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He got his first break while attending the New School when he met the legendary guitarist Jim Hall. Hall asked Peter to participate in his Invitational Concert as part of the 1990 JVC Jazz Festival. The event featured such guitarists as John Scofield and Pat Metheny and was release as Live at Town Hall Vol. 2. by Music Masters. Hall noted that Peter “…has paid attention to the past as well as the future. He is the most impressive guitarist I’ve heard. He plays the best of them all for swing, logic, feel and taste.”
Also in 1990, Peter Bernstein was discovered by alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson and took part in the first of four recordings with him. He was a regular member of his group throughout the 1990s. “Some people just have it.” Donaldson said. “…most of the time you have to teach someone what to do, but Peter knows it all.”
Peter has also enjoyed long musical associations with legendary drummer Jimmy Cobb (Cobb’s Mob), as well as organist Larry Goldings and drummer Bill Stewart as a member of their highly acclaimed trio. The New York Times called them “the best organ trio of the last decade”. Together they recorded a dozen of records, all of which display their distinctive sound, whether exploring the depths of jazz standards or playing their original compositions.
From 1995 through 1997, Peter was a member of Joshua Redman’s band and played on Redman’s Freedom in the Groove CD. He played with Diana Krall’s quartet from 1999 through 2001 and with Dr. Lonnie Smith, the legendary organist who made his debut on the George Benson Cookbook albums. He has also recorded five CDs with organist Melvin Rhyne, known for his association with Wes Montgomery. In addition, Peter has appeared in groups led by Nicholas Payton, Sonny Rollins, Lee Konitz, Tom Harrell, and Eric Alexander.
Current projects include his recent album, Monk, recorded for the newly reactivated Xanadu label. Together with Doug Weiss and Bill Stewart, he put their own spin on the rich legacy of Thelonious Monk.
In September, Bernstein released a solo guitar record, Solo Guitar – Live at Smalls (Smalls Live), an intimate recording that makes you feel like you’re sitting in the front row at Small’s jazz club in New York City.