Avi Bortnick Funk King


Photo Aprile Ferrer

Guitarist Avi Bortnick, born in 1963 in Petah Tikva, Israel, was raised in St. Louis, Missouri, where he was immersed in the sounds of late 1970s funk, rock and soul. After moving to California in 1983, Bortnick began to play with various African and Caribbean bands. Later, as a graduate student at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Bortnick started the band "What It Is", which became popular in the South East touring circuit, though the band was never signed to a major label.

Photo Aprile Ferrer

He is well known for his long musical association with influential jazz guitarist John Scofield “Uberjam” band, playing rhythm guitar and electronics composing and producing. In addition to playing with Scofield, he has played as a solo artist and with a wide range of New York-based artists, including Jim Weider’s Project Percolator, Erik Deutsch, Forro in the Dark, ****** ****** Jam Band, Rene Lopez, the Ghost Train Orchestra, Jihae, Betty Black, Bunga Bunga Party, and Jason Blum. When living in the San Francisco Bay Area, he played with Zigaboo Modeliste, Bobby McFerrin, What It Is, Jeff Narell, and Kotoja.

Photo Aprile Ferrer

He is known in musician circles for his rhythm guitar playing and ability to blend in a variety of musical configurations. Bortnick has a diverse style encompassing jazz, Caribbean, Brazilian and African styles. This varied background enables Bortnick to blend syncopations and inject "da funk" into every corner of the world. In addition to his life as a guitarist, Avi is an experienced acoustical consultant, working part-time at Shen Milsom & Wilke. He typically works with architects in the design of buildings in which sound is an important consideration. In addition, he has developed the iPhone/Android applications Time Guru metronome and the VoxBeat iPhone multi-track looper app. His first solo record is Clean Slate. He lives and gigs in New York.

Photo Louis Obbens

How's your musical routine practice?

Like most musicians, I practice more when I have a gig coming up that I need to prepare for or be in shape for, and my practice routine changes depending on the gig. When I play with Jim Weider’s Project Percolator I have to solo a lot, so I work on single-note exercises (scales, arpeggios, playing over chord changes, etc). When I have a funk gig, I’ll make sure my rhythm chops are in shape (checking my time feel with the Time Guru metronome app). But anyway, here’s a typical routine: warm up for 10 minutes by playing a bunch of bebop jazz melodies, like Donna Lee, Au Privave, and Scrapple from the Apple. Then a scale exercise that I got from a clarinet book that goes through every major scale, and it’s relative natural and melodic minor. Then some string skipping exercises – all with a metronome. Then I’ll practice whatever new thing I’m working on. The latest is the George Garzon triadic chromatic approach concept. I often practice improvising over chord changes, and sometimes practice acoustic guitar, reading fingerstyle arrangements and sometimes classical pieces.

Which work of your own are you most surprised by, and why?
I’ve done a bunch of music for commercials, and I can be unpleasantly surprised by how bad and cheesy my own compositions can be. But as far as surprised in a positive way, perhaps my song Tomorrow Land (on the John Scofield Bandrecord “Uberjam”).

First, it’s a very short tune that I thought needed and extra section, but John thought it sounded good as is, so that’s the way it stayed. And I now agree, that it feels complete even though it’s short. Second, the way the bridge happens was composed by just playing the bass notes first, and then fitting the melody around it. Normally, this is not an optimal way to compose, because the melody should come first and lead the way, but for some reason I got lucky and it flows very naturally, with the lead phrase into the bridge echoing a part of the A-section melody.

Hear and enjoy his work here
Pete O'Connell
Harvey Valdes
Jon Madof
Riccardo Dillon Wanke
Justin Lepany
Mark Solborg
Geir Sundstöl
Toon Callier
Takumi Seino

13 Questions INDEX
And you can join our OPEN facebook channel
Twitter https://twitter.com/Rimbaudela1re


Platinum Supporting Member
I have his "clean slate" cd which I will revisit shortly. Thx for the post.


Silver Supporting Member
Last time I checked, Clean Slate wasn't available on cd, download only. I hate the quality of mp3, so I've never bought it.

I love his work with Sco, and he pops up occasionally on my Pandora station. Endless Summer is my favorite track on that disc, and the first tune I lifted from it.

I will check again to see if it is dl only.


A is pretty funky. I have seen him with both Scofield and Project Percolator twice. Every time he had a great tone played some really cool stuff sure wish Jim would put the Project Percolator back together for a road trip.


Silver Supporting Member
I have his "clean slate" cd which I will revisit shortly. Thx for the post.
Just bought it, thanks for the heads up. I'm only familiar with his Scofield work and have always really dug his playing on that stuff.

Jon Silberman

10Q Jerry & Dickey
Gold Supporting Member
I don't know this guy from Adam but I love the name Avi so that's what we named my son.


One of my favorite Uberjam pieces is "Tomorrow Land" which Avi wrote. Saw them on the first Uberjam tour - he's a great player - reminds me a lot or Aram.
Last edited:


Gold Supporting Member
Thanks for the post; I remember reading about Avi when Uberjam came out, but didn't know he had his own album. Am listening to Clean Slate now; what a player.


Avi Bortnick is the kind of player whose presence in a band just makes music better.

His own stuff is very cool, too. Wish there was more of it out there.

Is there anything besides Clean Slate?


Platinum Supporting Member
Thank you so much for this. Avi is such a wonderful gem, especially with Sco!


WOW! This record's fantastic!! Can't get enough of this kinda thing

Band's great, too. Saw the B3 player with Will Bernard (Motherbug) at the Mtl Jazzfest just around that time


Silver Supporting Member
I remember an interview with Scofield & he remarked that Avi was one of the best guitarists
that he had ever played with. Rhythm guitar is truly a lost art.

Trending Topics