the stage with various jazz luminaries including Rick Braun, Chris Botti, Dave Koz, Mindi Abair, Warren Hill, Tom Scott and the Brothers Johnson, the Cleveland, Ohio, native was initially influenced by rock artists. 

“I attended a rock concert by Don Kirshner and followed that up by seeing Yes, ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) and Joe Walsh perform,” recalled Berry. “My older brother and I were greatly inspired by those performances along with music that was played in our household like Sly and the Family Stone (featuring bassist Larry Graham) and Earth, Wind & Fire (featuring bassist Verdine White), and that influenced me to take up the bass. In fact my brother helped me buy my first bass.” 

Berry may have taken his initial inspirational cues from rock music, but jazz has enabled him to spread his wings, flex his creative mojo and craft his identity as a hired studio gun and live music impresario. 

“Jazz has given me a foundation,” he said. “I’ve been lucky to have had so many standout moments in my career, such as backing Marcus Miller and David Sanborn on the 2007 Dave Koz & Friends at Sea jazz cruise, sharing bass duties with one of my music idols Nathaniel Phillips of the group Pleasure, who now plays with Richard Elliot and Peter White, and having the surreal privilege of performing with George Johnson (of the Brothers Johnson) and spontaneously executing our ‘thunder thumbs and lightning licks’ routine for a run of packed, sold-out concert performances.”

Talking with Berry, one would get the impression that spontaneity seems to color not only his music but also his life. A visit to his website portrays some of his other interests such as motorcycling (he often loads up his instruments and cycles to local concerts), his martial arts (he is a first-degree brown belt martial artist) and fitness regimen (he is a self-proclaimed fitness guru).

Currently residing in Los Angeles, California, with his wife of 17 years, Chutney, and their two dogs, Berry is working on an instructional DVD scheduled for release in early 2009. The couple uses their converted garage as a home studio where Chutney teaches yoga and he conducts self-defense/martial arts-oriented fitness classes.

For more information on Berry, visit www.andreberry.com.

Discography
Gratitude (2005)
For The Moment  (2007)


Songwriter, Guitarist, Label Owner Randy Jacobs Strings Styles with Style
By Chris Campbell

Acclaimed jazz guitarist Randy Jacobs has established a unique career as an international artist who employs an inimitable style that combines the virtuosity of classical and traditional jazz with urban, contemporary R&B music. 

Currently touring with the Dave Koz band, Jacobs has produced for or performed with a roster of artists that include Rick Braun, Euge Groove, Mindi Abair, Michael Lington, Oleta Adams, Wayman Tisdale, Peter White, Jeff Golub, Warren Hill and Marc Antoine.

While Jacobs has become a must-see act on the jazz concert circuit, his original aspirations were to serve a behind-the-scenes role in music.

“I originally learned to play guitar only to write songs,” he said.” I wanted to be Thom Bell or Smokey Robinson and make hits for other people. I never thought that I would be performing upfront and center.”

Influenced by diverse acts that range from Curtis Mayfield and Carlos Santana to Chet Atkins and various purveyors of the Motown sound, Jacobs first cut his music teeth in Detroit performing with singer Brook Benton at the legendary but now defunct Club Mozambique.
 
 “Detroit played a huge role in my musical development when I was growing up,” said Jacobs, the single father of a 13-year-old son, Daniel (who just began playing guitar). “So, when I turned 19, it just seemed natural to perform with artists that I grew up listening to. My association with Brook Benton was the first of many steps in my growth as an artist.”

Following his performance stint with Benton, Jacobs took advantage of a myriad of opportunities that included co-writing songs for the gold-certified record Wide Receiver with former Miles Davis bassist Michael Henderson; co-writing the worldwide hit “Walk the Dinosaur” as a member of the group Was (Not Was); releasing a critically acclaimed album as a member of the R&B group Soul Mission (which included an eclectic mélange of all-star acts such as Tata Vega, Mavis Staples, Booker T Jones and Steve Cropper); playing at the Kennedy Arts Center with Herbie Hancock and Greg Phillinganes (tribute to Stevie Wonder), and fronting his own music outfit The Boneshakers, who released two well-received CDs, Book of Spells and Shake the Planet for Virgin Records. 

While Jacobs has enjoyed a stand-out tour career, it is songwriting that fuels his passion.

“I love performing, but writing is where I truly derive a deep-seated sense of satisfaction,” he said. “I typically try to incorporate a strong sense of mood and emotion in my writing. If you can marry good melodies with great harmonies while keeping your composition mood-inflected, then you can connect to the inner vibe of the listener.” 

Jacob’s music forays inspired him to start his own recording label, Bad Monkey Recordings, where he has released CD projects, Pouring Gasoline and Put Some Booty On It, Vol. 1, with the Boneshakers and From Me to You, his first solo masterwork.  He is presently working on an as yet-to-be-titled CD to be released in January 2009, and promises the same level of top-notch musicianship and spiritually uplifting melodies.

“I’ve had the privilege of working with so many great artists,” he said.  “I’ve learned so much and hopefully that will resonate with the ears of listeners when they check out my new project.” 

Discography

From Me to You (2005)

With the Boneshakers
Book Of Spells (1997)
Shake the Planet (1999)
Pouring Gasoline (2001)
Put Some Booty on it, Vol. 1 (2002)
Put Some Booty on it, Vo.l 2 (2006)