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Published: 2007/03/21
by Brad Farberman

Party Hats – Will Bernard

Palmetto Records

Like Dylan’s protagonist in “Simple Twist of Fate,” Bay Area guitar hero Will Bernard was born too late; his playing and compositions deserve an old Lou Donaldson record (think 1967’s Alligator Bogaloo or 1969’s Everything I Play Is Funky) or a Dr. Lonnie Smith album (try Live at Club Mozambique, recorded in 1970), and not an industry dominated by soulless hip-hop and overproduced pop.

But you don’t see Bernard complaining; he’s too busy carrying the torch, and actually gigging with the likes of Smith and drummer Idris Muhammad. And with Party Hats, the guitarist’s fourth effort as a leader and first for the acclaimed Palmetto Records (who dish out the goods by Ben Allison, Marty Ehrlich and many more), he’s cut an hour’s worth of tunes that could stand up next to any of those old Blue Note sides.

But that’s what you’d expect from one third of the current Stanton Moore Trio, a once and future T.J. Kirk-er, and a cat who appears on record with Don Cherry (!). Bernard has done his time, paid his dues, received a Grammy nod (with the Kirk) and blossomed into an awesome leader.

Things kick off with “Share the Sea,” a rollicking New Orleans romp replete with the ubiquitous Cheme Gastelum (of Robert Walter’s 20th Congress fame) on alto saxophone and the growling Adam Theis on trombone. Other highlights include the Peter Apfelbaum-enhanced “Ripple Sole” (check out his solo saxophone introduction) and the sly “Folding Green,” a James Brown groove with a Charlie Hunter melody.

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