Reading Eagle
Bergson Band keeps things happily blue at Bandshell

Published: July 27, 2013
by Jon Fassnacht

The Chris Bergson Band's previous set in Berks County had barely gone cold, but the band was back for more.

The quintet, which performed here in mid-April as part of the Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest, played City Park on Friday night as part of Berks Arts Council's Bandshell Concert Series.

Judging by the strong turnout, the band hadn't worn out its welcome.

Although the weather, about as close to perfect as you can get for an outdoor show, might have played a role in that.

Bergson's throaty voice was reminiscent of Ray Charles or Stevie Ray Vaughan. His guitar tone was clean and full, his playing crisp yet energetic. His hair flopped all over the place while he wrung notes from his ax, and the back of his shirt was drenched by the fourth song.

The rhythm section of Matt Lindsey on bass and Tony Leone on drums mostly stayed out of the way, keeping things thick and funky.

Percolating on top of that foundation was Craig Dreyer's Hammond B3 organ. David Luther's sax topped it off.

The group occasionally was joined by two members of the Berks Jazz Fest Horns - Michael Anderson on baritone sax and Rob Diener on trumpet - who played with the band in April.

The show was heavy on songs from the band's most recent album, 2011's "Imitate the Sun," and included some yet-to-be-released originals from a live album recorded at New York City's Jazz Standard club.

Although blues-based, the band's sound frequently incorporated classic soul and funk.

Sometimes the tributes were stylistic: "Hello Bertha" sounded like classic Al Green, with harmonizing horns topping a swampy thump, while "Christmastime in Bethlehem" resembled classic Meters funk.

Other times they were literal, such as the bouncy instrumental cover of Aretha Franklin's "Baby I Love You," and the rootsy "When I Paint My Masterpiece" by The Band.

Songs performed at blues and R&B shows can get up there in length, the result of extended solos and too-deep-to-quit grooves.

But the selections Friday night were kept in check, the band biting off the blues and grooves in four- and five-minute chunks.