uses to describe guitarist Brandon Bernstein, and those simple words prove to be descriptive bull's eyes. Bernstein started on guitar at fourteen, scored a scholarship from the Berklee School of Music at eighteen, and proceeded to wrack up a series of degreesculminating in a doctorate in Jazz Performance from the University of Southern California. These days, he's working his way through the Los Angeles jazz scene and sharing his hard-earned knowledge with up-and-comers, working as an adjunct professor at several area colleges.
On But Beautiful, Bernstein delivers a platter of pleasing standards with some help from Smith and drummer Kendall Kay
's acclaimed trio. Together, these three men travel through calm country, exploring standard terrain with a light and deft touch. Bernstein and his band mates, both together and individually, excel in the art of relaxed creativity throughout.
's "Background Music" cook; the rest of the material is mellow gold. Bernstein seduces with subtlety, winning over the ears with his gentle touch and charm. He proves more than capable of delivering standards at face value, but his best work involves small stylistic tweaks on the original templates. Giving "Skylark" a steady rhythmic backbone, for example, allows the piece to walk in new ways, and presenting "My Old Flame" in five puts a new slant on an old tune.