Jazz Improv Magazine

September 01, 2001 | BY Austin Rooney

Lyricism. It is akin to the curveball. The curveball is what separates the big leaguers from those who toil endlessly in the minors. Everyone can hit the straight pitch, but not that elusive curve. There are those who fight with it, and then there are those who simply let the ball come to them, then hit it. Hitting the curve goes beyond simple batting mechanics. It seems almost to be intrinsic to those who can do it, those who understand how to play the game.

As such, lyricism is the curveball of jazz. It separates players. Anyone can learn to burn, to play clean notes at blazing tempos, but not everyone can put those notes together in such a way as to keep a listener's attention. It is this skill that creates great players, and a great listening experience. It is this skill that Chris Bergson possesses. Bergson's album, Wait For Spring, is a proverbial "trip down memory lane." His sound is that of a Wes Montgomery or Joe Pass. Bergson lets the melody carry his tunes, while the album as a whole has the feeling of the great combos of the 50's, with a wonderful mix of standards and originals. The style of song varies from track to track, with the simple textures of a Rodgers and Hart tune followed with a (relatively speaking) harmonically complex original. In this way, Bergson keeps the listener's attention with good music, rather then flashy gimmicks.

Bergson opens the album with the Jerome Kern piece, "Look For the Silver Lining." The song has a sway to it, a harmonic push that keeps the listener captivated, without pushing the tempo. Bergson and Miner take two quality solos that set the bar for the rest of the album. Bergson follows that piece with his original composition (and title track), "Wait For Spring." This tune has much more of a push behind, and a much more complex feel behind, reminiscent of the sound found in the '60s, with a block chord vamp to end the piece that further accentuates this feel.

Next up is another original, "Song For Kate In Autumn." Once again, this tune is in stark contrast to the piece that preceded it. It is a slow, majestic ballad, out of the '50s Miles Davis cast. Glassman carries the piece beautifully, with his wailing tone. "Blues For Sunny Jain" follows, and this is the tune that really moves. On this example of an up-tempo blues at its finest, Bergson goes all over the place with his solo, and as you might expect from the title, Sunny Jain adds a minute-and-a-half-long percussion show. This tune makes the album alone, although the same can be said for "Birk's Works." This Dizzy Gillespie blues masterpiece is on the opposite end of the tempo spectrum from the Sunny Jain piece, but grooves all the same.

Bergson adds in two Rodgers and Hart songs, with the minor push of "With A Song In My Heart," and then finishes the album off with the easy-swinging "My Heart Stood Still." The other three tracks, "Twilight," "Goodbye," and "Sad Strains," are all Bergson's songs. Especially intriguing is "Twilight," with an interesting and more progressive harmony, and great interplay and soloing from Glassman, Bergson, and Chris Berger.
Bergson's group sounds wonderful, and the overall feel of the album is very fresh. Throughout, it is the lyricism of his playing that catches the ear, and doesn't let go. Bergson is indeed a major league player, and Wait For Spring provides the evidence that not only can he hit the curve -- it is what defines him as a player.

Review printed in Jazz Improv Magazine
Volume 3, Number 4