All Music Guide

July 01, 1998 | BY Dave Nathan

Just 24 when he made this his first album, Chris Bergson was announcing that he had the chops to become a major player in the world of jazz guitar. His electric guitar has a smooth, clean sound, allowing one to pick out single notes rather than having them get swallowed up by heavy chordal smearing. He also understands that solos are not just a bunch of notes, but that one needs to take a breath every now and then, allowing both performer and listener to bask in what has just gone on before and to eagerly anticipate what is to come. The play list selected for this first outing is as tasteful and ear-catching as his playing. A combination of his originals and standards, they all benefit from the color and timbre created by Bergson's resonating guitar. "We'll Be Together Again" reveals a deep affinity for melody and a straightforward harmonic approach to the music. His own "You Checked Out" has him swinging on top of the rhythmic pace set by Joe Strasser's drums and the lyrical bass lines tossed off by Neal Miner. Doug White's tenor sax shows up on two tracks and is especially important to the successful laid-back and uncommonly melodic arrangement of Thelonious Monk's "Pannonica." White's sometimes raspy tenor style complements the clear articulation of Bergson's guitar. This is a first-rate track of jazz music. Bergson might be called a thinking person's guitarist. Not flashy, but determined to create profound improvisational patterns on the stringed instrument, as on Billy Strayhorn's "Upper Manhattan Medical Group." But not everything is serious, as Bergson is clearly having some funky fun with the title tune. This is a notable prefatory album and hopefully the forerunner of more to come.