Will Bernard Trio: Directions to My House

Bay Area guitarist Will Bernard–a former member of the audacious three-guitar outfit T.J. Kirk–teams with bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Ches Smith for this eclectic and provocative program of forward-looking jazz. From the bluesy opener “Not Necessarily Stoned,” featuring Bernard on electric slide guitar and National steel guitar, to the raucous 7/4 free-bop jam “Crab Apple Red” to the sparse rubato vehicle “Koto,” featuring special guests Peter Apfelbaum on tenor sax and Jeff Cressman on trombone, Bernard distinguishes himself as an extremely versatile and inventive player. (He’s somewhat akin to fellow six-string upstarts Marc Ribot and Nels Cline.)

On the title track Bernard demonstrates a lyrical touch with the slide, while his lovely ballad “What’s Left” showcases his penchant for playing chordal melodies. Those two gentle offerings are a far cry from his “Hall of Science” and “Two Hot Dogs & a Strawberry Soda,” in which Bernard’s hellacious, distortion-soaked onslaughts recall Sonny Sharrock’s shards-of-splintered glass approach to soloing. Add in the ambitious, through-composed “Riddle Me This” and the twisted wah-inflected atonalisms of “Agro Business” and you’ve got one of the most potent, if underrecognized, guitarists on the post-Frisell/post-Scofield scene.