Bernie Worrell: Elevation (The Upper Air)

Bernie Worrell: Elevation (The Upper Air)

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Bernie Worrell

Bernie Warrell - ElevationFinally there is a record that Bernie Worrell might have made many years ago, but did not, because as the sage once said, everything happens in its time. Now is the time. Mr. Worrell’s exquisite programme is called Elevation (The Upper Air). How apt is this recording. It presents Mr. Worrell in a singularly contemplative space. Even though there would probably have been several technical staff and producer Bill Laswell in the room where this recording took place, the manner in which the music rolls out seems to suggest that Mr. Worrell was in fact, in a sacred space, alone with a marvellously tuned grand piano and a digital keyboard of sorts to create some sort of digital delay. This is, of course, pure guess work, but the point is: Bernie Worrell might never have sounded this way if he were not in the proverbial zone seeming to himself levitate as he interprets some of the finest music of the times. Make no mistake about this fact as well: This is not an attempt to create an album of ambient music, not is it Mr. Worrell’s intent to show off his virtuosity, but here is heartfelt music that comes as a result of reaching deep down into the soul and into the psyche. What emerges is abject honesty and musical interpretations of such immense power and beauty that it is very possible there are few solo piano records like it.

Bernie Worrell’s past credentials precede him, wherever he goes, thus his musicianship is hardly surprising. Mr. Worrell has always approached music with his whole body, mind and spirit. On Elevation this aspect of his music is given an opportunity to shine. It becomes obvious from the very first bars of the recording that Mr. Worrell is set to occupy a rarefied realm. His long and craggy fingers curl and stretch towards the notes on the keyboard that are caressed rather than “played,” so that the felt hammers whisper to the strings on the piano and a note is played. When Mr. Worrell attached several notes to this manner of playing, and a phrase is announced, it is with some significant pomp and circumstance that this takes place. With an evocative use of the pedals, notes—and the ends of phrases and lines—are made to dally languidly so much so that they begin to sing with true passion, grace and fire when played this way. It is impossible to read any complexity in to the manner in which Mr. Worrell approaches the melodies: in a reverential manner. This immediately translates into music of great depth and substance and that goes back to how Bernie Worrell relates to the piano; how he lets his fingers embrace notes—and therefore chords—making the horizontal and vertical aspects of the music sound like a spectral blessing.

It would be remiss not to mention charts such as Joe Zawinul’s “In A Silent Way” that became a beacon and a torch song for Miles Davis, both when Mr. Zawinul and Mr. Davis played it together as well as after the departure of Mr. Zawinul. “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” is restored to its original beauty when Charles Mingus played it in an almost reverential manner. The Bob Marley music is also approached in like manner and the simplicity and beauty of Mr. Marley’s original music is heightened. If a favourite is allowed from this repertoire, then that would be “Alabama,” which is a brooding piece of such power that it elevates mind and soul. Otherwise, it is difficult to single out a chart. The immense beauty of Mr. Worrell’s playing seems to carry on forever.

Track List: In A Silent Way; I’d Rather Be with You; Alabama; Goodbye Pork Pie Hat; Light On Water; Ooh Child; Samba Pa Ti; Realm Of Sight; I Wanna Go Outside In The Rain; Wings; Redemption Song.

Personnel: Bernie Worrell: piano.

Label: M.O.D. Technologies Records | Release date: March 2014

Website: bernieworrell.com | Buy music on: amazon

About Bernie Worrell

Bernie Worrell first came to prominence as a founding member and Musical Director of Parliament/Funkadelic. While this massively influential supergroup was radically altering the course of music, Bernie was radically charting the course of emerging keyboard technology during the golden age of analog synthesis. Among the key ingredients in his sonic stew were perfect pitch and a well-honed facility with the classical canon.

1 COMMENT

  1. outstanding review. i totally agree and i will hopefully soon be buying this record in hi-def digital for my new DAP.

    bernie is pure magic on the keys. he probably recorded this in one or two improvised takes. he has always collaborated with people and technology until this record where he finally gives us his piano recital. Final grade A+ Mr. Worrell should be cherished as one our finest musical souls.

    ezraz of wfnk.com

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