Will Bernard | “Freelance Subversives” | Review

Article Contributed by Nicole Lise Feingold | Published on Thursday, September 17, 2020

I have been closely tracking COVID deaths. (My morbid confession.) On average, 1,000 deaths are realized daily. By January, if we don’t assume basic public health approaches, new models predict 3,000 daily deaths. I’m not a numbers gal. (I barely passed algebra 2 and was thrown into delinquent geometry where I have fond memories of the goth guy who taught me how to apply lipstick flawlessly.) Although told ad nauseam numbers are clear-cut, I despise mathematics, finding the subject difficult to comprehend. The COVID calculations and outcomes, however, are simple to grasp, equating absolute horror if we continue to follow this destructive path. The lack of urgency, ingenuity and adaptability are responsible for the pandemic’s fatality failures. Adopting qualities so eloquently presented in Will Bernard’s invigorating record, “Freelance Subversives” can change our trajectory for the better.

Jazzy funk is characterized by improvisation, explosive rhythms and polyphonic ensembles. Unlike numbers, there is nothing straightforward or humdrum about the genre, impeccably embodied by Bernard. His music is creative, instrumentally complex and thoroughly exhilarating. He is also a gifted guitarist who pushes boundaries, teasing and enticing the listener yet still innately knows how to share the stage. His synergy with the band as well as special guests is undeniable. From track to track each instrument takes a different, unpredictable tone, shifting and morphing like big, puffy clouds on a clear, blue sky day. Intricate layers are inserted highlighting the spirited horns, sultry organ, vibrant keyboards, directed drums and boomy bass. The title song has a groovy disco, trance vibe that could be the soundtrack for a day biking around ‘the playa.’ I could easily be lured to the floor, boogying to “Lifer.” Jazz legends like Charlie Hunter, Herbie Hancock, Booker T. Jones and of course, the Muppet’s Dr. Teeth and Electric Mayhem are channeled in “Skill Set.”

Bernard’s album demonstrates agility, determination, ability to pivot and extreme warmth. If all the characteristics showcased in Bernard’s music were applied to our current tragedy, (we are nearing 200,000 avoidable COVID deaths, a milestone initially forecasted for November), the missteps could be rapidly remedied. It’s time to personify the “Freelance Subversives” role. Clearly what has transpired is not working. Bernard’s album illustrates the need for unconventional renegades. Let’s independently undermine the system.