Guitarist Will Bernard continues to crank out the knotty and cerebral funk jams on 2007's Party Hats. Falling somewhere between the low-key '60s soul trio vibe of Medeski, Martin & Wood and the uptempo, fiery swagger of Maceo Parker, Party Hats is a soulful, good-time album that should please fans of both blues-oriented funk and post-bop improvisation. Joining Bernard here is a stellar backing ensemble of longtime cohorts, including tenor saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum, Hammond organist Wil Blades, drummers Jan Jackson and Paul Spina, and others. Interestingly, Bernard has struck a nice balance between tight James Brown-esque horn section moments and more open-ended improvisational moments. To these ends, tracks like the expansive and propulsive "Ripple Sole," the '70s-influenced blaxploitation slow burner "Chin Up," and the acid country-jazz of "Newbie" make for both obscenely funky background music and intellectually engaging jazz head trips. This CD was nominated for a Grammy award in 2007 for Best Contemporary Jazz Album.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar