A special jazz concert, years in the making

‘While experiencing the Goldings-Bernstein-Stewart trio live, listeners can watch as the performance carries the musicians in its own wake. As a result, the trio’s journey will take the audience to unexpected musical places that are quite visceral.’

BRATTLEBORO — On Saturday, Sept. 18, at 8 p.m., the Vermont Jazz Center kicks off its 2021–22 concert season with a bang by presenting the vibrant organ trio of Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein, and Bill Stewart, called “the best organ [trio] of the last decade” by The New York Times in 2007.

Catching this top-level band here is a rare experience; this concert has been three years in the planning and postponed twice due to the pandemic.

The Goldings/Bernstein/Stewart Organ Trio have been called “one of current jazz's finest small groups” by JazzTimes magazine, and SFJazz describred the three as “the longest-lived and most virtuosic organ trio in existence” by SFJazz. Together now for 30 years, they have recorded more than a dozen albums and performed hundreds of concerts in festivals and in celebrated venues around the world.

Their grooving repertoire celebrates the funky sounds of the organ trio; influences include Larry Young, Jimmy Smith and Jack McDuff. But they are unique - this trio stands out due to their brilliant musicianship, their ability to play difficult music and have it sound easy, and their commitment to the groove, no matter what the tempo or style.

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The ensemble is a true collective: Each of the musicians shares a sense of mutual respect, function, and input. They each know their respective roles, but they understand that, at any moment, there might be a switching of emphasis and the need to adapt. Drummer Bill Stewart, for example, is a key element, providing a propulsive forward, funky motion.

But all three instruments serve a complementary, locked-in rhythmical function. Their unity, blend, and emphasis of rhythm results in an uplifted feeling for each tune.

One of the advantages of playing together for over three decades is the organic assimilation of a collective, community-created vocabulary that manifests in an ESP-like understanding of where the music itself wants to go. While experiencing this band live, listeners can watch as the performance carries the musicians in its own wake.

As a result, the trio's journey will take the audience to unexpected musical places that are quite visceral. They don't object at all to sitting in the pocket of the groove for a while so that the music can churn around and through them.

They also are extremely open-minded about their vast repertoire.

For example, their recorded output includes tunes as disparate as the jazz standard “I'm in the Mood for Love,” Joni Mitchell's “Woodstock,” and Sonny Rollins's “Valse Hot.” Because the organist and drummer worked with Maceo Parker for a year, they really know how to lay it down.

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The guitarist, Peter Bernstein, has a deep connection to the Vermont Jazz Center. In 1983, at the age of 15, he attended one of the early iterations of the Vermont Jazz Center's Summer Jazz Workshop.

Back then, he thought that the “coolest thing in the world was to play free.” He was under the impression that by working with the Jazz Center's founder, Attila Zoller, he would gain insight into that genre.

But Zoller's message to Bernstein was, “First, you've got to play tunes and play in time - then you can play free.”

Years later when Bernstein was touring with saxophone great Lou Donaldson, Zoller came to a gig and asked Bernstein, “What happened to playing free?”

His response: “I'm still working on the basics, man.”

Since then, Bernstein has evolved into one of the true masters of his instrument, especially in the bebop-influenced style. His strong foundation, disciplined study habits, and soulful sound have earned him a stellar reputation with old-school masters like Donaldson, Dr. Lonnie Smith, David “Fathead” Newman, Etta Jones, Melvin Rhyne, Lonnie Liston Smith, and Jimmy Cobb.

These jazz legends all hired the young Bernstein, realizing that that his hard-swinging grooves and empathic accompaniment enhanced the quality of their own timeless sounds.

One of his mentors, Jim Hall, has been quoted: “Peter Bernstein is the most impressive guitarist I've heard. He plays the best of them all for swing, logic, feel and taste, and has paid attention to the past as well as the future.”

In sum, Bernstein is both a traditionalist and a modernist depending on the setting. To him, it's just “music.” He is adept at providing the right sound and style so that it fits the vibe of the ensemble and the style of the tune - bluesy, straight-ahead, futuristic, even “out.”

Another notable characteristic one hears in Bernstein's playing is that his unique and approachable tone is instantly identifiable and distinguished by its beautiful sustain.

As such, he has participated in more than 300 recordings, including releases with Sonny Rollins, Bobby Hutcherson, Diana Krall, Joshua Redman, Lee Konitz, Brian Lynch, Linda Ronstadt, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride, and many others.

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Larry Goldings on Hammond organ is perhaps best known for his close association with James Taylor, with whom he tours constantly. But his contributions to numerous genres - including funk, pop, and electronic music - are prolific.

Over the years, Goldings has played and recorded with jazz artists John Scofield, Michael Brecker, Jim Hall, Maceo Parker, Madeleine Peyroux, and Pat Metheny, and pop artists James Taylor and John Mayer.

Goldings and Bill Stewart (the trio's drummer) were Maceo Parker's rhythm section for a year and also locked in as the rhythm section of Michael Brecker's legendary album Time Is of the Essence.

Goldings, Jack DeJohnette, and John Scofield received a 2006 Grammy nomination in the category of Best Jazz Instrumental Album for their recording Trio Beyond - Saudades.

Goldings is also active as a composer, arranger, and producer. His compositions have been recorded by Michael Brecker, Jim Hall, John Scofield, Jack DeJohnette, Sia, Vulfpeck, Lea Michele, Bob Dorough, Jane Monheit, Gaby Moreno, Curtis Stigers, and Toots Thielemans. Goldings' music has also been featured in television shows and motion pictures.

Drummer/composer Bill Stewart established himself on the scene in 1990 as the rhythmical force behind guitarist John Scofield. Stewart, who has put out 11 albums as a leader, has also recorded extensively with Pat Metheny, John Patitucci, Bill Charlap, Wycliffe Gordon, Martial Solal, Pat Martino, Chris Potter, Maceo Parker, Kevin Hays, Joe Lovano, Joshua Redman, Charlie Haden, Steve Wilson, Marc Copland, Don Grolnick, Nicholas Payton, Joe Henderson, and many others.

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This concert will be a very special, limited experience. The Jazz Center anticipates a full house, especially with a 120-person cap to in-person attendees, half our ordinary capacity.

The Goldings/Bernstein/Stewart Trio seldom tours because Goldings lives in Los Angeles, while Bernstein and Stewart are both in New York City. Setting up this concert has been years in the making but will be worth the wait. Come experience a legendary trio that bursts with talent, creativity, and beauty - a guaranteed swinging, and intellectually enjoyable, time.

Admission to the in-person event is offered on a sliding fee scale from $20 to $40 per person. The online streaming of this concert will be offered free, but donations are welcomed and are just a click away. Please give generously and support live music. Access to the online event can be found at and at

Tickets are available at, by email to Ginger Morawski, and at In the Moment Records, 143 Main St., Brattleboro. If you are mobility challenged, access is available by emailing Morawski.

To respect the health concerns of our community, the Jazz Center is following Vermont guidance for COVID-19, asking all attendees to be vaccinated and masked.

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