Danny Bedrosian: My Oldest Friend (2016)

By Scott Goldfine

It’s been more than 20 years now since keyboardist Danny Bedrosian first popped onto the radar as a studio and stage presence for George Clinton and his P-Funk All-Stars (a.k.a. Parliament-Funkadelic). Hailing from the Boston area and growing up in a family full of talented musicians and artists, as a young prodigy and rabid fan Bedrosian had basically stalked the Funk Mob before eventually convincing Dr. Funkenstein to extend his hand and hoist him aboard the Mothership.

As a core contributor ever since, he has been living the dream of ascending from P-Funk follower to becoming an All-Star in his own right. Along the way he has been mentored by and learned from the best, including Clinton, Bernie Worrell, Joel “Razor Sharp” Johnson, Garry Shider, Blackbyrd McKnight and many others. All the while Bedrosian has built up his own mini empire dubbed Bozfonk Moosick, giving him a platform to produce, record and release some two dozen (and counting) albums under his own name and that of a multitude of other artists.

A few P-Funk pals show up in support of Bedrosian’s latest solo album, the 13-song My Oldest Friend. However, the spoken introduction by Michael “Clip” Payne that opens the proceedings and Lige Curry’s bass and Garrett Shider’s guitar solo on the waltz-like cadence of “Wildfire” are incidental to a collection that is essentially a one-man affair from an artist that has never been more in command of his gifts. While not among this set’s strongest numbers, that track showcases the surprisingly soulful and emotive singing of Bedrosian, and serves as a good indicator of the musician’s delightful eclecticism that is in ubiquitous abundance.

I don’t know who penned the description that appears with the album at CD Baby, but I thought it apt enough to paraphrase here: Employing himself on drums and percussion, Bedrosian’s new work is imbued with an organic, band-based feel mixed with his usual funky madness of synthesizer, grand piano, clavinet, organ and other keyboards reminiscent of P-Funk’s sound. His vocals are spectacular here as well, continuing on a really analog-esque sound that had been hinted on in some of his earlier records, but never pushed this far and to such dazzling effect. Besides creating almost all the record’s sounds, the CD’s liner notes also show: “Produced, conceived, composed, arranged, engineered, published, performed and copyright by Danny Bedrosian.” What, no shoe shining?!  Slouch.

Sonically and stylistically, the diverse platter’s tasty vocal references careen back and forth among the unassailable signatures of P-Funk, Prince, D’Angelo and Sly Stone, among others. Calling out highlights is a challenge since there is nary a pothole to be found in a twisty earworm highway of keyboarding confectionaries offering aural oohs and ahs around just about every curve.

A foursome of instrumentals, the first full track and longest entry “The Ire of a Vamp” and the much shorter “Not Squeamish,” “Tamzara” and “In and Around,” are among the most satisfying excursions into Worrell’s wonderful world of funky and textural woo goodness. A pair of sung cuts, the rollicking “Miss Maybe” and the thumping, harpsichord-embellished “Eye Saw an Eye,” are emblematic of the Sly and Clinton camps, while the vocal-less “Do the Alligator Elevator” pumps to a James Brown-informed stutter step. Bedrosian reels in the wild ride with the subdued and improvisatory jazz piano extravaganza, “Nor Piano.”

Considering how many roles Bedrosian takes on with this project I have to assume the title refers to himself, and how when it comes down to it we are all our own “oldest friends” and must always remember to love ourselves, imperfections and all. Hard to argue with that logic. Having recently interviewed Danny Bedrosian and met up with him following Parliament-Funkadelic’s recent Charlotte, N.C., show, I like to think he now counts me among his newest friends, soon to be joined by many others won over by this album’s rewarding listening experience.