It's good when it's possible to step out of a comfort zone to appreciate (if not love) unfamiliar styles. The same can be said of artists who break from instruments they're known for. Chuck Bernstein goes one further with Delta Berimbau Blues.
Bernstein is a versatile drummer, but for this project, he employs the berimbau, a single-stringed gourd instrument popular in Brazil and similar to the Diddley bow, an early blues instrument. Bernstein, who once led the Monk's Music Trio, has studied the berimbau and developed his own style of using this instrument in the blues.
"Delta Berimbau Blues," written by Bernstein with guitarist Greg Douglass, is appropriately titled. Douglass plays the guitar in historic Mississippi Delta blues style, while Bernstein strums the berimbau. The piece is reminiscent of a soundtrack to a story like the movie and television series, In the Heat of the Night (1967).
"All Your Desires" features Ricardo Peixoto on rhythm guitar. This lighthearted selection brings some of the Brazilian flavor to the collection. Composer Paul Ledo plays lead guitar, while Bernstein provides the background.
George Marsh accompanies Bernstein on "Kindred Spirits." Marsh plays drums while Bernstein shifts between free-form berimbau and a dedicated melody. Dennis Broughton, who taught Bernstein on the berimbau, plays the high-pitched viola berimbau on "Viola Foot Stompin' Blues." Bernstein contrasts with the gunga berimbau, the lowest-pitched member of the family.
Bernstein goes it alone on a few tracks but is accompanied by one or two guests on most songs. Although the title is Delta Berimbau Blues, the music is not all blues. Bernstein effectively mingles in some traditional Brazilian sounds, as well as some folk and a hint of jazz.
Track Listing: Delta Berimbau Blues; All Your Desires; Dawn in the Delta; Kindred Spirits; Drop D; Viola Foot Stompin' Blues; Delta Spirit Dance; One Grain of Sand; Plunger in the Funk; Blues Para Guinga; Darling Cory; Bahia Trance Blues; Free to Grind; Contenda; Kelley Blues; Flight of the Golden Dragon.
Personnel: Greg Douglass: guitar (1, 16); Chuck Bernstein: gunga berimbau (1, 4, 6, 10, 12), berimbau (2, 3, 5, 7-9, 11, 13-16), vocal (10); Paul Ledo: lead guitar (2); Ricardo Peixoto: rhythm guitar (2); George Marsh: drums (4, 13); "Sister" Debbie Sipes: guitar (5, 15); Dennis Broughton: viola berimbau (6); Lisa Kindred: vocal (8); Roswell Rudd: trombone (9); Sam Bevan: bass (9, 11); Bira Almeida: medio berimbau (12); Ian Faquini: guitar (14); Robert Kyle: tenor sax (14).