If God were to draw up a list of the world’s most talented rock-’n’-soul musicians, Bernie Worrell would be in the Top 5.
Bernie was, first and foremost, a chief architect of the music of Parliament and Funkadelic. On monster jams like “Flashlight” and “Aquaboogie,” he revolutionized the use of synthesizers. On trippier album cuts like “Tales of Kidd Funkadelic” and “Atmosphere,” Bernard flexed classical chops in a radically post-modern context and blew a generation of minds.
(Click here for a 5-minute segment of “Tales,” streaming on my Vox site.)
Next week comes a DVD that will begin to give Bernie Worrell his due as a force in popular music. It’s called “Stranger: Bernie Worrell on Earth.” If I were you, I’d pre-order it right now, just to make sure I don’t forget.
I saw this documentary in 2005 at a festival screening in D.C., and can’t wait to watch it again. Brooklyn-based filmmaker Philip Di Fiore interviewed the likes of Bootsy Collins, David Bryne, Les Claypool and Mos Def... all singing the praises of Mr. Worrell.
(Among those testifiers are two good friends of mine: Larry Alexander and Thomas Stanley. Longtime readers might recall our epic roundtable discussion of the N-word.)
Since the decline of George Clinton’s P-Funk empire, Bernie Worrell has spreaded his sonic magic far and wide... especially at the behest of progressive white cats.
When Talking Heads wanted to get serious about their funk, they hired Bernie.
Bill Laswell pulled Bernie into the studio constantly throughout the ’90s, under such project names as Praxis and Axiom Funk.
Jack Bruce (of Cream) did a duo album with him.
More recently, Les Claypool (of Primus) recruited Bernie Worrell for a touring unit called Col. Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains. And guitar hero Warren Haynes speed-dialed Bernie for some Gov’t Mule recording sessions.
As for Mos Def, he assembled Bernie Worrell, Dr. Know, Doug Wimbish and Will Calhoun for his black-rock supergroup, Black Jack Johnson.
Now, I don’t wanna hit y’all with too much at once. I’ll post more about Bernie over the next week or so. But I will mention his new CD, “Impovisczario.” (Downloadable from iTunes, eMusic and Amazon.com.)
Interestingly, this album was produced by Phil Di Fiore, the documentary filmmaker, and released on Di Fiore’s boutique label, Godforsaken Music. (Bernie is also showcased on Godforsaken’s Baby Elephant project, along with legendary beat maestro Prince Paul.)
I must say, I’m not really feeling the “Improvisczario” CD. It seems like a bunch of loosely constructed jams built on thin ideas. But I do dig one cut – “Killer Mosquito,” with Bernie rocking the Hammond B-3 organ as only he can. It features Warren Haynes on guitar. Will Calhoun’s on the drum kit. Click here to stream it on my Vox blog.
Finally, here’s the trailer for the Bernie Worrell documentary: