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Bernie Worrell: Going It Alone

P-Funk's keyboard legend cuts his first solo piano album

Bernie Worrell and guitarist André Lassalle at Undead Jazzfest 2010
Bernie Worrell at Winter Jazz Fest 2012

Exploring new sounds is not unusual for keyboardist Bernie Worrell. For more than four decades, he’s built a legacy out of musical adventure, particularly with the P-Funk empire. As music director for Parliament-Funkadelic, he stretched the boundaries of funk keyboard playing by layering multiple instruments such as the piano, Minimoog, clavinet, organ and synthesizers, then crafting contrapuntal melodies animated by references to classical music, blues, gospel and even cartoon jingles. He continues to stretch, this time far beyond his comfort zone, with his new disc, Elevation: The Upper Air (MOD Technologies), his first solo piano recording. “I really don’t like creating music just by myself,” Worrell says.

The project’s producer, bassist Bill Laswell, one of Worrell’s longstanding collaborators, encouraged the 69-year-old to record the date. To sell Worrell on the project, Laswell shared his own rewarding experiences with cutting a solo bass outing. “I explained to Bernie that, in the beginning, I wasn’t that sure about it. But the more I got involved, I realized how personal it can be,” Laswell recalls. “It’s a very different experience. He’s never done a solo recording before; for that reason alone, it should be done.”

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