No matter how much practice and thought has gone into his playing, Will Bernard possesses an inescapable immediacy. As the licks fly and his fingers knot, the music coming out of his guitar seems to form in the moment. That sly smile Bernard sports so much of the time contributes to this impression, as if he’s just figuring something cool out to share with us. In general, it’s hard to pin down where exactly Bernard’s picking comes from, his style very much a modern thing that draws from the smooth, technical world of high end jazz mixed with the rawness of blues and the up-in-your-grill feel of rock, topped with melting scoops of space funk and New Orleans soul. Wherever he’s getting it from Bernard is a near endless pleasure for listeners, the kind of musician one can just dreamily let take the reins and feel comfortable knowing the ride is gonna be good and cover a lot of ground.
If one isn’t already a steadfast fan, a fab primer in all things Will Bernard can be had in the new Outdoor Living (released March 20 on Dreck To Disk Records), where the guitarist spars ably with his fellow West Coast shredders Wil Blades (Hammond B3) and Simon Lott (drums). The trio – who hits the road again in April (dates over here) – shimmies all over the map, one minute serving up something like a classic 60s soul-jazz trio and at others stretching space and time in a softly cosmic way. The one constant is a conversational feel that makes for delightful eavesdropping; one tied closely to each turn and change of topic, the three men bouncing with seemingly effortless dexterity between bursts of bubbling excitement and passages of calming restraint. It is, in a word, a blast, and a fine jumping on point for Bernard (and his regular collaborators).
We lobbed DI’s guitarist survey to Mr. Bernard and this is what he had to say.
- Favorite effects pedal? Why?
- I like the Line 6 dl4 pedal because you can use it to do so much. It is a very well thought out pedal that can adapt to an individual’s personality.
- Tastiest guitarist — i.e. not just soloing but also overall playing — currently working six-strings?
- That’s a tough question but the easy answer is Bill Frisell. He will always be doing something worthwhile. There are so many others though that I am a fan of these days.
- A guitar solo I never get tired of listening to is…
- Billy Butler’s guitar solo on Bill Doggett’s 1956 hit “Honky Tonk”.
- Preferred brand of axe? Why?
- I tend to prefer Gibsons best but I play a bunch of different guitars including a Guild Starfire that I love.
- AC/DC, The Beatles, Radiohead or The Byrds – which one gives you the biggest guitar boner? What makes them SO sweet?
- The Beatles were the ones to me that really invented a lot of the pop/rock guitar styles that I like. I like their melodic style of playing and the wide variety of sounds that they came up with.
- One lesser known guitarist folks should check out is…
- If you are into guitar go back in time and check out the wealth of amazing guitar players from the past. I mentioned Billy Butler but there are so many others…Mickey Baker, Jimmy Bryant, Cornell Dupree.
- What aspect of being a guitarist always makes you happy?
- I like that there is always more to learn.