Just in time to fulfill your New Year's resolution to listen to more EWI music comes a new release on the BernUp label from instrumental wizard Bernie Kenerson. Just You & Me, with a planned street date of January 1st, features the talented multi-instrumentalist showcasing his Akai Electronic Wind Instrument 4000 on a mix of his own compositions.
The EWI is not something that comes to mind as the featured instrument for a new album, but it's certainly showing up everywhere in the background these days. So maybe it's time to bring it front and center. Besides, listening to the EWI (pronounced "EE-WEE") might help lessen the disappointment of those who couldn't find a Wii (pronounced "WEE") in time for Christmas.
Kenerson has a varied musical history that includes many years spent in Army bands, diplomas from prestigious musical institutions, and professional experience ranging from his own jazz group to a decade spent in Europe. In recent years he's been part of the Southeastern US music scene, both as a performer and as a recording artist.
His original musical education was on flute, clarinet and sax, and he does occasionally pick up one those instruments here, but he's been involved with electronics for many years and there's little doubt the EWI is his focus on this album. He's joined in his efforts by keyboardist Jim Schneider, percussionist Art Weiss, and Gary Craddock on bass, along with a couple of guest sidemen on a few tracks.
Although the music on this album shouldn't really be classified as Smooth Jazz, there's little doubt that there is a common theme running through the tracks that's reminiscent of it. For that reason, I'd judge that those who dislike that genre will probably not find much to like here. That being said, I did find some selections a little intriguing.
The title tune gets things started well by immediately acquainting us with the sound of the EWI (which takes some getting used to). I also enjoyed "Glad You Said Yes," with its haunting, almost plaintive melody that shows Kenerson's talent to good effect.
Always a sucker for just about anything with a Latin beat, I liked "Grand Strand Samba," a song that kicks up its percussive heels while still featuring an EWI lead. It was a combination that worked well for me, although it might not be for everybody.
And finally, I thought that the closing tune, "B.W.," gave us something a little different and maybe a bit closer to improvisational jazz. It was the best on the album and left me wishing for more of that and a little less of some of the others.
Overall, I'd give an endorsement to the album — but lukewarm.