Dave Bernstein Quartet

C the Blues

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Southern California-raised, Berklee School of Music-trained guitarist Dave Bernstein had been toiling away at his craft in the Bay Area for well over a decade before this, his debut recording, was released. It turns out that this mainstreamer -- evidently a Wes Montgomery fan -- has picked up on the master's gift for melody, and like Montgomery, he doesn't spray notes indiscriminately all over the place just to show off his technical machismo. Eight of the 13 tracks are Bernstein compositions; all are rather pleasing, and some, like "Flower & Flytrap" -- where the rhythmic current alternates between bossa nova and straight time -- are even more than that. On tunes like "Rabbits" and Bud Powell's "Oblivion," Bernstein winningly emulates Montgomery's full-bodied, single-string tone in rapid swinging bop flights, though a few of the runs could be cleaner in execution. As for the blues, on "Extemporaneous" and "Extemporaneously," he goes it alone in a pair of mellow, unaccompanied electric blues that evoke Kenny Burrell, and does some tongue-in-cheek Hawaiian shtick on a strange pick, "Moon of Manakoora." Alan Steger (piano), Chris Amberger (bass), and Michael Spencer (drums) form the rhythm section, providing flexible, melodic, and competent mainstream support at all times -- and they are exceptionally well recorded in crisp detail.

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