Jeff Berkley & Friends bring special accoustic blend to Java Joe’s
by Bart Mendoza
Sep 19, 2012 | 3145 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jeff Berkley, a top-flight percussionist and guitarist, is half of the duo Berkley Hart, which performs Sept. 27 at Java Joe’s. 
                                                      Courtesy photo
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Long considered one of San Diego’s premier singer-songwriters, the tag only scratches the surface when it comes to Jeff Berkley. In addition to his own music, Berkley, who performs at Java Joe’s on Sept. 27, is one-half of the acclaimed duo Berkley Hart.

The pair has a San Diego Music Award to its credit in the Best Americana Album category for the disc “Twelve.” A top-flight percussionist and guitarist, Berkley has also led a succession of popular local combos like Citizen Band. Additionally, he’s a sideman seen occasionally on stage with artists ranging from Talk Like June to Jackson Browne.

Immersed in music 24/7, Berkley has also become one of San Diego’s top producers at his own Berkley Sound Studios, with a resume that includes albums from the likes of acoustic troubadour Gregory Page and country singer Barbara Nesbitt. Despite helming the board on dozens of noteworthy titles, Berkley remains humble, giving the credit back to the musicians involved.

“I’ve been really lucky to get to work with great artists, which makes me look better,” Berkley said.

The Sept. 27 show is part of a monthly residency begun in June, dubbed Jeff Berkley and Friends. To date, the focus has been on acoustic music, though there’s no hard-and-fast rule as to what might take place on any given night. The “Friends” part of the bill changes each time, with an impressive roster of local notables that include Jeffrey Joe Morin, Rob Deez, The Lovebirds, Tolan Shaw and Podunk Nowhere.

“I wanted to give the audience a variety of music and not have it be the same singer-songwriter every minute,” Berkley said. “I just have people come up and do a few tunes and if it’s something we both know, we’ll play together. If it’s not, we don’t.”

Berkley’s life in music was perhaps inevitable.

“It’s in my blood,” he said. “My dad was a musician. My grandfather before him was a poet and a musician. What inspired me was growing up watching my dad play bass in rock ’n’ roll bands when I was a kid. It just made me want to do it.”

During the late 1960s, his father played in such top area bands as Sound Foundation and Population Five and even worked with Elvis Presley.

“Then later on, when he was a minister, I learned to play music in his churches,” Berkley said.

A quick study, Berkley’s enthusiasm meant that by the time he was 15 years old around 1985, he had made his debut with the band, The Cry, at the now-defunct concert venue The Bacchanal. By the time he was 17, he was backing British guitarist Dave Sharp of the Welsh hitmakers The Alarm.

Upcoming projects include a new Berkley Hart album and a bluegrass album, as well as a possible new band that Berkley said will be “rockier,” though he mentions a pedal steel player will be involved.

It’s clear Berkley is in the eye of a creative hurricane. After more than

25 years of making music, which he said is the most important part of his life, he’s still enthusiastic about creating new sounds and live performance.

“Which is weird, because you’d have thought I’d have tired of it by now,” Berkley said. “When I’m not playing with the band, I’m working in the studio. I’m not saying that you’re happy at the end of every gig, necessarily. It’s not like there aren’t times — like everybody in every career — where you’re going, ‘What am I doing? But I could never stop playing. I’ve got it in my blood now. I’ve just got to play.”

• Jeff Berkley & Friends perform at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27 at Java Joes, 4976 Newport Ave. All ages. $5. www.javajoessd.com.
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