On Earth Tones, his fourth recording as a leader for the Criss Cross label, guitarist Peter Bernstein rekindles the chemistry he established ten years ago with trio mates Larry Goldings on Hammond B-3 organ and Bill Stewart on drums. From the swinging opener “Metamorphosis” to the ultra-funky closer “Carrot Top,” the boppish Hank Mobley theme “The Breakthrough” and lush takes on “How Deep is the Ocean” and “Who Can I Turn To,” they hit on that rare rapport that only grows deeper over time.
“We started playing together about late ‘89 up at Augies,” says Bernstein, referring to a popular jazz hangout near Columbia University. “We played every Thursday night there for about a year and a half. Nothing can take the place of having some years of playing together. So every time we get together now there’s a certain shared history that we can just build on. It’s nice.”
The three played together on two dates under Goldings’ name (1991’s Intimacy of the Blues on Verve and 1992’s Light Blue on Minor Music) while continuing to work as a trio at places like the Village Gate and Small’s. Bernstein has worked regularly through the ‘90s with Lou Donaldson’s quartet featuring organist Dr. Lonnie Smith (he appears on Donaldson’s 1994 Columbia album, Sentimental Journey). He has also recorded with organist Melvin Rhyne (The Legend, Boss Organ, and Mel’s Spell, all on Criss Cross) and is a charter member of Cobb’s Mobb, led by drumming legend Jimmy Cobb. (He appears on Cobb’s recently released Only for the Pure of Heart on Fable Records).
“Playing with the guys of my generation is great and I’m glad I have a history with some of them, but the older guys is really where you can learn. Lou’s a survivor. So is Mel. Cobb too. These guys have been playing for 40 years. It’s their music, they lived it and they’re doing their thing. There’s a certain authenticity there. So just to be around them is important for me, to help me grow musically.”