Guitarist-composers, bandleaders and compulsive hangers, Pete Bernstein and Gilad Hekselman each have left a strong mark on contemporary sound. As proud descendants of a fabled guitar lineage, Hekselman and Bernstein over the years have collaborated with diverse artists, including Mark Turner, Chris Potter, Esperanza Spalding, and Ben Wendel, as well as Joshua Redman, Diana Krall, Nicholas Payton and Dr. Lonnie Smith, respectively. Back on New York City soil after a couple tightly-booked European tours, both artists took a few minutes to discuss playing with and off each other, democratic leadership (in music) and the DNA of their sound.
The Jazz Gallery: Pete, you were just out for a while—exclusively in Europe?
Pete Bernstein: I was all around Europe, starting Moscow, then up through Paris. Did a few stops with Larry Goldings and Bill Stewart. It was fun all around. We had like 15 gigs in 18 days.
PB: Yeah, I guess so. It’s a miracle when a tour is actually put together. It’s really hard to do, a lot of work. Buying tickets, hotel coordinating… The whole idea of how a booking agent does that, it’s kind of amazing. It’s like architecture. And fishing. At the same time. The first part is fishing because you just throw a gig into the water and see who takes the bait, and then you get one big one you try to book around it. There’s an art to it, I think.
TJG: Apt. Do you guys always use the same booking agent for your Europe tours?
PB: Yeah, we’ve been using the same booking agent Helen Kondos. [We’ve been working with her] for about four years. She’s great. She’s very unusual, too, because she’ll send dozens of emails saying, “Okay, do you guy wanna do this to make this flight? The next day you’d have to get up and do this…” She’s very much involved in what our experience will be, which is nice. Most people just try to put [the tour] together and cut corners or save money—they just do whatever. She’s about asking us what we would rather do.
TJG: Well then we should totally give her a shout out in this interview.
PB: Yeah, she’s unusual. A lot of times you look at it on paper and it’s like wow: four days in a row you’re waking up at five in the morning. After a while, you really start to crumble when things are put together in a very sadistic way.
The whole thing is a miracle, but especially the first step, when someone actually wants us to come play for them. And then people come out and see the gig. That’s all miraculous.
TJG: You still find that first part miraculous, after all the years you’ve been out there?
PB: I find it more miraculous than ever now. Gilad, maybe you know the feeling: You get on a couple of airplanes, take a van ride and you’re at this place and you’re like, “Where the fuck are we?” And then people actually come out. It’s amazing.
Gilad Hekselman: I agree. I think too often, especially in some situations that I’ve been in, people take that stuff for granted, but I agree with you.