Alex Bernath: Jazz is all about constant change

Alex Bernath

— What inspired you to become a musician?

— To be honest, I don't know. As a child, I would grab a fork or a spoon and drum on everything around me. So it went until I got my first toy drum set, which was followed by another slightly larger one, and then a real one.

When you're little, it's just play. You can do it at will. But it was only when I grew up and had the chance to play with various orchestras and bands that I realized how amazing percussion is. I became very serious about my studies. Eventually, I even dropped out of school because of it, and continued my studies at a conservatory later.

— Why jazz? There are many other musical styles out there. Have you ever wanted to try something different?

— When I was younger, I used to play rock, something kind of in the style of Bryan Adams. At school, I met people who introduced me to funk, and through funk I came to know jazz. I realized that the language of jazz is so unique, that it can be used to play any other kind of music. It really hones your skills and musical thinking, so that it can't be replaced by anything else. Frankly, I never wanted to become a jazz drummer, but I always wanted to use the language of jazz in my music.

As for changing musical genres… I occasionally have to play different kinds of music. For example, I recently played at an Irish pub where the program included mostly covers, and it was fun. However, I realize that I've been playing jazz and funk for too long, and I don't want to stop. This is my life. Jamal and I play in the same group; he gave me lessons. There's no way I can quit.

— Jazz originated in America and spread around the world. It is more popular in some places than others. What about jazz in the Netherlands?

— Jazz in the Netherlands has a story of its own. We have many great musicians. When the Americans came here to play, they couldn't afford to bring their entire groups with them, so they hired local musicians or musicians from Germany.

Jazz is still quite popular in the Netherlands, but unless you're one of the top five musicians, or play with guys who are, it's unlikely you'll be able to make a living playing jazz. As I said, people like jazz, but there's too much of it here. I would even go so far as to say that we've grown bored with it in the Netherlands. But whenever you go to play in Germany, you always receive a warm welcome. The same thing happened at the Koktebel Jazz Party. This is not the case in the Netherlands. I can't even say that jazz is evolving here. Personally, I feel like it's stuck somewhere in the past. Only a few musicians are trying to develop it and come up with something new. Most are stuck in bebop, whereas jazz is all about constant change.

— Are people in the Netherlands familiar with the Koktebel Jazz Party?

— Not really. When I told my friends that I was going to this festival, they said, "Where?" When I said I was going to Crimea, they were concerned about my safety. The news about the situation in the region has not been good recently. Perhaps that's why they didn't know much about the Koktebel Jazz Party. You could only learn about the festival on the Internet; other media did not cover it. You should have seen my friends' faces when I came back and told them about the festival, the great musicians and the excellent organization. Everyone was pleasantly surprised.


The KoktebelJazzParty festival is a COVID-free zone. Given the difficult epidemiological situation, the terms of access to the festival may be changed, depending on the epidemiological situation in the region and the recommendations issued by the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor).
All festival participants, guests and spectators must present at least one of the three documents listed below:

  • A negative PCR test performed not earlier than August 18, 2021
  • A certificate showing the presence of antibodies to the S-protein of COVID-19, issued not earlier than May 25, 2021
  • A COVID-19 vaccination certificate

All guests, members of the audience and media representatives must wear masks and gloves at the festival venues.