Album Remarks & Appraisals:
This one grooves hard and will draw the attention of music fans from all walks of life! Will is joined by and all-star cast including Stanton Moore (Galactic), John Medeski (MMW), and Andy Hess for a smoking session called Blue Plate Special!
"Blue Plate Special is guitarist Will Bernard's follow up to his 2008 Grammy-nominated Party Hats and his second recording for Palmetto Records. This disc features John Medeski, of Medeski, Martin and Wood fame, Stanton Moore and Andy Hess. Bernard has been involved in a variety of musical groups including T.J. Kirk, whose recording If Four Was One was nominated for a 1997 Grammy. He has worked with drummer Stanton Moore before and was featured on the record Emphasis on Parenthesis. He has been touring with Moore's Trio, Robert Walter's 20th Congress, Groundation and various other bands. Bernard has appeared with his own band across the country and in Canada and has opened for Herbie Hancock, Jimmy McGriff, The Funky Meters, John Scofield, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Ziggy Modeliste and the Charlie Hunter Quartet.
Bernard composed most of the tunes on this disc. The title track was co-written by all four band mates. There isn't a bad track on this record as the scope of musical styles is sure to appeal to just about everyone. The band presents a funky, engaging, infectious assortment of sounds here.
Of special note is "Magpie," hard-driving, funky and fast in which Bernard's guitar skills really shine. The title track has a solid, rolling groove with piano and guitar accented throughout. "571" features bass and drum with screeching distortion for a trippy electronic sound. "Blister" has a spacey, airy sound with guitar and keys playing back and forth over soft, deep bass and crisp, fresh drums. "Gen Pop" has a haunting, emotional appeal as fluttering keys accent the sultry, crooning guitar and fades away at the end with receding waves of reverberation. "Frontwinder" offers up a bit of good old country-western flavor. The band does a great job with "Gonzo," with organ and guitar bringing another musical dimension into this mix. Closing off the disc is traditional with a twist in "How Great Thou Art," Medeski's hymnal organ sounds opening up to Bernard's guitar voicing the lyrics.
A great, fresh-sounding and fun disc, Bernard's Blue Plate Special offers up both variety and creativity with an impeccable mix of musicians and delightful array of musical styles." -JazzReview
Down Beat (p.71) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Bernard's smooth yet probing hollow-body guides this program....The playful, inventive title track could be the theme song to a spy-thriller spoof."
Will Bernard: Andy Hess (bass instrument).
Personnel: Will Bernard (guitar).
Recording information: Maggie's Farm, Buck's County, PA (01/22/2008-01/24/2008).
Photographers: Lourdes Delgado; Andy Hess.
To some musicologists, it is a contradiction to say that music is "funky yet complex and cerebral." After all, funk (as in Tower of Power, Cameo, Rick James, ConFunkShun, and the Gap Band) is booty-shaking party music at heart. But in fact, many artists have successfully combined the funky and the intellectual; Miles Davis certainly did it on his fusion albums of the 1970s, and jazz' electric avant-garde is full of people who hold Albert Ayler and James Brown in equally high regard. So bearing all that in mind, it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that Blue Plate Special finds guitarist Will Bernard getting his groove on without sacrificing his intellectual urges. Stylistically, this January 2008 recording isn't easy to categorize. The music is definitely instrumental jazz -- that much is obvious -- but what type of jazz? It's probably best to describe Blue Plate Special (which unites Bernard with John Medeski on keyboards, Andy Hess on electric bass, and Stanton Moore on drums) as a mixture of soul-jazz/jazz-funk, post-bop and fusion (with occasional hints of the avant-garde). Although Bernard has demonstrated that he is comfortable in avant-garde settings, Blue Plate Special seldom ventures far into the avant-garde realm; if this 56-minute disc has an inside/outside perspective, Bernard's quartet plays inside at least 85-percent of the time. Nonetheless, the solos can go into some decidedly cerebral places; most of the melodies and grooves are relatively accessible, but when Bernard and his colleagues solo, they don't shy away from the abstract. With influences ranging from Larry Young to fusion-era Miles Davis to Medeski, Martin & Wood, Blue Plate Special is a solid effort -- not quite Bernard's most essential release, but definitely solid and appealing. ~ Alex Henderson