FAME Review: Brandon Bernstein Trio - But Beautiful
Brandon Bernstein Trio - But Beautiful

But Beautiful

Brandon Bernstein Trio

Available from CD Baby.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

If you're feeling kinda grandfathery and generationally gapped, wondering just what the hell's coming of this new generation, I say "Stuff a sock in it!" and listen to the Brandon Bernstein Trio's CD But Beautiful, Pops, 'cause Gens X, Y, and Z just might know more about your own time period than you do. Bernstein's a gifted guitar cat, a thirty-something who looks twenty-something but who fully embodies the prime period not long after Les Paul figured out the axe could be electrified and thus ushered in a whole new era in music. Before, however, Hendrix and Clapton and Fripp could lay their hands on a Gibson or Fender and turn things upside down, the jazzbos were having their way, and all the swing you hear in even the most psychedelic musics comes from that too short period, though the rock era gods and new firebrands themselves may not understand that.

Bernstein has garnered extravagant but very justified praise from such as Larry Koonse and John Stowell, the former not only a killer player but also one of Bernstein's teachers and latter of whom we've always heard far too little from. Though the young man's favored antecedents are Jim Hall and Ed Bickert, I hear a lot of Ellis, Montgomery, Kessell, Green, Szabo, and others in his stylings but with an ear to moderns as well: Metheny, Frisell, Martino, Abercrombie, etc. You have to really listen to get all many the infusions, but they're there, oft quite subtly placed, sometimes way evident, though his cover of Cahn's I Should Care lays it all out for everyone rather nakedly. This guy is thinking all the time as he plays.

My favorite track is Bernstein's take on Bud Powell's Celia, an energetic boppy abstract that brims over with life, counterpointing the many wistfully intonated pastelled ballads in Beautiful with verve and finessey muscle. The trio format is perfect no matter where Bernstein travels, though. Bassist Putter Smith and drummer Kendall Kay get their chops in all around his presence, but understatedly until soloing time comes up, and that's when the listener really appreciates what's going on in accompaniment. But Beautiful is the Great American songbook in a reverential instrumental setting, and it's true that everything old is indeed new again, but it's cats like Brandon Bernstein who are the reason why.

Track List:

  • That Old Feeling (S. Fain)
  • Skylark (H. Carmichael)
  • You Go to My Head (J.F. Coots)
  • Nancy With the Laughing Face (J. Van-Heusen)
  • I Should Care (S. Cahn)
  • Celia (B. Powell)
  • My Old Flame (A. Johnston)
  • I'll Be Seeing You (S. Fain)
  • Background Music (W. Marsh)
  • But Beautiful (J. Van-Heusen)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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