We'll Know When We Get There...
The Bernstein Bard Trio
Bernbard Music, 2006
Just by looking at the cover of the Bernstein Bard Trio's new release—an acoustic guitar and mandolin leaning casually against a reclining upright bass in the grass—you know straightway this is an organic outing.The New Paltz-based wooden warriors include Steve Bernstein (mandolin), Mark Bernstein (guitar), and Robert Bard (bass), and they have their own slant on acoustic-driven music with the impressive We'll Know When We Get There...
BBT gets off to a fine start with "Manzanillo," which features Steve taking the melody while Mark offers several sweet solos.
There are plenty of obvious choices of material here that are quite satisfying: Duke Ellington's "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'," and the traditional "Scarborough Fair" all go to delightful places. But it's the unlikely selection of Sting's "Fields of Gold" that could be the highlight. It's uncanny how well a Sting song works in an acoustic context, and what delicate wonders these players work with it.
While guests Jay Ungar (violin) and Peter Davis (clarinet) up the ante (especially on Duke's "I'm Beginning to See The Light"), the Bernsteins' vocals on two of the tracks are somewhat distracting.
But the musicianship and approach here are exceptional, and there's comfort in knowing that there was no electricity used by the instruments. (Politically correct production values!) The Bernstein Bard Trio will play at the Discovery Institute in New Paltz on January 27 and 28. www.bernsteinbardtrio.com
- David Malachowski
Bold Displays of Cowardice
The Easy Tease
Brolique Productions, 2006
My house reeks of sewage and my landlord lives in Texas. Listening to The Easy Tease's new full-length has lifted the stink from my nose to the sweet sounds of somewhere else. With a combination of salty air and wet wood, my nostrils breathe relief. The first track, aptly titled "Shipwrecked or Bad Luck and Rain" is Gilligan with only a God Speed You! Black Emperor record for company.We are guided onwards into this gentle storm. A maelstrom of sandy grit lies under the deceivingly tender lap of waves. The banjo tickles and we like it. The trombone is a sophisticated French circus, acrobatic and demanding. The Sherlockian piano is introspective and searching. The horseshoe beat finds its way out of the crowded pub with drunken deliberation. My dear Watson! Let us wander in for a pint. All the children sing. Fearless, gender-bending voices dance with anticipation and excitement like my nephew when there is a frosting beater to be licked. Methodically earnest and thoughtful, they whisper and then surge with melodic angst back to shore.
This is an indie-rock record with a brave heart and the rhythmic variety is instantly likable. One imagines the band's live shows mixing the noxious levity of The Pogues with the singular angularity of Neutral Milk Hotel. The group's members studied at Bard College and now sow their seeds throughout the Mid-Hudson Valley. www.theeasytease.com
- Jason Broome
One For The Bishop
The Kansas City Sound
In the 1930s, Kansas City, Missouri, was a prime region for American jazz, with the hottest players and composers swingin' their batons off. On One For The Bishop
, erstwhile band leader and saxophonist Harvey Kaiser and his orchestra pay tribute to not only Count Basie, but to the KC Sound's own late pianist/vocalist, Joel "Bishop" O'Brien. (The session was O'Brien's last and the CD is dedicated to his memory.) After Bishop's passing, Billy Alfred (here on six cuts) picked up piano duties.The streamlined unit hits the ground running with "Tickletoe," a rarely covered Basie-Lester Young burner, followed by more Basie with "Blue and Sentimental," which contains a delightful Eddie Diehl guitar solo. The skintight rhythm section of Bill Crow on bass and Marvin Bugalu Smith on drums backs up O'Brien on the jumpin' "Hackensack Lady" (a mash-up of Monk's "Hackensack" and the Gershwins' "Lady Be Good"). The session also stars trumpeter Fred Smith and ex-Monk side man Eddie Bert on trombone. One For The Bishop
was recorded in 2004 at the late Steve Burgh's uptown Kingston studio, and Burgh sat in on the alternate take of Basie's "9:20 Special." Special is the word, all right, for this fine ensemble effort, available at www.cdbaby.com
- DJ Wavy Davy