Steve Berndt Featuring Brian Browne

Steve Berndt Featuring Brian Browne

In 2012 I produced an album of jazz standards (the title track my own composition) called “Déjà Vu”. The album was recorded live to multi-track and features one of Canada’s truly great jazz pianists, Brian Browne. This is a shot taken by Brett Delmage of during our release show at the NAC on May 9th 2012. We’ve since received rotation on CBC national radio jazz show “Tonic”. Thanks Tim Tamishiro!!

In 2014 I produced a follow up album to “Déjà Vu” of jazz standards called “All Over Again”. Exactly like “Déjà Vu”, “All Over Again” was recorded live to multi-track and again features Brian Browne on piano. Now both albums have received rotation on CBC national jazz show “Tonic” and airplay on regional CBC stations as well as Canadian College Radio stations.


Review of “All Over Again” by Scott Yanow

Scott Yanow, author of 11 books including The Jazz Singers, The Great Jazz Guitarists, Jazz On Film and Jazz On Record 1917-76

Brian Browne & Steve Berndt
All Over Again

Two years ago, singer Steve Berndt and pianist Brian Browne teamed up for the excellent duet album Déjà Vu. Their new CD, which in its title completes Yogi Berra’s famous phrase (“Déjà Vu All Over Again”), is even better.

Steve Berndt has a strong voice, a very appealing sound, and is always perfectly-in-tune. He does justice to the words that he interprets (fully understanding the lyrics), which is obvious in his phrasing and his emphasis of certain words. His long tones are a joy and he has a jazz sensibility even when singing fairly straight, always swinging.

Brian Browne is a veteran pianist who has been a major asset on the Canadian jazz scene for quite some time. He is a full rhythm section by himself, and whether leaving space or adding a powerful bassline, he is a perfect match for the singer. The two often seem to think and breathe as one.

The opener, “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” sets the stage for the CD. It begins slow and out-of-tempo with Steve Berndt really getting into the words while Brian Browne contributes some closely attentive piano. By the last part of the first chorus it builds in momentum and is in tempo. Browne plays some excellent swing piano and the piece is cooking by the time Berndt returns. The singer, with some perfectly placed high notes, brings the piece to an exciting conclusion.

The other performances follow similar paths. The team of Berndt and Browne revitalize such songs as “”The More I See You” “Mona Lisa,” a particularly joyful “September In The Rain,” “’Round Midnight” and “Candy.” The songs may be familiar but these renditions are spirited, quietly inventive and full of subtle surprises. A bonus is the title cut, the moody ballad “All Over Again” which is an original well worth hearing.

All Over Again is a classy set that is highly recommended.


Review of All Over Again by Peter Hum

Ottawa Citizen March 28, 2014

All Over Again

On a few occasions have I seen Ottawa singer Steve Berndt wearing something other than his musical uniform.

On gigs, he favours a retro suit and dark fedora a la Frank Sinatra, resembling a Rat Pack member from back in the day. That get-up gives a sense of what to expect from Berndt on his gigs and his two CDs, Deja Vu and its follow-up All Over Again, which he and pianist Brian Browne will launch this Friday at the NAC Fourth Stage. Berndt looks the part of a 1960s crooner, and he sings that way too. He’s developed a supple, expressive way of delivering songs (ballads in particular) that frequently moves from vulnerable, understated beginnings to punchy,
dramatic finishes.

His new disc repeats the same format of his debut, presenting 14 tracks including a dozen American Songbook standards and two very compatible originals. Here’s a live version of the Berndt/Browne duo performing “Mona Lisa”, complete with the verse, demonstrating the duo’s class at its best:

Steve Berndt & Brian Browne performing “Mona Lisa” live at La Grange, October 2012

Other ballads appearing on the CD, along with the Nat King Cole classic, include “Born To Be Blue”, “For All We Know”, “The More I See You”, “Easy Living” and “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”. The renditions are consistent with the time-honoured way of interpreting these tunes — what matters most is the spontaneity and poise of the delivery.

More exuberant are “September In The Rain”, “Candy” and “Our Love Is Here To Stay”. Berndt’s originals the melancholy title track and the bouncier “The Moment” deal with love from two vantage points. To his credit, Berndt writes natural but untrite lyrics and crafts songs with some interesting cadences to them.

Above all, he renders his own words, as well as those of the greats, with conviction that outweighs the rare under-enunciated vowel or slightly more mannered singing, while Browne, the dean of Ottawa’s jazz pianists, is his usual sturdy, bluesy, in-the-moment self.


Review of “Déjà Vu” by Scott Yanow

Scott Yanow, author of 11 books including The Jazz Singers, The Great Jazz Guitarists, Jazz On Film and Jazz On Record 1917-76

Déjà Vu

Steve Berndt, a multi-talented jazz singer, trombonist and arranger-composer from Ottawa, Canada, is involved with many different projects. He produces and performs original jump blues with the Jivewires, was a member of the Detroit-based Funk Brothers, plays trombone with Delbert & The Commotions, and is a member of the ska band Rudeboy. However the music on Déjà Vu is something completely different.

The set of duets with pianist Brian Browne features Steve Berndt as a swinging singer who interprets 11 veteran standards plus his own “Déjà Vu” (which could become a standard in the future). Berndt’s voice is strong and pleasing, he has an inviting and cheerful style, and he excels on both ballads and medium-tempo pieces.

Veteran Brian Browne has been an important pianist in the Canadian jazz and music scene for a half-century. He is very much a two-handed pianist and on Déjà Vu one never misses the bass or drums. His accompaniment of the vocals is tasteful and full of an infectious forward momentum while his many solos are both modern and timeless.

Whether it is a bittersweet version of “As Time Goes By,” a heartfelt “Tenderly” or joyful renditions of “Pennies From Heaven,” “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You” and “Sweet Lorraine,” Déjà Vu is an easily enjoyable disc of classy vocals and top-notch jazz piano. It shows off Steve Berndt’s voice and Brian Browne’s piano at their best.