Jerry Bergonzi Quartet at Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho (February 12/13, 2022) – London Jazz News
Saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi will be in London next month. It will be the first time he has ventured outside the United States since the pandemic began.. Preview by Charles Rees
Michael Brecker was once asked what it was like to be “the king of tenor sax”. He famously responded; “I don’t know, you better ask jerry bergonzi.”, a quote that follows from the Boston-born saxophonist. When I asked him about it, he brushed it off with his typically humble manner, saying, “I don’t think much about that quote, […] no one can be the king of tenor sax. It’s indisputable, with players such as Chris Potter, Branford Marsalis, Joe Lovano and Joshua Redman on the scene (all of whom Bergonzi has named as some of the young players he looks up to); without forgetting the giants of his own generation: Mike Brecker, Bob Berg, Steve Grossman, Bob Mintzer… the list is long. Although uncomfortable with the quote, Bergonzi, who turns 75 later this year, is held in high esteem by everyone in the jazz world, including all those players, and with good reason.
Bergonzi first came to international attention in the 70s and 80s playing with Dave Brubeck’s band, in many ways becoming Paul Desmond’s “replacement” after his death in 1977. Brubeck was of course not trying to replace Desmond; in the words of Bergonzi himself, “No one could replace Paul.” Instead, he brought an equally exciting new concept to Brubeck’s quartet – just watch the videos of their performances and watch Brubeck’s grin from ear to ear as Bergonzi works his magic. Bergonzi made several recordings with the band before parting ways with them in 1982. He went on to a successful career as the frontman of his own bands, collaborating with contemporaries from Dick Oatts to Hal Galper, alongside his work as a as a full-time faculty member. at the New England Conservatory.
I heard his music for the first time on the album Line, recorded live in 1989 with Mulgrew Miller on piano, Adam Nussbaum on drums and bassist Dave Santoro. It exemplifies the typical Bergonzi set, bringing to the table three of his original compositions: “Red’s Blues”, “Jones” and “On the Brink”, a counterfeit of Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation”, but with a Latin touch and a equally stimulating melody. . Plus, he nods to one of his musical heroes with a masterful rendition of Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge” and the ballad “Everything Happens to Me.” He normally includes a ballad from the American songbook in his live performances. As he says: “I love playing ballads, it’s my favorite tempo because I feel the most free. I can play slowly, I can go through time, there is a lot of space. His ballad playing is indeed something special, to be looked forward to every time.
What can we expect to hear from his upcoming UK appearances? “I might do some reharms that I’ve already done, like ‘Witchcraft’; I could play a piece by Monk, like “Pannonica”; and I could play some contrafacts.
His next visit to London will be his first appearance outside the United States since the start of the pandemic. He will play four sets during his two-night residency at PizzaExpress Jazz Club, joined by Jason Rebel at the piano, and Marc Hodgson on bass, who, with the drummer Stephen Keogh are part of an established quartet that Jerry co-leads with pianist Bruce Barth. How do you play with Stephen Keogh? ” It’s awesome ! He’s a fantastic player; really listen; he’s a gentleman… I only have good things to say about him.
Keogh has worked to bring many top American players to Europe, with greats from Bobby Watson and Eddie Henderson to Charles McPherson and Jeremy Pelt. At a time when players like Joe Lovano seemingly miss the UK on their tours, Keogh is doing something of immense value by bringing Jerry Bergonzi here. This rare appearance is not to be missed.
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