Will Bernard Trio explores new soul-jazz territory this week at Kuumbwa
After a long trek around Europe, Will Bernard is looking forward to moving back to California for a while and stopping by one of his favorite venues, Kuumbwa Jazz, on Thursday. It seems the group he’ll be playing with, which he describes as a “classic trio format,” is one of his favorites, too—heck, he named the band after it. “You can get a lot of sound out of a three-piece organ trio,” he says.
When asked to define the Will Bernard Trio’s genre, he guessed, “People tell me we’re mostly soul-jazz.” But of course, he’s not ready to pigeonhole his sound. “It’s not like classic soul-jazz, we kinda stretch the boundaries a lot … Simon Lott is [our] drummer from New Orleans who plays a lot of different styles, free jazz and electronica. So he’s always bringing in some more music.”
To further break the mold of conventional soul-jazz, Bernard says he likes “to use more sound effects on [his] guitar.” Sometimes, that means he just wants to get in your face with effects. His secret? “Octave fuzz, like Jimi Hendrix used to use.” An unusual choice for the typical jazz guitarist, but it works none the less. “You can get a lot of different tones out of it,” he says.
That’s essentially what the Will Bernard Trio is all about: getting unexpected tones and sounds out of supposedly familiar music.
This deviation from normality is furthered showcased in Bernard’s writing style. He says he composes “mostly solid songs that are built to be improvised on. You have a melody, you can either have chord changes, or you can have a bass line or drum groove. Then I’ll kinda write about it.” Imagine driving down a garden path with a bulldozer—it’s not going to look the same afterwards.
The same analogy can be applied to Bernard’s career as a musician: always on the road, playing with different groups, in a variety of styles, he is a one-man evolutionary force. But the Will Bernard Trio is his home base, where he can toss all conventions aside and let his own jazz soul truly shine. So come check out some massively heartfelt tunes by musicians who really know what it means to lose yourself in the music.
INFO: Thursday, June 23, 7 p.m., Kuumbwa Jazz, 320 Cedar Street #2, Santa Cruz. $18/adv, $21/door. 427-2227.