There are two ways of explaining the CD title, So Real: It's the only original tune by pianist Bernhardt, or the fact that not one edit exists on the album. Eight of the nine cuts were first takes. Bernhardt recorded "Autumn Leaves" again because he was dissatisfied with the tempo.
Considering the "time is money" concept that short-changes so many sessions, DMP must be as delighted as Bernhardt, bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Peter Erskine. They have all created a memorable collection of chamber jazz: intellectual swing, intelligent interaction, tasteful choices, dynamic self-control, with stereo separation and clarity seldom heard these days.
As usual, the ballads separate the men from the boys and underscore the claim that Bill Evans was Bernhardt's mentor. (Reinforcing that are the recordings Bernhardt made with Eddie Gomez.) Why "Never Let Me Go" is not done more often is a mystery. It's given a prayerful treatment here. Another ballad, Erskine's "On the Lake," has a visual loveliness, fragile as a film cue. Curiously, the semitango of Erskine's brushes shouldn't work, but it makes sense. Knowing its West Side Story origin, "Somewhere" shouldn't work as a waltz, but it does. Contrasting all the seriousness, Monk's quirky "I Mean You" showcases the trio's versatility.
Perhaps it's the unexpected that makes this CD so successful, like the swinging solo brushes on the slow "Don't Explain" or Bernhardt's quote from "Straight, No Chaser" on a fast "I Should Care" or how "So Real," which is so bluesy, can sound so free.