Will Bernard’s Outdoor Living – 3 Out of 4 Stars in Downbeat

“Guitarist Will Bernard doesn’t hurt for references. The Berkeley native has recorded with Don Cherry and Stanton Moore. He’s jammed with Charlie Hunter, Dr. John and John Medeski. And he’s collaborated with Tom Waits, Spearhead and hip-hop ensemble the Coup. While a diverse palette informs his sixth record, so does experience-garnered restraint. Bernard’s history with organist Wil Blades and drummer Simon Lott also accounts for the natural vibe absent from a majority of similar fusion-based affairs.  Until recently, each member lived in a different city yet became close from the hours they spent clustered in a tour van. The album title even alludes to the road lifestyle and its array of topography. Slaving to the groove, the collective develops rounded instrumentals amidst uncluttered, wide-open soundscapes in which warm New Orleans funk, crackling Memphis soul and ’60s-era San Francisco psychedelia intersect. On occasion, Bernard steps on spacey effects pedals and brings the noise (“Roaming Charges”) or turns his guitar into a horn (“Nature Walk”). But the bandleader prefers to say more with less. He abides by James Brown’s time-honored “give the drummer some” adage and allows Blades to smear greasy jive all over “Morgan Deux,” during which you can practically picture the Leslie cabinet’s rotary speaker spin”. 3 out of 4 stars -Bob Gendron, Downbeat


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