Album Review: Will Bernard - "Outdoor Living"
Dreck to Disk Records
It’s hard to describe guitarist Will Bernard’s latest album, Outdoor Living, without using at least a few hyphens. Is it jazz-funk or funk-jazz? Either way, Bernard has become a mainstay on the Brooklyn scene since moving there from the Bay Area a few years ago. Even though Bernard’s previous albums found him in larger and more diverse ensembles, the organ trio is where he really shines. Joining him on this effort are NOLA-based drummer Simon Lott and one of Bernard’s old SF collaborators, organist Wil Blades.
After listening to the first track, “Nature Walk,” you immediately sense that these musicians understand the history of groove-based music, but are willing to push it forward. You can hear traces of Grant Green and George Benson in Bernard’s solos, but you also feel this sense of urgency combined with a dirty twang that has elements of pure garage rock— check out the opening to “Implitude” for proof. The secret weapon, however, is Lott. His feel for everything from a second-line shuffle to balls-out rock makes him the rightful heir to the New Orleans drum crown that has been passed down from Johnny Vidacovich to Stanton Moore.
The most experimental track is “6B,” an electronica-inspired, medium-tempo tune that allows Bernard to finally use all those pedals that he probably found in a closet somewhere. Even with the varied influences, the trio does bring the greasy heat that organ trios are known for. “Nooksack” is a laid-back groove that gives Bernard some room to show off his slide chops and “Squeaky Chug Chug” demonstrates that Blades spent many hours checking out Larry Young’s Unity album. Even though the framework sometimes wanders off path, make no mistake: The groove on Outdoor Living is here to stay. —Jason Shadrick
Must-hear tracks: “Nooksack,” “Implitude”