Chad Berdtnson

HT Interview: Ain’t No Bugs on Will Bernard

If there are bugs crawling on Will Bernard, the world’s probably ended. The guitarist seems to keep as busy as and often busier than any of his peers, and in classic scene fashion, is at his best when he’s juggling as many projects, collaborations, sit-ins and fresh ideas as humanly possible.

He’s also bi-coastal – Bernard moved to Brooklyn in October 2007 but still spends a lot of time among the West Coast jazz, soul, R&B, funk and other scenes that bred him. An eclectic stylist, he started getting noticed in the Bay Area and then on a national level as a member of Peter Apfelbaum’s Hieroglyphics Ensemble, and then, in the mid 1990s, busted out with Charlie Hunter and John Schott in T.J. Kirk.

The first Will Bernard record was Medicine Hat (1998), and the following decade would see him in a number of different configurations, both with his own bands – the Will Bernard Band, Motherbug, the Will Bernard Trio – and with the likes of Galactic’s Stanton Moore, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Meters anchor Zigaboo Modeliste, Robert Walter’s 20th Congress and the jazzy reggae collective Groundation.

For Bernard’s latest, Blue Plate Special (2008) he assembled a bona fide supergroup: himself, Moore on drums, John Medeski on keyboards and Andy Hess, who recently left Gov’t Mule, on bass. Jazz-funk rules the day, but there are psychedelic workouts (Blister), soul-jazz (Fast Fun), frothy blues (Frontwinder) and even a zany ska version of James Booker’s Gonzo (long an MMW concert favorite, though not like this).

READ ON for Chad’s interview with guitarist Will Bernard…

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