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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.

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