Wednesday, September 23, Peter Bernstein:
Wednesday, September 23, Peter Bernstein: Yes, the gig with Peter was fantastic and we really had a great time. He's a swingin' mother! Great harmonic and melodic ideas and a real nice cat We need more guys like that.
He plays the best of all of them, for swing, logic, feeling and taste. Pete has paid attention to the past as well as to the future. I just wanted to deal with the music and develop a relationship with the instrument that came from my hands. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved. These Sunday banquets usually commenced around 1: Food is viewed by Italian families as a blessing from God and, as such, one to be shared with as many people as possible. As everyone was reconvening around the replenished dining room table to re-stuff themselves with various baked, sugared treats, some of the men pushed chairs away and brought out guitars and mandolins and, of course, the ever-present accordion and concertina.
Thus began my early childhood fascination with the guitar, one that has continued to this day. At these Sunday family gatherings, all of these instruments were played mostly as accompaniment to the signing of Italian folk or love songs and an array of popular songs from what has come to be called The Great American Songbook.
But occasionally, one of my uncles would play a solo on his high gloss varnished, dark-stained Gibson guitar — un-amplified, of course — and I would become absolutely enthralled by the mellow sounds coming from that beautiful instrument.
While I never achieved the latter aspiration, the warm, engaging sounds of the guitar, this time amplified and played by the likes of Tal Farlow, Barney Kessel and Joe Pass, to name but a few, have remained an allure for me. Speaking of Joe, I once asked him why there were so few Jazz guitarists compared to those who practiced the art on other instruments. His succinctly put answer was: As a drummer, I learned very early to under-play when working with Jazz guitarists which may account for the fact that I worked with so many of them so often.
Like so many of the fine recordings by Gerry Teekens, the Dutch producer and owner of the Criss Cross label, I was led to them by my interest in the playing of drummer Kenny Washington . There are many ironies with my first encounter with guitarist Peter Bernstein not the least of which is that I first experienced his playing on an album with a Hammond B-3 organist and with a drummer who plays in a manner very reminiscent of Philly Joe Jones and Jimmy Cobb — an approach to Jazz drumming that I prefer, immensely.
The Lynch album gets its name from a club in Milwaukee where Lynch first heard and played with organist Rhyne. Bernstein predictably gains the respect of every great musician he works with; Jimmy Cobb first asked Peter to work with him in April '89 when he was all of 21 and the guitarist recently led his own quartet featuring Cobb for a standing-room-only week at the Village Gate.
Criss Cross producer Gerry Teekens was so pleased with the results of Lynch's date that he asked Rhyne to do an impromptu trio recording the next day and Mel was quite happy to have Bernstein and young veteran Kenny Washington under him again in the studio. He's an expressive soloist whose horn-inspired lines draw much of their power, beauty and effectiveness from his soulful time. Lonnie Smith, Melvin Rhyne, Sam Yahel When sampling the music from the above list, the amount of excellent Jazz that Peter has contributed on these recordings over the past 20 years is staggering to consider in terms of the depth and breadth of its scope.
He probably got his first break while attending the New School in NYC when he first met, and later studied with, guitarist Jim Hall, whose own spare and always swinging style was no doubt a big influence on Peter. Peter also studied with guitarists Ted Dunbar and Gene Bertoncini.
You know when Peter is soloing because your foot starts bouncing up and down involuntarily. The sound that comes out of his instrument is so beautiful that one is tempted to describe it as the definitive sound of an amplified, Jazz guitar. Peter recorded his first as a leader for Criss Cross in His rhythmic suppleness and clarity of thought, good blues feeling and ability to pattern solos of melodic grace will be immediately evident on a first playing of this …CD. It is an unusually brilliant debut, filled with felicities and solo statements that will endure.
It provided him the opportunity to listen to musicians on a regular basis who are inspiring and motivating him today. In addition to its formal classroom, New York also offered Peter the opportunity to study with teachers who recognized and encouraged his talent. Another byproduct of living in New York was that Peter was able to work with young musicians of the highest caliber — two of whom were Bill Stewart and Larry Goldings. He has been working with them as a trio since the summer of Pete and Larry became the regular Thursday night band at the club using various drummers.
Eventually, Pete called Bill Stewart whom he had known when both were studying at William College in New Jersey and the last piece of the puzzle was in place. He has a focused musical concept that features a pure tone and singing phrases Horn players have been prominent influences on his singular style. He chooses notes carefully, making each one count in constructing intelligent interesting solos.
And if you want to learn about rhythm, hang out with drummers and bass players. Among these is their wonderful bossa nova CD entitled Caminhos Cruzados which has tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman as a guest artist on some tracks.
It brings forth so many moody dimensions that it wraps the listener in an evocative hush. There is so much good music on this CD that I guarantee that you will have a difficult time removing it from your CD player. Each member has amassed an imposing individual resume during this period, yet their collective work has signified something more — a reaffirmation, not of the organ trio as a unit capable of satisfying a temporary fashion for things, but as an instrumentation as perfectly balanced in its way as the threesome of piano, bass and drums or, in another realm, the string quartet.
A lot could be said about the individual performances. Still, the overriding impression that the music leaves involves group interaction. As Neil Tesser alludes in his insert notes to the disc, the Jazz world almost lost Peter before it had him.
Put another way, not too many guitarists growing up in the s made the leap from Jimi Hendrik, B. Tesser goes on to explain: His playing has a hard-won quality about it, communicating the idea that each note should count — that few if any of them should simply fill up space. The most important thing is the sound, the voice you project. But with all these roots, how does one avoid simply reliving the past?
Peter Bernstein manages to make the tradition he upholds sound fresh and true; how does he wriggle out of the neo-classic trap? But everything is drawing on a tradition. I wanted to be sure that he and I did a duet , to try to bring out a more intimate side of my own playing. The CD was a point of departure for Peter and, as such, one that we will return to in the second part of the piece, because this disc involves Peter working with horns in the front line — in this case, Eric Alexander on tenor saxophone and Steve Davis on trombone.
Typically in the presence of horns, one might expect the guitar to assume a rhythm section role much like the accompaniment provided by the piano, or to take a turn as a feature soloist.
As Sid Gribetz explains in his liner notes: Choosing instead to do it as a trio version, he renders a lovely interpretation of this beautiful melody. Brad also did the insert notes for the recording. In them, he provides some unique perspectives on Peter and his music — ones that only another musician could make. For example, Brad points out: With Pete, I always immediately get drawn into the sound he gets from his instrument.
He has this crying tone on his guitar. That voice he has on his instrument compels me to listen. The emotions Pete conveys are wonderfully mixed. Many people would have different ideas about what might constitute a ' New York' sound, if anything.
I would call it more of an ethos that Pete came to personify for me, one that I still associate with my favorite players who reside in New York. That ethos doesn't form one specific style of playing; it's more like a collection of deeply felt sentiments about jazz music that form the basis for a broad range of possible styles. Those musical sentiments would include the importance of melody at all times in whatever you're expressing, which means playing phrases that have a shape to them and not just running licks.
That in turn implies a healthy distrust of arbitrariness in general. It you're going to play a tune, you don't fudge on learning the melody. Pete was the first musician I met who would make periodic pilgrimages to the New York Public Library to get the original sheet music for, say, an Irving Berlin tune. That was one of many valuable lessons that I got from Pete early on. If you go to the original source to learn a tune, your arrangement of it will speak authentically as your own take on that song, instead of being your version of Miles Davis' version, for example.
I think that's why whenever I hear Pete play a standard, it never sounds arbitrary. He always seems to create a definitive version of a tune, one that intersects gracefully between an unapologetic affection for the original song, and his own personal musical choices for his arrangement. They include the way he phrases the melody, his improvisation, and a host of other factors that make you smile as a listener and say, "That's Pete. Listen to how he lovingly treats the melody - it sounds like this is his own song.
The first time I heard Peter Bernstein was at a jam session, playing on a medium slow blues. With me in the audience were several musical peers, including Larry Goldings. Larry was just starting to play the organ in addition to piano, and eventually would form the heaviest, most original organ trio jazz has seen in the last two decades, with Pete on guitar and Bill Stewart, who joins Pete on this record, on drums.
The blues had been going on for almost half an hour and everyone's interest had peaked after about 4 minutes. Solo after solo ensued, full of well-intentioned but vapid testifying and shrieking from horn players and scat-singers. Just when it was getting painful, Pete began to solo. He basically annihilated everything that had preceded him and left all of us just shaking our heads in awe.
We were emotionally reduced to jelly; he brought tears to our eyes. I left that day shaken. What was it in his playing? To start with, there was a gravity to what he was doing emotionally that just drew me in - 'Dude, this is serious. His playing was informed by what I can only describe as a profound love for music, in this case specifically the blues, which is so prevalent in Pete's music. It was like he had discovered something beautiful, and he wanted urgently to share it with all of us. A serious love that urgently needs to be shared with other people - it all translates into something that you might call the humanity in Pete's music.
I felt like he was telling me something about myself that day, and I always feel that way when I hear him. Pete's reading on this record of Strayhorn's masterpiece, Blood Count, is a case in point.
In a solo guitar setting, he gives it to us stripped down. The naked desolation of the tune speaks all the more clearly.
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