Jeff Berlin is an American bass player. Jeff appears alongside Allan on Esther Phillips "Boy I Really Turned One On" off "Capricorn Princess", two studio albums by Bruford, and the "Road Games" album.
- 1 A Conversation With Allan Holdsworth (Abstract Logix 2005)
- 2 Allan Holdsworth (Guitar Player 1980)
- 3 Allan Holdsworth (Guitar Player 1982)
- 4 Allan Holdsworth (Music UK 1983)
- 5 Allan Holdsworth - Jazz Fusion Guitarist (Musicguy247 2017)
- 6 Guitar Phenom Allan Holdsworth Says He's Not That Impressed By Flash (The Georgia Straight 1983)
- 7 Harnessing momentum (Innerviews 2008)
- 8 Jimmy Johnson's Bass Concept (Guitar World 1989)
- 9 No Rearview Mirrors (20th Century Guitar 2007)
- 10 No Record Contract, No Big Hoopla, But The Fans Have Kept The Faith For Allan Holdsworth (Guitar World 1982)
- 11 Once Upon a Lifetime (Jazz Times 2010)
- 12 Player Of The Month (Beat Instrumental 1978)
- 13 The Innocent Abroad (Musician 1984)
- 14 The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever (Guitar Player 2008)
Bill: What was Jeff Berlin like in those days?
Allan: He was great; an incredible musician. I think he can be a little challenging to some people but I always really enjoyed working with him. I haven't seen him for years.
How did you happen to play with Bill Bruford?
Bill asked me if I would play on his album, Feels Good To Me. Afterwards, I started to really get sick of soloing. I couldn't stand it any longer, so I just killed myself with alcohol. When Bill asked me to work on his second album, One Of A Kind, I expected things to be different, especially since he had Jeff Berlin on bass. Jeff's a very good player.
Does a bassist such as Jeff, who plays lots of chords, free you up to do more solo work?
Well it's really great in this trio situation because he sounds like three guys. It's great; Jeff's perfect. I love his playing anyway. We're toying with the idea of adding someone else, but someone who's not going to fulfill the normal keyboard role, because the last thing I want it to turn into is just another jazz-rock band. I just hope there's enough in this band for everyone to keep them happy.
The first IOU band split after a series of gigs in the New York area and the East Coast because of internal problems within the band.
‘It all got too much, one of the band thought everything that went wrong was my fault, and I just didn't need that pressure. With the old band I'd get on stage and not even want to play, I'd feel this evil vibe on stage. Paul is the only guy with me from the old band, and I recruited Chad Wackerman on drums, and Jeff Berlin on bass for the current line-up.'
As you'll know if you read September's issue, Eddie Van Halen is the self-confessed number one Allan Holdsworth freak, and it's obvious that Allan appreciated the way in which Edward, as he likes to call him, put himself out for the band's sake. He also appreciates his new band. ‘Jeff Berlin is such a strong player, especially in the trio context, he's so harmonically happening, it makes my job a lot easier. Having Chad Wackerman is great - he plays fantastically, they're both really nice guys, and they don't particularly give me a hard time you know, which is really important . . . I don't get any headaches, and they're not continuously complaining at me all day making me feel bad. So I'm a lot happier about it now, and I feel freer to play the guitar and get on with that rather than worry about what somebody's thinking.'
R.V.B. - Why did you move to the United States? Was it tough to pick up from your homeland and move here?
A.H. - When I first got my own band together, the singer - Paul Williams - lived in Tustin California, with his wife. They invited me to stay with them. I was married at the time but I went out there on my own. I started working with some musicians like Chad Wakerman and Jeff Berlin. We started doing gigs and people started showing up... which was amazing. We went from playing in a pub to 6 people, to a 250 seat club that was packed. It wasn't a tough decision at all. I had been to America before when I came to New York in 1976 to work with Tony Williams. I started my solo career in England but it was a struggle. It started gaining momentum in the States, so I made the jump. I decided to stay because it was all about the music. Then my family moved out here.
The new Road Games album was the opposite. We had plenty of time to record it, but we just got shoved around so much by the record company. Which is why it says “produced by circumstance”, because for three of the tracks I was forced to mix at a studio that stinks in my opinion. They had a Harrison console in there, and I just don't like the way they sound. Some people like them and some people don't and I don't.
Warner Brothers wouldn't let me mix it anywhere else, so I had to spend my own I.O.U money in order to remix three tracks and make it liveable with. But there is some good playing on it; Chad and Jeff play great on it.
Nobody played like Tony. When he switched from the jazz thing to whatever you would call what Lifetime did—fusion, I guess—no-one had ever heard anybody play the drums like that. I still have never heard anyone who does. It was his own thing. I was only in his band for a couple of years. It was a short stint because of management and financial problems. I was staying at his house for awhile. He had a tall townhouse in New York City at 141st Street and Broadway. There were a couple of top floors he didn't use and he'd let me stay there and we would play all the time. He kept inviting people over. For awhile, Lifetime was just me and Tony. There were no other members, so different bass players would come by until we found someone he really dug. Jeff Berlin came by and so did Jaco Pastorius around December 1975. It was an interesting time.
As an accompanist, Johnson prefers a keyboard's support. "It's really tricky playing a trio with Al, because when he starts to take a solo, I wish I could be comping as cool as he comps. I can't do it. Jeff Berlin can play a lot of voicings, but I'm more of a one-note-at-a-time guy. It's actually more fun for me because I don't have to systematically think it out; I can play the bass note, hear the chord and then take it from there.
Bill Bruford: Just going back to the time, I was figuring what I wanted to do after I left Genesis in ‘76- ‘77 was start my own recording career. To do that you need to call some people, I found Jeff Berlin in Long Island where he was living. And I knew I wanted Allan Holdsworth. With Allan, you needed a bass player who could keep up. Against those two, you really needed a steady keyboard player who wasn't going to be a soloist so much. So Dave Stewart was the obvious keyboard choice for this thing. That was the core group, but we also added a jazz flugelhorn player here called Kenny Wheeler and Annette Peacock, who was Gary Peacock's wife, the bass player with DeJohnette. She was residing here in the U.K. at the time. So it was kind of a cool quartet with guests really. It was great. We hit if off right from the start. Allan was terrific. Around that time, America was pretty unfamiliar with Allan in the late ‘70s. We knew him here. And in a way, that was the bridge for Allan between the U.K. and the United States,
No Record Contract, No Big Hoopla, But The Fans Have Kept The Faith For Allan Holdsworth (Guitar World 1982)
Guitar history was made in Los Angeles. where Van Halen jammed with Holdsworth at one of his shows, and acknowledged the Englishman as a champion of the guitar. Allan didn't brag about it; rather, he concentrated on his appreciation of such a gracious gesture. He explained to me how it came about: "Jeff Berlin and his band were playing with us that night, and we just thought it would be nice if Eddie would play with us. I met Ed originally about three or four years ago while I was working with UK. Just briefly. you know, I didn't get to know him that well then. At my first Roxy gig we talked, and Ed - he's really a great guy. I said, ‘Come on down in the afternoon when we're playing,' and he and Jeff came down and we had a bit of a fertile afternoon session. Then we came up with the idea that we should all get up and play a bit at the end of the show. Eddie worked out this tune, and we did it that night in L.A."
The guitarist flew to New York and stayed in a hotel for a while before eventually settling into the drummer's Upper Manhattan abode. “It was just me and Tony at first, playing together and developing material,” he recalls. “And then he would invite different bass players over to play. There was an upright bassist named Juno, and then we played with Jaco Pastorius, which was a great opportunity for me. And Jeff Berlin also came up.”
Bill Bruford's solo album (out this month) is the latest of Holdsworth's projects; the featured musicians also include Dave Stewart on keyboards and an American called Jeff Berlin on bass, whom Allan spent several minutes enthusing over ("He's a killer. He's gonna scare a lot of people. Really lethal." ) At the time of writing secret rehearsals are going on with a new band believed to include Bruford, Holdsworth, Eddie Jobson and John Wetton. Whether this will result in a touring band, or in an album, or in both, is not known yet. Allan had been sworn to silence even regarding band personnel, and this information came from "another source". Let's just hope it's accurate.
Indeed, Paul Carmichael and especially Gary Husband were unable to get used to living in a very foreign land. As Williams relates, "Gary was having trouble dealing with his own head, so to speak. He wasn't very well; his father died and he was suffering a lot, so it was affecting us. So he went back to England." Holdsworth filled their chairs with journeyman bassist Jeff Berlin and Zappa alumnus Chad Wackerman (great name for a drummer, eh?).
“Only the elite musician wishes not to imitate. Originality and finding your own voice are the only beacons that the elite musician follows. Allan is one of these musicians.” —Jeff Berlin