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Bernie Worrell : Improvisczario

“His performances on the Baby Grand piano make a strong case that Worrell is the closest living musician to legend Thelonious Monk,” claims this album’s press sheet. Wha’?! Worrell has chops and his spare piano lines might pay homage to Monk, but that doesn’t make him the heir apparent. Of course, a P-Funk veteran is likely to exaggerate on occasion, so it’s forgivable.

For Improvisczario, the tape rolls as drummer Will Calhoun (of Living Colour) and bassist Brent Bass lay down impenetrable grooves of funk, fusion and hard rock, the latter complete with four-string fuzz. Worrell effectively shapes these scenes by switching between piano, Wurlitzer, clavinet and B3. When Gov’t Mule/Allman Brothers guitarist Warren Haynes joins the trio, things get down and dirty. Likewise, saxophonist/flutist Darryl Dixon adds to the rubbery ’70s-style sound of “Bass on the Line.” Things fall short about one-third of the time when the groove runs out of steam before the song ends. When the rhythm section locks into a one-note stop-start/heartbeat riff (“New Boss”), not even the leader’s Monk-like riffs can sustain it for eight minutes. Phish’s Mike Gordon adds banjo to one song, but it would have been better had he brought a couple more chords with him.

Originally Published