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Bernie Worrell: Elevation: The Upper Air

Mark Corroto By

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Alert Manfred Eicher, somebody has stolen one of his pianists! Certainly in a blindfold test, most listeners would mistake Elevation: The Upper Air for a release by ECM Records, probably identifying the pianist as Marcin Wasilewski or Tord Gustavsen before ever guessing it was by one of the founders of Parliament/Funkadelic, Bernie Worrell.

But there it is. Gasp. A solo acoustic piano outing by the keyboardist that fueled the music of George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Rolling Stones, Talking Heads, Lee "Scratch" Perry, and many, many other bands. The classically trained, Juilliard and New England Conservatory of Music educated pianist has long been a collaborator with bassist Bill Laswell, performing in the projects Method Of Defiance, Praxis, and Material.

Produced by Laswell, the music displays a ruminative, and often lost-in- thought meditative sound. Worrell draws from touchstones of his musical past and also writes three penetrating and sensitive pieces. He opens with Joe Zawinul's "In A Silent Way" that sounds closer to the original heard on Zawinul (Atlantic, 1971) than it does under Miles Davis' treatment. His approach here is quite sentimental, but more affectionate than nostalgic.

He runs through a touching version of Charles Mingus' "Good Bye Pork Pie Hat" that conjures the Lester Young that composer had in mind, extrapolating a classical feel to his improvisation. John Coltrane's "Alabama" is played with a thundering left hand (the hand of God?) and the compassion of a nation. Then there is the one-hit wonder soul song "Ooh Child" by The Five Stairsteps that is instantly recognizable, yet slowed to a doleful crawl. In Worrell's hands the music becomes a sacred ritual. Closing with Bob Marley's "Redemption Song," he presents the song with childlike innocence and a knowing faithfulness of hope.

Track Listing: In a Silent Way; I’d Rather Be With You; Alabama; Good Bye Pork Pie Hat; Light On Water; Ooh Child; Samba Pa Ti; Realm of Sight; I Wanna Go Outside In the Rain; Wings; Redemption Song.

Personnel: Bernie Worrell: piano.

Title: Elevation: The Upper Air | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: M.o.d. Technologies

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