Mike Rud Interview – New Album: “Salome’s Dance: The Mike Rud Trio Invites Peter Bernstein”

Guitarist, composer and educator Mike Rud won a Juno award in 2014 for his album Notes from Montreal.

Mike has a new two guitars/bass/drums album out: Salome’s Dance – The Mike Rud Trio Invites Peter Bernstein. It was recorded in Montreal in 2018 with regular trio members Alec Walkington and Dave Laing. The album cover graphic was the winner from a competition. Sebastian found out more.

Mike Rud and Peter Bernstein with bassist Adrien Vedady. Photo credit Lyle Robinson.

How did you first get to know Peter Bernstein?

That was back in the spring of 1992. He was up visiting Montreal, and our mutual friend, the very fine bassist Jennifer Vincent, called me up and said “you have to come out and hear this amazing guitarist I know.” We hit it off fairly well and I played a little with him in the couple of years after that when I was living on and off in New York.

And you both studied with Jim Hall…

We did, and Jim mentioned Peter to me specifically as someone to check out. You can really hear Jim’s influence in Peter, I think.

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LINK: Mike Rud’s memories of studying with Jim Hall

I guess over the time you have known each other and played together, you and Peter Bernstein have found other affinities…

It’s mostly been about the music. He’s a great guy and a family man. I do recall that the main thing we had in common at first was a love of Grant Green.

The names of your trio mates will be unfamiliar to readers outside Canada. Are they both –  like you were until recently –  adoptive Montrealers?

Alec and Dave are both originally from Ottawa, which is so close to Montreal that Ottawans are practically Montrealers. Al (my first roommate) was playing tons and tons of gigs (often with Dave) when we were all in Montreal in the late 80s and early 90s. They were then, and often still are, a really accomplished package deal together. That’s one of the reasons I chose them for this…I knew Peter would enjoy the hookup and musicality of these two fellows. As has happened with other albums I’ve made, I feel I can take plenty of chances when playing with a rhythm section like that. They are that fantastic combination of flexible and strong. They support, they listen, they contribute, and they really get the song.

I had expected the title track Salome’s Dance to be a bit frenetic. It is very measured – what’s the story?

Originally, I had some more up tempo stuff written for the album, but bit by bit it just kind of happened that the more serene, introspective pieces were the ones that suggested themselves. I kind of like that I’ve finally done something with an overriding tone. But honestly it just kind of naturally came out that way.

I wrote the title track “Salome’s Dance” long before I had that title. It was a sultry thing, and I was thinking of the seducer and then remembered the Biblical story of Salome and the dance she did for Herod, to win his favour and demand that she be presented with the head of John the Baptist. This sultry, troublemaking character was the perfect fit for the vibe of the tune.   

And in general what led you to the choices of material here?

When you’ve got a bunch of strong partners to play with, you exploit that as much as possible. I wanted to write good steady vehicles to bring out these musicians’ best instincts in the moment, and I stayed in my general neighbourhood: tonal tunes with solid melodies. When you write that way, I feel like everyone can relax and listen.

I gather there are some counterfacts. Without spoiling the plot can you give an example?

Yes and even the ones that aren’t counterfacts are like counterfacts, and hence very useful for soloing and trading etc. There’s one I’m quite happy with that’s kind of written on Dizzy Gillespie’s Con Alma, which is a tune I knew Peter liked.

Which of you suddenly surprises us with a quote from “English Country Garden” (3:54 in Getting Sentimental)?

That’s me haha! The second full day of recording I was dealing with a lot of stress (nothing to do with the project) and so I dealt with it by taking the risk of a long, medium tempo acapella solo chorus on that tune. Worked like a charm. Sometimes if I’m feeling tense, I deal with it by ramping up the risk a little bit like that. Brings something out in me. I was happy how that one turned out, and it kind of set the spirit for a lot of the rest of the day.  

For gear-heads, what is your main guitar here?

I’m playing a 1984 or 85 Ibanez F-G 100, which is a lot like their George Benson model. Peter plays a custom guitar that I can never remember the name of. He’s playing a lovely Fender tube amp lent to us by a wonderful guitarist in Montreal, Gary Schwartz, and I’m playing through a great new amp by the DV Mark company.

I loved the lettering on the album cover –  who did that?

The album is published by Bent River Records, which is part of Edmonton’s MacEwan University. They did a contest within their graphic design class and I reviewed about 15 submissions, many of which were truly impressive. Finally I went with one by a student named Alan Ngo. It puts a great sort of 60s feeling across. 

You’ve moved away from Montreal to Nelson in British Columbia. What’s the story and aren’t you missing Mile End….and the club Upstairs…and poutine?

I do miss it, and I especially miss my daughters. But I managed to land a teaching job at Selkirk College here in Nelson, and the situation just could not be better. The colleagues, students, musicians and city are all like something out of a dream. I’ll be able to get out in the summers and perform a lot, and meanwhile, during the rest of the year I just love teaching. I drank very deep of Montreal. I didn’t realise how good it was going to feel to go to a place where you smell fresh mountain air as soon as you open the door. Also, my roommate here is one of the very finest pianists on planet earth: Dave Restivo. Every day is a music lesson.

Mike Rud and Peter Bernstein. Photo credit Lyle Robinson.

LINKS: Salome’s Dance is released on Bent River Records

Review of Mike Rud and Peter Bernstein from Upstairs in Montreal in 2016

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