Will Bernard & Motherbug (original members) are gearing up for action with the next installment of Guitar Player’s monthly concert series at John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom Room. As a member of T.J. Kirk (with Charlie Hunter), Bernard was nominated for a Grammy in 1997. The San Franciscan soul jazz guru’s debut as a bandleader came in the form of 1998’s Medicine Hat [Verve], which ran a gamut of roots-based musical styles, and that trend continues on his latest release, Directions to My House [Dreck to Disc].
“I listen to everything I can get my hands on,” Bernard said. “When I was growing up in Berkeley, there was this great radio station called KSAN that played an incredible mixture of stuff. I’d hear soul music—like Bill Withers and King Curtis—then a Bob Dylan song, and then Captain Beefheart. I was too young to go to clubs, so I just soaked up as much as I could from the radio.”
Bernard brings together his diverse influences to form a cohesive guitar style that is always rhythmically sound first, and then becomes harmonically interesting. He has a tendency to underplay at times, which adds an element of surprise when he drops his chops. Just when you think you’ve got him pegged an acid-jazz groover who paints between the lines with a traditional tone, Bernard will whip out a slide and incorporate an Indian scale, or utilize an E-Bow to create a new texture.
Motherbug’s sound features heavy guitar/keyboard interplay and is influenced by Bay Area bands such as Tower of Power, Santana, and Sly & The Family Stone. Bernard’s ability to swap energy with the crowd and climax a solo at the opportune time adds an element of excitement to each and every show.