The Don Berner Trio will be hitting a Red Deer stage this weekend, performing Sept. 7th and 8th at the One Eleven Grill.
The accomplished Edmontonian is keeping up a busy schedule performing – and it’s a lifestyle that suits him just fine. He enjoys taking to the stage in an era where the recording industry seems to be in a constant state of flux anyways.
He went through a season of questioning just how important recording really was in the bigger picture. But he’s come to see that it indeed matters – and plans are already underway for a brand new project.
“I’ve kind of re-discovered what it is,” he explained during a recent chat.
Berner recalls a talk with a friend about the recording industry, and the fellow mentioned that no matter how obscure a given artist might be, that person would be missed by some folks if he wasn’t recording anymore.
“That made things very clear – why do you record? Because people enjoy it,” he said with a laugh.
He’s already got a pretty good idea of the direction the project will ultimately take.
“I’ve been playing a lot of what’s called dixie or traditional New Orleans jazz this year – it’s really happy music that people enjoy. I was thinking that this is really the origin of jazz really. And I think the reason it’s also relatable for audiences that aren’t jazz-specific is that they are simple tunes that are really dance music essentially,” he said.
“So I will take this dixie/brass band kind of configuration and do some more contemporary dance tunes in a jazz idiom.”
Berner is looking at heading into the studio early next year. Part of the prep includes of course selecting a producer.
“On my last album I had Tommy Banks produce it, and that was a really invaluable learning experience,” he said.
Sadly, Banks has since passed away so Berner is considering his options in terms of who could helm the next project.
“There aren’t really a whole lot of guys around this neck of the woods with the same body of experience and knowledge of music and recording, so I’m not entirely certain,” he said.
”Even if it’s just an extra set of ears, it never hurts to have someone there to give you feedback.
“But I might look at bringing someone in from a little further afield as well,” he said, adding that he doesn’t mind in the slightest having another person leading the production process. “It removed a whole bunch of headaches for me,” he laughed, recalling earlier experiences. “I kind of enjoyed that.”
Not that he’s not adept when it comes to arranging and leading on a particular project.
But there are times when it’s nice to let others help to carve out a creative path in terms of production. “I’m just as happy to show up and be told what to do. Sure I would like some creative input, but how that is translated into reality, well, I’m happy to have someone do that. It’s just a matter of finding someone who is really good at it.”
It brings back thoughts of Banks and his enduring influence.
“The biggest thing that pops into my head that kind of encompasses everything I was able to learn from him, is just to have an insatiable curiosity.
“Tommy knew a lot because right up until the time he was 80, he was learning stuff, talking to people, finding out about them, and finding out about processes.”
Berner got off to an early introduction to music – his dad played trumpet as a hobbyist and his mom was a piano teacher so it wasn’t long before he was formally studying music.
He took lessons for about four years, and during those growing years, his folks urged Berner and his brother to try a number of activities from sports to other types of artistic expression and musical performance.
Berner eventually discovered the saxophone and was pretty much hooked from the get-go – there was something about the sleek, cool sounds of the saxophone that struck him.
A love for jazz was sparked during his first year in high school. And the rest is, as they say, history. Today, Berner is recognized as being at the forefront due to his striking talent.
Over the years, he has been featured on CBC recordings with the bands of the aforementioned Banks and Tilo Pailaz and has appeared at several prominent jazz venues including the Yardbird Suite and Jazz City festival.
Also, he has performed in Edmonton’s Winspear centre, Jubilee auditorium, and Calgary’s Jack Singer hall. Berner has toured extensively all of Canada with various bands, has appeared in Hong Kong (at the prestigious five-star hotel the Grand Hyatt), and over 20 U.S. states (with Chicago label Blind Pig Records artist E.C. Scott).
“I guess that I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a rewarding career that I enjoy, and that I choose on a daily basis,” he said. “Just trying to contribute to a ‘live’ music legacy and sense of community is rewarding in and of itself.
“Also, if you’ve created good experiences for someone other than yourself, that’s pretty satisfying.”