CD Review of Improvisczario by Bernie Worrell
Recommended if you like
Bill Laswell, Medeski Martin & Wood, Weather Report
Bernie Worrell:

Reviewed by Mojo Flucke, PhD


orrell, perhaps one of the most creative living rock keyboardists, has done it again – although what "that" is will mean different things to different people. For fans of harder-edged fusion jazz artists such as Medeski, Martin & Wood, this record will be a pleasure to consume; it plays like a work of Mona Lisa proportions. For keyboard players who aspire to improve themselves, it acts as a pastiche of jazzy, rocky, funky tunes that will awe, inspire, and teach; you can hear different, new things with every single listen. For Bill Laswell fans, it will be a fastball right down the middle of the plate -- just go ahead and buy this record. Don't even bother finishing the review.

For Parliament fans looking for another "Flashlight," or for people who admired Worrell's work with the Talking Heads, it will likely be scary boring. But that's the thing about Worrell. He pushes the envelope, pulling all kinds of stylistic levers from old-skool 1960s jazz ("New Boss") to rump-thumpingly ferocious metallic funk ("Dirty") to a lightweight banjo groove ("Up in the Hills"). Of all people he could pick to feature as collaborators, he chose former Phish member Mike Gordon (developing said banjo groove) and Allmans/Gov't Mule guitarist Warren Haynes. Jam band fans who like their grooves gravitating progressively to the jazz side would do well to give this one a shot.

It's an eclectic mix. You gotta run with Worrell's line of thinking: Be open-minded, follow the groove where it takes you, and understand that while Parliament and Funkadelic were good times, it's 2007 and that stuff's long in the rear view. Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow happened back when 60 cents was still a jaw-dropping price for a gallon of gas, man. This guy's a working artist, and if you can't keep up, that's okay. Just don't expect him to whip out another 1970s-style retro-funk gem and put his name to it, unless he's getting paid as a sideman for some other project (see his work on the Super Bad soundtrack). This ain't the place for that. Bernie Worrell's moving forward, and you're either going with him, or you're gonna get left behind.

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