Chicago is one of those unique cities that has always been on the pulse of vangaurd change in popular music. Although the city is known most for its blues, Chicago has also played a leading role in the performance, recording, and artistic evolution of jazz. The BMR4 (Bernhardt, Moynihan, Rodbard quartet), veterans of the Chicago music scene, have proved to be quite adaptable in creating noteworthy musical mixtures of all idioms. You can hear, within their jazz style, flourishes of the city's blues, rock and R&B influences.
As legendary guitarist Robert Johnson put it, Chicago has been a "sweet home" for the blues. As the most recognizable cultural signature that Chicago has produced, it's rich sense of origin and history still shapes music and social practices throughout the Windy City.
Chris Bernhardt, Jay Moynihan, and Mike Rodbard had their musical baptism in the blues-roots rock band The Buzz. The group made two recordings, sold over 10,000 units, and toured the country extensivel. Additonaly, these musicians' chops developed significantly while playing as the house band at Buddy Guy's Legends. It was there that they backed up legends such as Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, and Otis Rush. Through the many gigs and tours, the band found out they had a mutual affinity for jazz, and missed playing the music they grew up on. They formed BMR4, found a regular engagement, and began to develop their sound.
But The BMR4 needed a guitarist. Neal Alger had known Chris Bernhardt for years growing up together in the same south suburb neighborhood. Performing or recording with Lin Haliday, Howard Levy, Grazyna Augusich, and Ed Thigpen, Alger, due to his lyrical soloing and accompanying , had become one of Chicago's greatest and most in demand guitarists. The group soon recorded a standards demo and set out to get some work.
Success came fast for the BMR4, which was unusual for the group's members, who had spent years "paying their dues". It helped that the band's live show is an energetic, vigorous experience, in which the repertoire leaps around from 60's jazz to standards, modern R&B to 12 bar blues, and unique interpretations of pop classics. They soon began playing major venues in the Chicagoland area.
Success also came to the group's members with Alger, Moynihan, and Rodbard, being picked up as sidemen for the bands of Patrica Barber, Buddy Guy, and Lonnie Brooks, respectively.
In the spring of 2006 the band signed with Hallway Records and made a disc. That recording is called "Turning Point". It's an appropriate title, as it is a statement of not only where the band is in their career, but creatively as well. That's because this recording showcases original compositions within the group's repertoire.
The cd starts with "No Means No", a Blakey-like, soul tune with a killer shuffle by drummer Mike Rodbard, a groove that lovers of roots music know just doesn't develop overnight. This tune, as well as the next one, "Turning Point", is by guitarist Neal Alger. It's a modern piece that displays the slippery, shifty interplay between Alger and saxophonist Jay Moynihan.
"Wrong Way", a Moynihan composition, deceptively sizzles, as the rhythm section shows equal energy and restraint .
"The Blues at Clark and Addison", a group work, shows those Chicago blues chops, while once again lamenting another abysmal season spent at baseball's "shrine" or 'house of horrors" (take your pick).
The rest of the program is filled out by what noted jazz critic Neal Tesser (Playboy's Guide to Jazz) sighted as "...their oceanic repertoire."
The fanciful mambo "La Roista", a tune Coleman Hawkins recorded with Ben Webster, reaches back to the early days of jazz, along with Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz", whose token motif is given the weekend, late night, carousing treatment.
Horace Silvers' " The Preacher" is turned into a traditional New Orleans second line groove.
When leader/bassist , Chris Bernhardt first got into jazz, Sonny Sharrock's "Ask The Ages" was on heavy rotation on the home stereo. It was a date that paired the New York City guitarist with Pharaoh Sanders and Elvin Jones. Subsequently, the track "What Does She Hope To Be" does justice to the original, with outstanding group interplay on this graceful composition.
"Ain't It Funky Now", a number from musical pioneer James Brown, is a reflection of the group's energy, tightness, and innate sense of funk.
Finally, Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" is given a radical work-over, with tongue held firmly in cheek, of the heavy rock classic.
THE MEMBERS OF THE BMR4
Chris Bernhardt- Bass
Jay Moynihan- Saxophone
Mike Rodbard- Drums
Neal Alger- Guitar
Recent national shows: New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Birdland, Blue Note ( NYC), Chicago Blues Festival, Monterey (CA) Blues Festival, Boston Fleet Center, Yoshi's Jazz Club ( San Francisco, CA); Fox Theatre , CO, Mont de Tremblant Festival (Montreal, Canada)
Recent local shows: Buddy Guys Legends, Andy's Jazz Club, Taste of Chicago, Park West, Green Mill, Pop's for Champagne, Green Dolphin Street, Navy Pier, Beverly Arts Center
Appeared with: Carlos Santana, John Mayer, Buddy Guy, Al Green, Yellow Jackets, Medeski, Martin, and Wood, Patricia Barber, Lonnie Brooks, John Mayall, Flaming Lips, Henry Johnson, Ramsey Lewis, Gregg Allman
National TV: The Jay Leno Show, The Late, Late show, WGN Morning News, Jenny Jones, ABC Prime Time with Peter Jennings
Live: A Fortnight in France w/ Patrica Barber (2004)
Alligator Records' Genuine Houserocking Christmas (2003)
Steve Arvey "It's A Fine Line" (2002)
The Buzz "Live At Legends" (2000), and "Highway" (1998)
Chris Bernhardt (acoustic bass), Jay Moynihan (saxophone), Mike Rodbard (drums), Neal Alger (guitar)
Fixing A Hole- Buzz Music, Summer 2010,
Turning Point- Hallway Records , 2007
BMR4- The Orchard, 2004
Cd's on Amazon.com
Downloads on Itunes
Streaming on Pandora, LastFm, Jango and MOG.
Turning Point review
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BMR4 Turning Point (Hallway Records) The name BMR4 is 21st Century-speak for the Bernhardt, Mo...BMR4
The name BMR4 is 21st Century-speak for the Bernhardt, Moynihan, Rodbard Quartet, a spirited outfit that forges a muscular sound on its second release. Blues, rock, and R&B are such prominent elements in BMR4's frisky approach that it's tempting to slap the dreaded F-word (fusion) on this Chicago foursome. But BMR4 is a jazz combo first and foremost, and a clever one at that. Suffice it to say that the band compares favorably with Astral Project and the Mike Stern-Bob Berg Band.
Three members of this pianoless quartet first played together in The Buzz, a blues group that served as the house band at Buddy Guy's Legends. Guitarist Neal Alger joined BMR4 too late to merit an initial in the band's moniker, but he's a versatile and lyrical player who's received widespread exposure in Patricia Barber's band. As a member of BMR4, Alger's incisive fretwork meshes well with the forceful blowing of saxophonist Jay Moynihan, while bassist-leader Chris Bernhardt provides an active bottom and Mike Rodbard is a bundle of energy on drums.
A blues vibe permeates Turning Point, but the music touches many bases from mambo to bop to funk. Originals include an adrenalized mainstream shuffle ("No Means No"), a slow but fervent blues instrumental that expresses the angst of every Chicago Cubs fan ("The Blues at Clark & Addison"), and the jagged yet catchy title track. Alger adds rapid-fire licks to a fun interpretation of Fats Wallers' "The Jitterbug Waltz," while a funky take on Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" has the guitarist trading wah-wah washes with Moynihan's soul-drenched sax.
BMR4's brand of jazz is brisk and accessible, and it deserves a wide audience
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It_s so easy to take the jazz talent in this town for granted, but as BMR4_s soon-to-be-released deb...It_s so easy to take the jazz talent in this town for granted, but as BMR4_s soon-to-be-released debut album "Turning Point," on the local Hallway label, demonstrates, this hometown group made up of first-class area players‹three of whom spent years together in the blues and roots rock band the Buzz, the house band at Buddy Guy_s Legends where they backed up the likes of Junior Wells, Otis Rush, Lonnie Brooks and Guy himself, and at various gigs with jazz singer and pianist Patricia Barber. This is a band that swings with swagger, bops hard and rocks with a vengeance and plays in a manner that is attractive and accessible to the novice, while remaining challenging to the seasoned listener. This appearance is a release party for the new CD, and will feature bassist Chris Bernhardt ("B"), saxophonist Jay Moynihan ("M"), drummer Mike Rodbard ("R") and newest member guitarist Neal Alger "4," and will spotlight the group_s ability not only to shed new light on jazz and R & B standards, but to jazz up the likes of Black Sabbath as well as offer, for the first time on the new album, a penchant for group originals, such as its rollicking rendition of "The Blues at Clark & Addison."
- Dennis Polkow
The Shape of Jazz To Come
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Celebrating their new CD, Turning Point (Hallway), the local session men behind BMR4 bring a decided...Celebrating their new CD, Turning Point (Hallway), the local session men behind BMR4 bring a decidedly pop-friendly flair to jazz and blues tropes. There’s not much reinventing the wheel on the new disc— yet guitarist Neal Alger (Patricia Barber) and saxophonist Jay Moynihan deserve special mention for delving into uneasy harmonic territories with confidence. Bassist Chris Bernhardt and drummer Mike Rodbard round out the rhythm section.
Our repertoire consists of several hundred tunes, available by request. We can tailor our set(s) to fit the event: 45min, 60min, 90min, etc. Please let us know what YOU want.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.