Bernie Arai’s musical career as a performer, educator, composer and recording artist spans styles through jazz, improvised music, Japanese traditional, and electronic and computer music. On drum set, percussion and electronics, he works with some of Canada’s most accomplished musicians. Born, raised and based in Vancouver, Bernie has performed across the country with various ensembles, and has also toured across the United States, Japan and Europe.
Bernie's own ensembles include his trio The Big Much featuring Dave Sikula on guitar and Chad Makela on baritone saxophone, a reunion of a trio with Chris Gestrin and Jon Bentley (on keyboards, woodwinds and electronics) called New Diversions, a double baritone saxophone and double drum set quartet called Rubber Arms, and a cooperatively-run contemporary jazz quartet called Oddity. Using the pseudonym underscore he creates experimental electronic music using a Nintendo Gameboy. Densabi features Bernie using the Atari ST computer with Chris Gestrin and shakuhachi master Alcvin Takegawa Ramos to create improvised ambient music. Along with saxophonist Jon Bentley Bernie co-leads a hard bop sextet called Ugestu, and the electronic ensemble Elevatorhead. Thanks to Vancouver’s supportive scene, Bernie also works with many of the country’s finest musicians as a member of ensembles such as: the Brad Turner Trio, the Hard Rubber Orchestra, the Jennifer Scott Trio, the Ihor Kukurudza Trio, Sharon Minemoto Quintet and Quartet, the Paul Keeling Trio and Quintet, Tommy Babin's Sendero Luminoso and Altered Laws. He remains in demand as an accompanist and band member for many legendary musicians from across Canada and around the world, appearing in concert at numerous music festivals worldwide, and on CBC radio jazz shows. He has had the opportunity to guest host CBC's long running radio show Hot Air on two occasions, once to spotlight the powerful musicianship of Claude Ranger, and once to explore the influence of Canadian jazz on Canadian jazz musicians.
A dedicated and experienced educator, Bernie continues to teach based in Vancouver, including work as an instructor at the Vancouver Community College School of Music, and as a director of jazz bands at the University of British Columbia Summer Music Institute, Douglas College Summer Jazz Intensive, and North Shore Summer Jazz Intensive. He has served as instructor in the Capilano College Jazz Studies program and the Vancouver Creative Music Institute, and also teaches workshops and clinics in local schools for jazz bands and drum set.