Superstar bass player talks about his musical upbringing in France, solo albums, desigining basses and more
Exclusive interview with FBPO’s Jon Liebman
April 19, 2010
Hailing from France, bass player Bernard “Bunny” Brunel has performed and/or recorded with Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette, Al Jarreau, Natalie Cole, Stevie Wonder, Stanley Clarke, Dizzy Gillespie, Ziggy Marley, Gloria Estefan, Larry Coryell and countless others. In addition to being a performer, Bunny has worked extensively as a composer, arranger and producer. His projects have included collaborating with Clint Eastwood on the main theme for the award-winning film, The Unforgiven, and working on several TV shows, including the popular series, Highlander. In 2007, Bunny was musical director for French mega-pop star Michel Polnareff’s wildly successful tour, which was attended by over three million people.
Bunny has released seven solo albums: Touch, Ivanhoe, Momentum, Dedication, For You To Play, LA Zoo and his most recent, Café Au Lait. He also produces and performs with CAB, a Grammy-nominated group that includes fusion giants Tony MacAlpine, Virgil Donati, Brian Auger, Patrice Rushen and Dennis Chambers. As an educator, Bunny regularly gives seminars on his unique approach to the bass and has authored several instructional books and DVDs. Most recently, he has created a line of basses for Carvin.
FBPO: Tell me about your musical upbringing.
BB: Aside from learning solfeggio at age 6 and taking a few piano lessons at age 9, I am basically self-taught. When I picked up the bass at age 15, I just went to the Music Conservatory for three months to learn how to use the bow.
FBPO: What led to your coming to America?
BB: I was playing at Ronnie Scott’s club in London with Brazilian singer/pianist Tania Maria when “YES” keyboardist Patrick Moraz brought Chick Corea to listen to me. He was looking for a bassist to replace Stanley Clarke and he asked me to come to L.A. to play with him.
FBPO: How does America compare to France when it comes to having a musical career?
BB: It’s funny. French people like jazz music very much, yet, for some reason, the record companies and the media seem to be more interested in seeing American jazz players and they don’t support the French musicians very much.
FBPO: How did you become established as a composer?
BB: By recording my own albums.
FBPO: Do any of your solo albums stand out as being particularly special or meaningful to you?
BB: I always put in 200% on all my albums. I like them all.
FBPO: How would you describe the basses you have designed for Carvin?
BB: Being a player, I really understand how the instrument should be made – the balance, the weight, the pickups, etc. I really spent some time to find the best way to make it. I also designed an Electric Upright Bass that I decided to produce myself. It sounds like a great acoustic bass and you can play it with a bow.
FBPO: Are you still performing with CAB? Any new tours or recordings on the horizon?
BB: Yes, we have a tour in Europe coming up in November and December this year.
FBPO: Tell me about your instructional books and DVDs. Your Complete Book of Bass Essentials book/DVD/CD, for one, has become quite popular.
BB: Well, as I said, being self-taught gave me a good understanding of how to explain the correct way to play the bass. I give great lessons and I’ve helped some great musicians, like Kyle Eastwood, Marco Mendoza and Jason Sheff, to name a few.
FBPO: What else is keeping you busy these days?
BB: I am always working on some recordings for new albums. Also, besides taking care of supervising the building of the Electric Upright Bass, I compose music for films.
FBPO: What do you like to do when you’re not making music?
BB: Play tennis!