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Thursday, July 26, 2007


My crew and I bopped into the Bernie Brausewetter tribute around 9 p.m. Sunday night at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park. I missed Supreme Court's set but I was there for Matt O'Ree, Billy Hector and the all-star jam at the end.

Matt was out of this world as usual -- really rippin' it on a couple of Hendrix tunes and some of Bernie's originals. Matt played with at least two bassists and two drummers, maybe more. His last song was one of Bernie's, an instrumental titled "Tears." I know I wasn't the only one with some tears before the song was over.

Billy showed up without knowing what he was going to play or who he was going to play with. Brother and Sister-in-Law, who are huge Billy freaks, keyed me into Billy's technique. He'll just start by playing a riff for the bassist and drummer. The guys will follow, and off Billy goes. With a vocal cue here and there, or a raised eyebrow or hand signal, Billy tells the boys what he wants them to play. It's pretty amazing to watch. The guy really comes alive during his solos.

The all-star jam was a real event: four guitarists doing "Little Wing." You'd think a subtle song like "Little Wing" would be a mess with four guitars, but everyone onstage had the wisdom and restraint to underplay -- unless, of course, it was their turn to unleash a solo.

The Bernie tribute was such a bittersweet occasion. Being among all of these people who knew and loved Bernie was heartwarming. Not having Bernie be one of them was heartbreaking.

You may have read my JERSEY ALIVE! cover story previewing the event. When I was working on it, I remember asking "Big Nancy" Swarbrick of Supreme Court if she thought it would be too painful for Bernie's mom to speak with me. "She's a tough old broad," Nancy said. Seeing Norma May at the tribute to her son, I must concur. Around 11 p.m., she was on the floor watching Matt O'Ree's set. Someone brought her a chair. She waved it off.

Tough, indeed.


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