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Published: 2011/06/07
by Brian Robbins

Bernie Worrell

Scufflin’ Records

Now here’s what you’d have to call a multi-faceted ticket to ride, boys and girls: keyboardist Bernie Worrell’s new Standards album has something that’s going to put a smile on everyone’s face. From the experienced travelers of Worrell’s funky universe (dating back to his 1970s work in the engine room of the Parliament-Funkadelic mothership) to the uninitiated looking for a sampler of the 67-year-old’s talents, Standards fits the bill. Shoot – even if you’re simply a jazz listener with an appreciation for genius keyboard work (that’ll occasionally make you want to wiggle your ass), grab a copy of Standards and you’ll be all set.

The album comes by its name righteously: Worrell puts his own spin on jazz chestnuts ranging from the opener “Take The ‘A’ Train” (just Worrell and what sounds like a big ol’ grand piano) to the 6-minute-plus funklurch of “Watermelon Man”. Joining Worrell are his SociaLybrium bandmates JT Lewis (drums) and Melvin Gibbs (bass), along with guest players who include guitarist Smokey Hormel and saxophonist Darryl Dixon.

There are Latin-flavored moments: a cool yet poignant “Bye Bye Blackbird” or the bossa nova hip-sway of “Agua de Beber”; there are times when the funk can’t help its nasty self: “Take Five” (Lewis’ drum solo and all) never sounded like this – nor did “All The Things You Are”, which will you take you to some very unexpected places. And there are times when you have to just shake your head and say, “God Almighty – is there anything on the keyboard that Bernie Worrell can’t do?” Witness the album closer “Moon River”, which begins with melodica sweetness, passes through a lovely gauze of electric key tones woven around some nice jazz guitar, and then gives itself totally to Worrell’s piano riding on a soft rhythm base formed by Lewis’ drums and Gibbs’ heart-tugging upright bass.

Captured on analog by Worrell and co-producer Evan Taylor, Standards sounds warm and natural – from the hiss of a brushed cymbal to Worrell’s right-hand trills. All in all, it’s a cool album just to put on and be with.

Nice work.


There are 8 comments associated with this post

Andrew Kimball June 8, 2011, 13:00:06

This album rocks

Kyle C. June 8, 2011, 13:11:40

This album is great. Most people know Bernie for his funk chops. This record shows off Bernie’s overall musicality and versatility. Truely a genius.

Mellow October 13, 2011, 10:55:18

Bernie Worrell adds truly innovative creativity to anything he touches. Listening to him branch out into genres yet unexplored by him breaths new life into his art. This album is whimsical with sparkles of unexpected funk. My personal favorite is his rendition of Watermelon Man, a treat and a mind blower!

marsalisg October 13, 2011, 14:00:40

I have always wondered what BW would sound like playing straight-ahead Jazz. I can still hear elements of the “Parliament days” sound. Those weird “irks and quirks” that are BW signatures. As a matter of fact, I was expecting an all acoustic CD, but was surprised to hear those vintage electronic keyboard sounds. My favorites are his versions of Take 5, and Watermelon Man. Both stick fairly close to the original melodies, but they are definitely BWs interpretation of the tunes. BW’s whimsical approach to music reminds me of another one of my heroes: Thelonious Monk. Both men seem to just hear what they hear, and play what they play. So I’m thrilled BW is taking a minute to play Jazz.

Celia October 13, 2011, 19:41:58

Love love love this album! It’s the first cd queued up in my car. You can hear hints of the funk that he’s know for. My personal favs are Moonriver, Take 5 and Take the A Train.

David October 13, 2011, 20:35:02

This album is amazing! Jazz standards as seen through the eyes of the Wizard of Woo, what could be better. Not much to say, Bernie Worrell playing standards. Must have for anyone with ears and a brain in between.

Rod W October 13, 2011, 22:29:53

The genius is still alive and well… So glad to see my friend continuing to express himself in a complete immersion of a different genre that you only previously got to see in small snippets at the live shows of Bernie Worrell and the Woo Warriors. You’ll not be disappointed and you will be transported to a another side of the woo-verse!

Jere B January 10, 2013, 07:07:39

Weaned on the funk from the earliest age, you practically had to know all P-Funk Music and personnel to be a member of my Family! With all Bernie has contributed to the various genres of music, here he conquers the Final Frontier of Straight Ahead Jazz, but in true Funkateer Fashion, includes all the wrinkles. I recently watched a documentary that seemed to pay tribute to his genius post mortem, so I was content to live with the past pages of his efforts. And now a new chapter unfolds! If you even remotely care about music, buy this project!

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