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Bernie Kenerson

Bernie Kenerson

Bernie Kenerson

You play an Akai EWI 4000s -- Can you give us a little background on Electronic Wind Instruments?

Electric Wind Instruments were invented in the 70's by two different people working separately. Bill Bernardi in Hanover, Massachusetts with the Lyricon and and Nyle Steiner in Salt Lake City, Utah with the EVI (electric valve instrument). Both worked on their prototypes in the early 70's and had working instruments by 1975. Tom Scott got the first Lyricon - you can hear him playing it on the 'Tom Cat' album of that year. Lyricons where hand built and retailed for $3000. Only about 300 were made and I still have mine which I bought from Bill Bernardi in April 1978 while I was attending Berklee College of Music in Boston. I met with Bill many times at his small factory and treasure these historic memories. In 1987 after the advent of MIDI Yamaha came out with the WX7 Midi Wind Controller and Akai the EWI/EVI. The Yamaha WX7 owes it's conception to Bernardi's Lyricon and the MIDI EVI/EWI is Steiner's. These Midi Wind Controllers could be connected to any midi device. I received one of the first shipments of WX7's in November of 1987 and ended up with a 15 space rack of gear and did lots of midi sequencing on my Atari 1040ST computer. Upgraded models have come out over the years and the new Akai EWI 4000s is the latest and greatest. With past models the instrument had to be wired to an external sound module but with Akai's latest EWI the synth engine is onboard, built into the instrument itself. There are 100 sounds and built in reverb, delay and chorus effect. Used with wireless audio and midi I'm now totally free of wires. Free at last, free at last!

What originally drew you to playing these type of instruments?

I heard lots of electric music while growing up. The rock of the late 60's and 70's had lots of hot electric guitar and synthesizers leads. Of course then there's electric Miles Davis, Weather Report, Return to Forever and the whole fusion thing. I was hooking up guitar effects pedals to my sax using a Barcus-Berry pickup in 1975 so when I heard there was an electric horn coming out I knew I had to have one.

What other instruments do you play in addition to the EWI?

I own and regularly play piccolo, flute, alto flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, penny whistles, and keyboards.

JUST YOU & ME (The Art of the EWI) is your latest release offering up a classic contemporary jazz sound. Can you give us a window into the process of making this recording?

This basic track beds for this cd were recorded live at my drummer's (Art Weiss) Big City Music Studio here in Myrtle Beach. Art was in the drum booth, and the rest of us ran direct into the board and used head phones. We rehearsed each song a few times working out the arrangement and then started recording. Some of the tracks are first takes. I did most of my overdubs and editing at my home studio. I'm really happy with how it turned out and love working this way. All the musicians on the recording did a great job interpreting and playing my songs. Thanks guys!

You played music in the Army, how did that help you sharpen your professional music career?

The Army Band was a fantastic professional music experience, playing and practicing daily on different instruments in various ensembles. A usual duty day consisted of concert or marching band in the morning and big band, show band or jazz quartet in the afternoon. Lots of reading, lots of jamming and lots of performing. The disciplined and consistant environment was very conducive to musical development. I was able to become a very proficient doubler from having access too and performing experience on various woodwind instruments. The traveling and performing was great and I got to do many high profile performances; playing for US Presidents, foreign dignitaries and big festivals. I also served as staff arranger and wrote arrangements for everything from marching band to jazz ensemble. My five years stationed in Europe was the best time I had in the Army. There are lots of very talented musicians in our military bands!

Who are your biggest musical influences?

I've been listening to jazz for a long time and like everything from Dixieland to Acid Jazz. I'm fond of just about all styles of the last fifty years of jazz. I've been listening to what has become known as Smooth Jazz since the mid 70's. What's funny about influences is that some people think that when you list some influences that means you should sound like them or play music in their style. I'm first and foremost an improviser who loves to jam and my style was pretty much formed by my mid 20's. Since then I've just been adding to my jazz vocabulary. Okay, so to narrow it down to just a few, my biggest influences are John Coltrane, Michael Brecker, Miles Davis, John Klemmer, David Sanborn, Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea, and the Yellowjackets.

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