An übertalk with Avi Bortnick

Image Credits: Avi Bortnick © Louis Obbens

June 26, 2017
Divided among the dates with Michael Blake, the preparation of the upcoming European tour with John Scofield’s Überjam Band and the designing of a new musical app, the guitarist, author and producer Avi Bortnick has had a chat with Jazzespresso.
> Ivano Rossato

In a few days you will be back in tour with John Scofield and Überjam Band, is there also a new album coming out?
Actually, there are a lot of new tracks on which we worked about two years ago. We were almost ready to record, when our drummer was hired for a TV show that involved him completely. Therefore, Sco decided to postpone the recording. We still don’t know if they will be part of the tracklist, that will be surely composed by the tracks taken from the last three albums with the Überjam Band and others taken from Blue Matter, as Dennis Chambers will be with us on drums. Probably, we will start to insert the new tracks after some concerts, when we are annoyed by the old ones!
In your concerts, you usually utilise your laptop in addition to the normal instruments; can computers be considered as real musical instruments when composing and playing?
The computer remains an effect processor more than a real instrument. A system allowing to create any sort of strange sound, timbre or effect manipulation, but in which there’s, however, something “disconnected”, if compared to the guitar and strings vibration, to the finger resistance, to the sensation physically spread in all your body. There are musicians who are very capable and very creative in using such software; in a few clicks you can create really good tracks even if you are a total idiot, but in my opinion the real artists are the people programming the software! The funny thing is that by listening again to the old Überjam material, I find more and more boring not the tracks, but the computer role in them.
What do you think, instead, of the technology used as a mean for distributing and listening to the music?
I’m not one of those musicians who are trying to oppose themselves to the spread of streaming and downloading. Technology is too seducing and convenient, I myself use it continually to discover new music that I could never be able to find in any other way. We don’t enjoy music anymore in that intimate way as it happened when we were younger, when we couldn’t afford buying a lot of records and therefore we were always listening to the same music. I deem that a professional musician’s income should mainly derive from live shows, as it was in the past, when the only way to record and sell an album was that of signing up for an important label. Nowadays anybody can record by spending less money than in past times, but to be able to live of your music you still have to be really very good.
Will you go back to play in South-East Asia?
By now we don’t have anything scheduled, even if we talked about going back to China. We played many times in Japan, South Korea, China and Indonesia, places where I was really impressed by artists such as the super creative Japanese drummer Yuko Araki from Mi-Gu or the Indonesian pianist Indra Lesmana.

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