Take Five With Victor Acker

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Meet Victor Acker: Victor Acker is one half of the Boston-based Acker Bros., both of whom are Berklee College alums with three funny and funky albums to their credit, which borrow liberally from enough musical categories to defy hard categorization themselves. They want you to love them.

Instrument(s): guitar.

Teachers and/or influences? I had been playing for seventeen years by the time I got to The Berklee College of Music. They put names to a lot of things I was already doing and gave me a big push forward in my never-ending quest for knowledge about the guitar and harmony in general. My influences are too numerous to list in detail. Some of the bigger ones over the past ten years have been Bireli Lagrene, Sylvain Luc, Jesse Van Ruller, Pat Metheny, Scott Henderson, and Dr. Bellows to name a few.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... Like everybody else on the planet, I heard The Beatles.

Your sound and approach to music: I hope my sound is constantly evolving. Right now I am at a crossroads where I would like to create something new. But of course, shouldn't we all be? You can't say the word "fusion" anymore so I'll call it "sound collage." That sounds even more ridiculous. In any event, I have always loved an even blend of "outside" and "inside" harmony, and if a bit of humor found its way into it then so be it. All of my favorite musicians have a great sense of humor. I guess I like to make people say "What the heck was that?" when they listen to my stuff. Maybe an odd sound that seems to come out of nowhere and land right in the middle of a place it doesn't belong or a strange break or whatever. The most important thing is that the melody, no matter how "out" or "in" it is, be somewhat memorable. Not memorable like an automobile accident. More like a delicious steak dinner.

Your teaching approach: My approach to teaching is this: I want to give you stuff that you will use on the bandstand tonight. Or, you know, in your next recording. Phrasing and rhythmic accuracy and inventiveness are key, of course, if you improvise, and I try to emphasize that. But basically I want to get you where you want to go as quickly as possible. Bach etudes are great, but I'm not really into beating people over the head with scales. They are easy enough to find and do on your own, and you absolutely should. But my main concern is to get you out there playing because that is where you're going to make leaps and bounds, not only with your chops but with musicality as well.

Your dream band: Jim Beard and Scott Kinsey on keyboards; Tim Lefebvre on bass; Zach Danziger on drums; Wayne Shorter on sax; Miss Emma Peel on Go-Go dancing; Manolo Badrena on percussion.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? That would be Dungaree Jazz. We were a lot less self-conscious back then. I would really like to get back to that point.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? Hopefully forward-thinking. We want to continue to drag jazz kicking and screaming to another place. Just to let people know that there are people out there doing other things with jazz. We'd like to teach the world to sing.

Did you know... I was a professional firefighter for a couple of years.

CDs you are listening to now: Eliane Elias - Around The City (Bluebird/RCA Victor, 2006); George Duke - In A Mellow Tone (BPM, 2006); Sylvain Luc - Joko (Dreyfus, 2007); Joe Zawinul - Vienna Nights (BHM, 2005); Uri Caine & Shelf Life - Bedrock (Winter & Winter, 2005).

Desert Island picks: Jim Beard - Advocate (Escapade, 1999); Beatles - Hard Days Night (Capitol, 1964); Earth, Wind & Fire - Greatest Hits Live (Rhino, 1996); Bireli Lagrene and Sylvain Luc - Duet (Dreyfus, 2000); Weather Report - Heavy Weather (Columbia/Legacy, 1977).

How would you describe the state of jazz today? Jazz seems to be held hostage right now by some folks who want to recreate the past over and over. Or to define it as one thing - tenor sax over a piano, an upright bass and a trap set, blowing some derivative of bop. Love it and respect it but... There is a lot of other great, great jazz music out there, if you are willing to look beyond the sea of uninteresting trios and quartets. To name a few folks: Tim Lefebvre's Rudder, Uri Caine, Jim Beard, Wayne Krantz, Scott Kinsey in this country; and in Europe: Sylvain Luc, Jesse Van Ruller, Zawinul of course. A lot of the up-and-comers here in America just really aren't that interesting to my ears. Some of the folks (many of whom were at Berklee while I was) that get the big push via the big magazines, confound me while people like Jesse Van Ruller and Sylvain Luc and Bireli Lagrene, whose musicality is mind-boggling and forget about their chops, go largely ignored here.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? Keep it moving forward. Put a mandatory twenty-five year ban on The American Songbook. Hand out wah-wah pedals. Decriminalize synthesizers. Instead of wallowing in its history, let's try and make some. Ah, five... six... seven... eight...

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