Will Bernard: Blue Plate Special & Night for Day
Guitarist Will Bernard is the common denominator on these two stylistically divergent CDs. On Blue Plate Special he's joined by keyboardist John Medeski, bassist Andy Hess and drummer Stanton Moore while Night for Day is with fellow Brooklyn Jazz Underground members Benny Lackner (piano), Andrew Emer (bass) and Mark Ferber (drums). The former is a groove-heavy, funky hoe-down while the latter explores more evanescent soundscapes.
The presence of New Orleans drummer Moore on Blue Plate Special guarantees a fat backbeat shuffle and the keyboardist brings his expansive sonic palette from Medeski Martin and Wood to the mix. Bernard matches him with an array of fuzz tones, wah-wah effects, distortion, decay and delay in his solos and leads. Some tracks tend toward generic soul-funk, but there are also arresting moments and quirky surprises along the way: the churning keyboard riffs with bluesy acoustic piano and guitar in the seductively slinky title track; the opening-credits-to-a-TV-crime-show vibe of "571" morphing into controlled chaos; the tango shuffle, zithery guitar and burbling organ on "Genpop" and kaleidoscopic range of "Frontwinder," from the twittering birds and underwater organ of the opening to the heavy feedback guitar riffs and boogie-style piano solo. There are also fast 8/8 forays and a final "How Great Thou Art" full of gospel fervor.
Intricate interaction permeates Night for Day, a group endeavor where each musician carves out a distinctive role while fitting into the whole like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Bernard and Ferber are the busy pair in this quadrangle, guitar laying down sleek, crisp, skittering runsthere's little to none of the sonic effects employed on Blue Plate Specialwhile the drummer creates whirlwinds of shimmering motion from cymbals to skins, giving the impression of constant, shifting double-time. Emer's bass anchors a steady but emphatic time or adds counterpoint ostinato riffs while Lackner's piano is the cool gravitas center. All the musicians contribute tunes, Bernard's flirting with fusion á la Pat Metheny but the others are more ethereal in an ECM school manner. A spacey "Heaven" from Duke Ellington's "Second Sacred Concert" is the only non-original.
Tracks and Personnel
Blue Plate Special
Tracks: Baby Goats; Magpie; Blue Plate Special; 571; Blister; Gen Pop; Awanna; Fast Fun; Frontwinder; Gonzo; How Great Thou Art.
Personnel: Player Name: Will Bernard: guitar; John Medeski: Hammond organ, Wurlitzer organ, Wurlitzer electric piano, Moog Voyager, acoustic piano, Hohner clavinet; Andy Hess: bass; Stanton Moore: drums.
Night for Day
Tracks: Chicken Pox; Transkei; Waltz; Dry Tortugas; Heaven; Pianohaus; Nothing To See; Coming Down; Snow; Cachuma.
Personnel: Will Bernard: guitar; Andrew Emer: bass; Benny Lackner: piano; Mark Ferber: drums.