Thanks to tenures with Parliament-Funkadelic, Bootsy's Rubber Band, Talking Heads and others, Bernie Worrell is funk's best-known keyboardist. But he likes to make it known that there's more to him than that.
"I brought the funk to Talking Heads and funk this, funk that -- I'm tired of that," says Worrell, 69, who resides in his native New Jersey. "I remind people that I was trained classically since I was three and a half years old. my first concert was at four. I wrote my first piano concerto at eight years old. I played with (symphony orchestras) at 10 years old...
"People forget that stuff, but I get it. Being 'the funk guy,' it's not a bad thing. I'm just saying I do more."
Nevertheless, Worrell -- who also conducted a Detroit Symphony Orchestra string section while recording Funkadelic's 1972 album "America Eats Its Young" -- plays plenty of funk with his new group, the Bernie Worrell Orchestra, a 10-piece outfit that formed in 2011 and won Best Funk/Fusion/Jam Song at the Independent Music Awards for "Get Your Hands Off" from the band's upcoming debut album. That's a mark of how far the band has come in a short time, and Worrell says he's enjoying playing mentor to his youthful musical mates.
"These young guys play funk, yeah, but they can play avant garde jazz in a way I think Miles Davis and people like that would approve of," Worrell notes. "Every time they play with me, they say there's a lesson and they keep thanking me continually. They can play everything and are really hungry and eager to learn -- that's the rewarding part."
The Bernie Worrell Orchestra, the Steve Nardella Band and Six & the Sevens perform Saturday, Aug. 27, at PJ's Lager House, 1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit. Doors open at 9 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. CAll 313-961-4668 or visit www.pjslagerhouse.com.
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