Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bassist Chris Bernhardt's BMR4 Get Good Things Going on "Fixing A Hole"

The mainstream in jazz today is so vast as to almost have no meaning as a label. There's the radio mainstream of endless standards done inoffensively, there's the mainstream of styles from the past in various stages of revival and/or continuation, there are electric styles that have a certain new-tradition stance, and on from there.

So if I call the BMR4 and their EP Fixing A Hole (Buzz Music no cat #) mainstream, I need to be more specific about what it is I mean. The group is a nicely swinging outfit with a very nice gathering of improvisers doing some very nice things with material that in no way mirrors the usual run-of-the-mill choices.

BMR4 is Chris Bernhardt on acoustic bass, Jay Moynihan on tenor, Mike Rodbard, drums, Neal Alger, guitar, and Taku Akiyama guesting on alto for two of the four tracks. There are some excellent players. Rodbard swings along with that solid groove-making feel and Chris B does his thing very well indeed as both a soloist and a rhythm-team member. Moynihan's tenor mainstreams without copying a particular style, which is saying much these days, and Neal Alger is the complete guitarist, doing some great comping and showing how his soloing (especially on "You've Changed") manages to integrate the bop-and-after traditions into a projection of a personal musical sound and feel.

And the pieces chosen have a very good flow to them. Herbie Hancock's "The Maze" is given loving treatment, the Beatles' "Fixing A Hole" has total credibility in its swinging garb, "You've Changed" shows that Moynihan and Algers can breathe fresh solo magic into a very well-covered song. Gil Evan's "Barricuda" is an unusual choice, in that it is not oftened covered. And they cover it with swinging fire.

For the arrangements, the swinging feel and Neal Alger's guitar work, and for the overall freshness-in-tradition that BMG4 pulls of nicely, this one is a most pleasant surprise. It's something hard not to like. So check it out if you can.

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