Born in Denmark, Kristian Borring now lives in one of the most-remote major cities on earth – Perth, on the far western coast of Australia – yet is making international waves with serious jazz chops. With his trio, Number Junky, Borring is unveiled as a tour-de-force on Earth Matters, delivering sensational improvisations left and right. VG checked in with the bop ace from the other side of the planet.
Who are your guitar influences?
I grew up in a small Danish port town, Faaborg. There wasn’t really much jazz around, but I was part of a group of guys playing and listening together. I guess Metheny and Scofield were big for me for a while, and later, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Peter Bernstein. Of the older guys, I’ve always gravitated to Wes and Jim Hall and non-jazz guitarists such as B.B. King and Eric Clapton. In my early teens, it was all about Eddie Van Halen. Can’t play like that anymore, but I like to think there is a subtle expression of some of Eddie’s fire and decadence in my playing (laughs).
For your long phrases, did you transcribe horn and piano improvisations?
Yes! I’ve transcribed horn and piano players as much as I’ve done guitar players, especially John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and McCoy Tyner. However, developing long phrases has also come from dedicated practice toward that goal, which requires chipping away at your technique, in the context of harmonic and melodic understanding.
I like how you mix chords and single-note lines in “Freiburg.”
Cool! I try to maintain a balance between mastering chordal playing and single-note playing. There are many ways to approach harmony and I’ve worked on developing delicate chord/melody arrangements that explore colorful voicings. I used to play lots of solo guitar concerts when I lived in London. That kind of “learning on the job” experience, carrying the whole night myself, cannot be replaced in the practice room.
Jazz is as much a language as a style of music. Describe what it’s like when you’re playing with other jazz musicians – and having a musical conversation with them.
I love playing jazz for that reason – the conversations and wordless communication. I guess it’s like talking to someone about a subject you’re passionate about. The more both parts know about it, the more enjoyable and deeper the conversation goes. It’s also a lot about trust and support, even though there are disagreements – good communication is also about allowing to have arguments, as long as they are well meaning and respectful. Jazz improvising requires meticulous study, but when performing, it’s about letting go and trusting your ears and instinct.
Your tone is gorgeous.
Thanks! I recorded using my custom Victor Baker guitar, which has been my main axe since 2015. It’s a 16″ archtop with laminate maple top. I also used a 15″ semi-hollowbody provided by Eastman, and changed between a couple of Fender Twins in the studio, both with Jensen speakers. My Tone knob on the guitar is set at around 7 or 8, though I tend to make the most tone adjustments on the amp. When I use tube amps, Bass and Treble are set quite low, yet I have an EQ on my rig and a couple boost pedals for further tone shaping.
“After Party” has deep echo and modulation effects.
I used my original Neunaber Immerse Reverberator, which is really clean and subtle. I have two delay pedals on my board – the Seymour Duncan Andromeda and Strymon’s Brigadier. The Andromeda is versatile analog and digital delay, which also has a dynamic delay function. As you can tell on “After Party,” I’m really into BBD (bucket-brigade-device chips) with modulation on the delay. When I play with a trio like Number Junky, I need a rich and penetrating sound with lots of depth.
What’s the jazz scene like in Perth, given that it’s so remote?
When I moved from London, which has an amazing scene, it was honestly a bit of a shock. Nevertheless, the are some top-class players in Perth, and a few decent clubs. People from Perth seem to return to here, even if they are doing great stuff elsewhere in the world, probably because the lifestyle here is pretty special. I’m teaching now at one of Australia’s top conservatories – the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts – and there is plenty of talent rolling through. Lockdown gave me an opportunity to connect more with the local scene, which is how Number Junky was born. You have to be proactive if you want to present original jazz, but let’s face it, that applies anywhere. The remoteness of Perth is an issue for getting new music off the ground and reaching audiences, but I’m hopeful Number Junky will start hitting festivals and I can head back to Europe again more regularly.
This article originally appeared in VG’s January 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.