May 02, 2005 | BY Dave Rubin
Chris Bergson Band at Jazz Standard, January 05, NYC

Jazz and blues derive from the same roots, but few guitarists can play both convincingly. 28-year old Chris Bergson, however, is so skilled that he can switch from Rodgers and Hart's "Little Girl Blue" on an ES-335 to a solo country medley of "Three Sisters/Death Letter Blues" on an ES-125 with nary a breather in between. On the former he played a fluid, glissy, vocal-like solo that was tender and well-articulated, while on the latter he got way 'down in the alley" with total authenticity that paid the proper respect to Skip James.

With Jay Collins (tenor sax), Chris Berger (bass) and Matt Wilson (drums), Bergson played and sang in his rich baritone on original selections from his latest CD, appropriately titled Blues. He opened with "Cold November" and "Deserted Beach" two, cool jazzy instrumentals with bluesy touches furnished in part by his mastery of the composite blues scale that allows melody to easily seep into his blues licks. Guitarists from Billy Butler to Kenny Burrell and George Benson have mixed healthy doses of the blues with their jazz, but Bergson has a deeper understanding of country blues than his predecessors ever indicated.

Bergson always keeps his chops in check, resisting the impulse to blaze like a neo-bebopper on the jazz numbers or wail like SRV on the blues tunes. Instead, he phrases like a horn player with strong rhythmic accents and wide interval leaps. On the I-chord funk vamp of "Come and Gone" he fluidly combined double-stops, partial chords and bass lines, virtually carrying the band on his shoulders as he comped and filled brilliantly while performing with animation. "Up in Buffalo" is a medium 12 bar blues with hip chord substitutions that contained an angular solo that ended with Bergson comping and tossing off single-note lines like a six-string wizard. The number also afforded Wilson a chance to take the spotlight with a drum solo that slyly implied the blues changes. The closer for the set was "Another Day" a surprising rock composition that only showed Bergson's versatility

One of the problems that has faced jazz for years is the ability to appeal to a younger audience. Chris Bergson, with his unique ability to easily straddle genres, could be just the antidote.

Dave Rubin was a 2005 recipient of the Blues Foundation's Keeping the Blues Alive Award for journalism.† Dave Rubin is the author of over 20 critically acclaimed books and videos for Hal Leonard on the Blues including The Greatest Electric Blues Guitarists 1942-1982.† Rubin has also co-authored and edited several books with guitarists Duke Robillard and Cornell Dupree.† Dave Rubin was formerly Senior Editor at Guitar One Magazine and is currently Editor in Chief of His writing has also appeared in Guitar Player, Guitar World and Living Blues magazines. As a guitarist, Dave Rubin has also performed with Chuck Berry, Son Seals, Screamin' J. Hawkins, and Johnny Copeland.