California, Paul Berner spent his youth in a small town on the Great
Plains. There he started playing guitar at age 13 and was soon playing
in a local rock band. The double bass followed a couple years
later, coinciding with his developing interest in jazz. At 18,
after 3 years, but only a few lessons, on bass, he passed the audition
for entrance to the University of Iowa School of Music. Intent on
developing his technique and his musical horizons, he chose to study
classical bass playing, though he always was involved with jazz music
outside of school. After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in
Music Performance, Paul moved to Bloomington, Indiana for post-graduate
studies at the Indiana University School of Music, also in classical
bass. Here he came in contact with musicians such as Peter
Erskine, Kenny Aronoff, Todd Coolman, Jim Beard, and John Clayton.
After completing his Master’s at Indiana and working regularly with classical orchestras in Iowa and Indiana, Paul made the decision to concentrate full-time on jazz. After a year of woodshedding, he moved in 1979 to New York City and within a few months became a member of the Red Rodney Quintet, recording with him live at the Village Vanguard in 1980. Later that year he was asked to join the Lionel Hampton Orchestra. During his tenure with Hamp Paul shared the bus with legendary drummer Frank Dunlap, and also with Curtis Fuller, Arnett Cobb, and Benny Bailey. He played concerts all over the world, including at the White House, and accompanied Stan Getz, Freddie Hubbard, Pearl Bailey, and many others.
In 1981 Paul came in contact with Monty Alexander, who subsequently asked him to work with him. Paul left the Hampton organization and joined Monty’s trio, going on the road with him until 1983. In Monty's band were, at different times, Robert Thomas Jr., Emily Remler, and Duffy Jackson. The trio also performed several times as the back-up band for Milt Jackson.
As great as it was to be working with many of his musical heroes, Paul decided in 1983 to come off the road and to begin working on his own music. However, following his own muse soon led him in the direction of pop and rock music and song writing. In the years between 1984 and 1989 he was involved with several original pop music projects in NYC as a writer, but also as guitarist and bass guitarist. During this time he also did short return stints with both Lionel Hampton and Monty Alexander and worked as well with Mel Lewis, Bob Berg, Kenny Werner and Art Farmer, among many others.
In 1990 Paul made a “quality of life” decision and moved his base of operations to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. To paraphrase Bill Frisell, he wanted a house with a room where he could just sit and think! After arriving in the Netherlands he soon found his talents much in demand, and consequently he has worked with many well-known Dutch and Belgian artists such as Cees Slinger, Toon Roos, Toots Thielemans, Dré Pallemaerts, Jesse van Ruller, Cor Bakker, Frits Landesbergen, and Laura Fygi. In addition international artists such as Shirley Bassey, George Coleman, Michael Moore and, again, Monty Alexander call upon his bass playing.