Chris Bergson Band - Live at Jazz Standard
by Rick J. Bowen

New Yorker Chris Bergson has a mountain of talent with his tight guitar, a smoky baritone that instantly recalls David Clayton Thomas and reflective songwriting skills, but he is also smart enough to know it's hard to stand alone. For his seventh release Bergson assembled a band of special guests and feature players and recorded live over two nights at the Jazz Standard in Manhattan. The fifteen song set is a mix of modern blues, funk and blue eyed soul, delivered the way it is meant to be, in front of an attentive crowd in a hot club.

The band hits it hard opening with the soul blues tale of a traveling man "Greyhound Station", Bergson addressing the crowd "thank you kind people for all your advice," before ripping into a solo bolstered by fierce drumming from Tony Leone. He then gives way to the a three piece horn section on the old school funk track "Mr. Jackson" including a fun solo from baritone saxophonist Ian Hendrickson-Smith. Special guest, Ellis Hooks trade barbs with Bergson on "The Only One", giving the tune a total Sam and Dave feel. Bergeson then transforms the Tennessee Williams poem "Heavenly Grass," into a delta blues hymn with his Gibson hummingbird.

Craig Dreyer displays his skills on the Wurlitzer during the loose grooving "61st & 1st," Bergson then takes a solo turn on slide guitar for "Bluemner," before slipping into the tender soul ballad "Chloe's Song," offering a fine palette cleanser in the middle of the set.

Everyone shines as Bergson whips out the Steve Cropper licks during the instrumental "Baby, I Love You." Do not be fooled by the title, "Christmas Time in Bethlehem PA," is a gritty urban soul burner with a soaring trumpet solo from Freddie Hendrix and Tower of Power like horn arrangement from Jay Collins. The album closes out with reflections on life in NYC, during "The Bungler," and "Gowanus Heights."

Live at Jazz Standard shows that a songwriter with skills like Chris Bergson can use classic forms to express his reflections of our modern times.