Chris Bergson Band - Live at Jazz Standard
Living Blues
by Wayne Goins - February 2016, Issue #241

Recorded over two days in June of 2013, guitarist/singer/songwriter Chris Bergson delivers Live At Jazz Standard, boasting a hot horn section that’s tight from start to finish. With Craig Dreyer on keys, Tony Leone on drums and Matt Clohesy on bass, things get jumpstarted with Greyhound Station —an infectious, Taxman-ish groove with great lyrics and a fluid distortion solo from Chris that puts the crowd on notice. Not to be outdone,Mr. Jackson has a stuttering baritone sax solo by Ian Hendrickson-Smith that’s unbelievably funky.

The Only One is an original co-written by Bergson & Hooks, features Ellis swapping Sam & Dave-ish vocals with Chris—so well-paired that it’s hard to discern where one ends and the other begins. Even better is the short but tasty Steve Cropper-styled solo by Bergson.

The Tennessee Williams Heavenly Grass demonstrates Chris’s Catfish Blues-flavored acoustic solo introduction, and Craig Dreyer plays a nice Wurlitzer solo. High Above The Morning is a beautiful piece about getting by on love when times get tight. Bergson’s passionate solo succeeds in matching his intense vocals—its my favorite track of the entire album. More flame-throwing guitar work appears on 61st & 1st, written about a strange hoarder living in a van located “in the shadows of the bridge, is where you need to start.”

Bluemner showcases Bergson’s slide guitar work—the song borne out of a challenge issued to Chris from his wife to find inspiration from any painting in the Whitney Museum in less than twenty minutes or less. He succeeded. Chloe’s Song, a laid-back tune written about waiting the arrival home of his first-born daughter, offers a glimpse of his deft acoustic guitar work. Corinna, a nod toward Taj Mahal, again finds Bergson and Ellis Hooks tarding verses while horns punctuate patented riffs in between vocal phrases.

Chris switches things up with an instrumental arrangement of Aretha Franklin’s Baby, I Love You, with Freddie Hendrix, David Luther, and Ian Hendrickson-Smith doing Muscle Shoals Horns imitation to perfection. After the somber lament of Just Before The Storm, a bit of comic relief comes with Sometimes It’s You, written about “the one weird family member” in every family. Bergson’s guitar tone is rich and sweet on this one, as well as on Christmastime in Bethlehem, PA, which features a high-energy trumpet solo from Hendrix that smokes while Luther and Hendrickson-Smith both get to strut their stuff a bit on the penultimate track, The Bungler.

The album closes with Gowanus Heights, a flag-waver with descriptive lyrics and killer guitar solo, percolating rhythm section, and regal blasts from the horn section. Bergson and band sent the crowd home, satisfied and dancing on the streets of Manhattan.