413

Will Bernard: Blue Plate Special

Doug Collette By

Sign in to view read count
Will Bernard: Blue Plate Special Will Bernard's Blue Plate Special features a veritable supergroup of modern jazz, whose diverse talents on their respective instruments complements their collective experience and, perhaps more importantly, the range of material supplied by the bandleader. On paper, it looks too good to work, but work it does and splendidly at that.

"Baby Goats" may sound, at first, like a vintage variation on composer John Medeski's work with Medeski, Martin and Wood, but as Stanton Moore's syncopation deepens and Andy Hess' circular bass pattern widens, it becomes ever easier to hear the natural empathy within this lineup. And this opener sets a tone for the CD: Bernard is more or less visible depending on the needs of the tune and its arrangement: he demonstrates no discernible need to spotlight himself.

Then again, why wouldn't any honest musician (and a savvy producer like Matt Balitsaris) want to leverage the skill and feel of players like New Orleans' Moore, a member of Galactic as well as leader of his own trio and bassist Hess, who, before joining (and recently departing) Gov't Mule, did an extended stint with John Scofield in his latter Uberjam days. Whether Will Bernard composed these originals with this band specifically in mind (he collaborates with his comrades on the meditative title song), the foursome certainly shapes the songs to their individual personalities.

Equally significantly, in his composing Bernard exhibits all the variety he commands on the guitar, mixing things up in unpredictable combinations. "Magpie," for instance, is fairly conventional funk, tightened up in the extreme by each musician, including Bernard who also deigns to toss in some fluid lines to heighten the effect. Acoustic bottleneck sounds introduce "Frontwinder" prior to the slide textures turning electric over a rocking vamp.

Bernard takes a backseat at the outset of "Blister," yet there's no mistaking the squalling likes of his contribution mid-track and it sends the rest of the performance off in a different direction, only to be succeeded by the off-kilter dreamlike mood of the succeeding track. The refrain of "Gen Pop," allows the drummer to demonstrate muscular facility on his kit, albeit ever so briefly, illustrating the seamless quality to these proceedings: Medeski is as well schooled in the tradition of jazz as Bernard and equally open to unconventional methods in writing and playing, not to mention their mutual fondness for gospel evident in the closing inclusion of "How Great Thou Art."

Consequently, even if, on "Gonzo," Blue Plate Special sounds overly familiar, especially to followers of these players, Will Bernard's own experience as member of groups as diverse as T.J. Kirk (with Charlie Hunter) and Robert Walter's 20th Congress, stands him in good stead. At the very point this CD might become truly predictable, "Awanna" finds the quartet downshifting, just prior to the appropriately titled "Fastfun," where the guitarist struts his stuff most decisively. In doing so, Bernard effectively sets the stage for Medeski, Moore and Hess, offering a gesture of humility as well as musical logic that permeates this whole album.


Track Listing: Baby Goats; Magpie; Blue Plate Special; 571; Blister; Gen Pop; Awanna; Fast Fun; Gonzo; How Great Thou Art.

Personnel: Will Bernard: guitars; John Medeski: keyboards; Andy Hess: bass; Stanton Moore: drums.

Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Palmetto Records | Style: Funk/Groove


Shop

More Articles

Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Wild CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 26, 2017
Read This Is Nate Najar CD/LP/Track Review This Is Nate Najar
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Joy Comes Back CD/LP/Track Review Joy Comes Back
by James Nadal
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Apocalypse CD/LP/Track Review Apocalypse
by Julian Derry
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "Iceland" CD/LP/Track Review Iceland
by Dave Wayne
Published: May 21, 2016
Read "The Beast" CD/LP/Track Review The Beast
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 20, 2016
Read "The Pauper And The Magician" CD/LP/Track Review The Pauper And The Magician
by Ian Patterson
Published: January 17, 2017
Read "Metamorphosis" CD/LP/Track Review Metamorphosis
by Jack Bowers
Published: April 26, 2016
Read "Beginning of A Memory" CD/LP/Track Review Beginning of A Memory
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 19, 2016
Read "Live at the JazzRoom" CD/LP/Track Review Live at the JazzRoom
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 17, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!