20th Century Guitar Magazine

July 01, 1998 | BY Jim Fisch

With favorable advance word from both Jack Wilkins and Jim Hall, Chris Bergson's BLUES FOR SOME FRIENDS OF MINE (Juniper) arrived with high expectations in place. The good news is that it does not disappoint. With his first release, Bergson proves himself ready for the big time.

Although the down and dirty title track may well lead the listener to think that Bergson's style was born in the delta and honed in juke joints up and down Chicago's Maxwell Street, a look at his five other compositions on the disc show him to be a well rounded guitarist and composer. From the boppisms of "You Checked Out," to the Latin swing of "Guod Etihw" and "Alone in Central Park," he exhibits a finely honed ear for melody and structure. Of particular note is his "Sad Strains of a Gay Waltz,"which effectively demonstrates the symbiosis achieved between the guitarist and his rhythm section of Dwayne Burno and Greg Bandy.

That the preceding songs should hold their own amongst works by modern masters like Jobim, Monk and Bud Powell reinforces my point. Also noteworthy is how Bergson adapts the work of the later three pianists to the guitar.

Powell's "Oblivion" is straight ahead bop with an emphasis on its elongated, twisting lines, while the addition of tenor saxophonist Doug White allows Bergson to explore the pianistic side of "Pannonica," finding the proper Thelonious-like voicings to support White's soloing. Strayhorn's "Upper Manhattan Medical Group,"and increasingly popular choice with guitarists these days completes the trio of piano inspired tunes with a finely conceived arrangement.

Add Chris Bergson to the growing list of young Jazz guitarists who are keeping the mainstream tradition alive and well in the '90s.