Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jerry Bergonzi at Acton Jazz Cafe

Caught Last Wednesday Jerry Bergonzi (February 2009)

He definitely can play up a storm. I got both shows from 9 to 11:30.

But being only an attentive listener, and self educated at that, I can't say where he fits in the hierarchy of sax players.

He is good for sure, however the trio was just having fun for the night. My problem is that I am used to hearing the melody at the start of the piece then I have a chance to see/understand what they are doing. Bergonzi had a great time setting up his song but then for the most part only alluded to the melody. They had a great time especially with the endings. They seemed, to me, to be playing can you top this for the end riffs. At any ending they would run through and quote at least three different end riffs. Sort of like when soloists pass off to each other. One would start a classic end and move it around. Then the base, and one case the drummer Robert Kaufman, would take it to a different classic ending and they would change it again. That was the highest point of the evening for me, mentally retrieving the classic record that had that ending and seeing how they fit.

A good time was had by all. Bergonzi most certainly has the chops and showed them all in each bit. I.e. bop to classic swing style etc. I actually enjoyed his piano more. When he was on piano he wasn't able to cover the air with notes and I could follow his reasoning. The bop cascade in between the major notes of the melody etc was distracting to me especially when not having a clear idea of the base melody they were working on. Bergonzi did a very clever thing on one set. At the end of each burst of improvisation he came back to the melody and handed off to the base - but very last note out of place too high. At the end of the song the high notes became a new melody in the higher key. I almost fell off the bar stool.

The Acton Jazz Cafe either has made major improvements in their business management, acquired a sugar daddy, or won't last long. Because of changes in the fire code rules for night clubs the less than one hundred seat venue had to strip the old wall coverings off and replace them with fire proof sound absorption. They have almost turned it into a recording studio. Professional sound absorption on all the major flat surfaces, mikes all over the place and a good sound system. I'm willing to bet that the sound quality doesn't change much between having a crowd and being empty.  Bruce Gertz, the base player, placed his Zoom H2 sound recorder on the table nearest the group and seemed satisfied with the results.

At the peak, there were thirteen paying listeners including me. There was no cover and my selzer and twist of lime cost $2. If I was 45 years younger, and still unmarried, I would be there every night.

Bergonzi and his crew will be playing on Wednesdays for the near future. There should be an eight dollar cover charge but if the crowds don’t get bigger than thirteen it won’t be worth paying some one to collect it. The musicians got all the booze they wanted so they made out sort of. The Jazz Café  has them playing tomorrow Wed May fifth. So if I don’t get sidetracked, very likely, I will be there to get a better feel for his style etc., have a good time, and find out what setting Gertz uses on his H2 recorder.


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Monday, May 25, 2009

Q & A #1: Developing your own saxophone sound

Coltrane Time Hard Driving Jazz album cover
Image via Wikipedia
Ogul Koker from Turkey wrote on May 24, 2009:
I've started to play sax 1,5 years ago. But at the same time I've started to study musicology. So I had no time to play sax and after this one big year I can't ever properly blow my sax :(

So my plan to learn how to play sax for this year is to practice all major, minor scales and modes, arpeggios and to learn how to do vibrato...

I also want to study some jazz, but dunno where to start :( I thought I could start with trying to imitate a player that I liked. I really like Mark Turner, Kenny Garrett, J. Coltrane and a lot of guys, but they sound to me hard to play... I think I should try to imitate a player from an early era? But who will that be?
I've got an alto sax btw.

Sorry for my bad English and greetings from Turkey! =)

Dear Ogul,

thanks for your note.

About developing your jazz sound; If you are not sure whom to imitate, no one else cannot really tell it to you. My suggestion is to listen to music a lot. Kind of jazz you like, players you admire. Then gradually (over the years) your saxophone sound will develop toward the direction of your liking.

Keep practicing and listening. Good luck,


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