If you have spent any time listening to jazz in New York, guitarist Peter Bernstein will be a familiar name. If Peter Bernstein isn’t familiar to you, then by all means check this guy out without further ado. Pete’s probably the most talented up and coming jazz guitarist on the scene today. His recent release "Heart’s Content" on Criss Cross Jazz is a fine example of his talent, backed up by Larry Grenadier (Bass), Brad Mehldau (Piano), and Bill Stewart (Drums).
Peter is a truly an uncompromising purist of the art form. Pete has beautiful intonation, a languid, behind the beat phrasing, and a lovely lyricism that shines especially on ballads. To a large degree, Pete’s improvisation sidesteps clichés, easy harmonic formulae, and standard licks. This is refreshing for devoted listeners, but can be a little inaccessible for those fed a diet of Monheit, Mahogony, and Metheny. Especially playing live, Pete is able to create this sustained, inspired momentum when he improvises. Brad called this "slow-burn" in the liner notes, and I can’t think of a better term for the feeling.
Six of the eight tracks were composed by Pete, with a couple of standards rounding out the album. Pete is not really a "traditionalist" in many respects, but his playing reflects the best of Jim Hall and the integrity of that era. Brad Mehldau also merits some close listening (as always), and his playing is very compatible with Pete’s musical concept. My only complaint about this album is the recording/mix. Pete sounds great, but the rhythm section is a little muddy at times, and this music deserves better sonic treatment. Still, mix notwithstanding, hearing Pete play on this recording reassures me that the future of jazz guitar is safe in Pete’s hands. Buy this album, and go hear him when you’re in New York.