Take Five with Ralf Krebs

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Ralf Krebs:

The native Berliner began his musical career at the age of 11, taking lessons in drumming and latin percussion. He was much in demand as a drummer and percussionist in numerous local bands and counted amongst his influences Salsa, Fusion and the Jazz Rock of the 70s and 80s.

His love of harmony and melody led him to undertake the transition from drums to guitar. The experience he gained in his first instrument is still paying off today in his distinctive feeling for rhythm and precise timing. Whereas many guitarists think either in terms of melody or chords, Ralf Krebs simply does both—an ability which he has built up over decades of concentrated study.

Ralf studied Jazz composition at Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA and Guitar at UdK-Berlin, Germany. He works together with numerous international musicians in the Theatre, on tour, in studio and in concert. He teaches guitar at the Berliner Musikschule Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf as well as coaching Berlin based bands.r>

On his CDs Solo—from J.S. Bach to L. Breau (2002), My Room, and Berlin (2010) he unites the two worlds of jazz and classical music into one, unique solo-guitar style.


guitar, percussion, vocals

Teachers and/or influences?

My major influence is Canadian jazz guitarist Lenny Breau. His awesome fingerstyle playing on both, electric and classical guitar was outstanding (he was killed 1985). He was versatile in a lot of musical styles: blues & country, classical guitar, flamingo and jazz guitar. I like his recordings with classical guitar the most (swinging on a sevenstring, cabin fever, etc).

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

...I heard Santana's lotus triple LP. The version of "Samba Pa Ti" made me cry (I was 14 or 15 years old).

Your sound and approach to music:

My idea is to play all styles of music on classical guitar. I studied classical guitar at the UdK-Berlin, Germany and jazz guitar/jazz composition at Berklee College Of Music, Boston MA, started as an rock and funk player. The only style I´m not able to play properly is flamingo guitar. In my music I fuse all the styles I love to complex arrangements with room for improvisation.

Your teaching approach:

I love to teach! The most important idea in my approach is to give the student a positive feeling about making music. I enjoy teaching both, beginners and advanced. Teaching is a very important part of being a musician, all great composers and musicians were as well great teachers.

Your dream band:

For me the dream band is with an outstanding rhythm section, especially bass and drums. It could be Ron Carter on bass or an unknown cat, as long as they are outstanding, their in my dream band.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

The quote I hear a lot is both, funny and sad: people often ask me at a gig what I really do for living.

Favorite venue:

Schlot, Berlin, Germany

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

It's my recent album Berlin. My compositions really benefit from percussion and the electric guitar pad sounds. It adds a new dimension to the music.

The first Jazz album I bought was:

Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Moanin'

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

I fuse different styles of music together (this is one of the basic ideas in jazz, isnt it?). The sound of the classical guitar with the strict rules of classical composition techniques with improvisation and rhythm from jazz and latin music.

Did you know...

...I love computer games?

CDs you are listening to now:

Chuck Mangione, Live at the Hollywood Bowl (A & M Records);

Lenny Breau, Swinging on a seven string (Art of Life);

Al Di Meola, The Infinite Desire (Telarc);

Aziza Mustafa Zadeh, Dance Of Fire (Columbia);

Bill Evans, Alone (Verve).

Desert Island picks:

Chet Baker, It Could Happen To You (Concord);

Dave Valentin, Kalahari (GRP);

Earth Wind & Fire, I Am (Columbia);

Gidon Kremer, Hommage à Piazzolla (Nonesuch);

The Vince Mendoza / Mardin Project, Jazzpana (High Note)

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

I fear that jazz is fading in the perception of the listener. Instrumental music is a niche one.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

We should play a lot, talk to the people about the many different sounds of jazz music (a lot of them think about free jazz, when they hear you play jazz music). Most people like jazz music, but don't have the opportunity to listen to it. So we should play, play, play and talk, talk, talk.

What is in the near future?

I will record my next CD, which will be original compositions with classical guitar and string quartet. A first glimpse is the title "Summer" on my CD and the free download here at All About Jazz: "Club Sophie"

By Day:

Promote my CD!

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:


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