Jun 21, 2021
Let’s trace the line of great tenor saxophone players, from the likes of Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Ben Webster to Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins and James Moody and then to Stan Getz, Paul Desmond and John Coltrane. From there the many diverse threads of jazz lead us to Michael Brecker, Wayne Shorter, Grover Washington Jr , and Archie Shepp, right up to Joshua Redman, Kenny Garrett and Kamasi Washington. Squarely in the middle of this lineage has to be the name of Jerry Bergonzi.
For the past fifty years, Bergonzi has often been considered, as Michael Brecker once said, ”the best tenor player in the world.” Whether we hear him on his solo work, his participation in later iterations of the Dave Brubeck Quartet and Generations of Brubeck, or sideman gigs with Joey Calderazzo, George Gruntz and even Miles Davis, his body of work rivals that of many contemporary masters.
What separates Jerry from many other players is his massive contribution to jazz education. His pedagogy at the New England Conservatory and his series of books – Inside Improvisation - have inspired a generation of jazz musicians, and there is no indication that his influence is waning as he releases his latest CD, Straight Gonz.
The album was recorded live in Denmark’s Dexter Jazz Club, and finds Bergonzi working once again with the Modern Jazz Trio. Long-time collaborators, there is great chemistry when he takes the bandstand with pianist Carl Winther, bassist Johnny Aman and drummer Anders Mogensen. The album showcases four Bergonzi originals, as well as covers of classics “Body and Soul” and “All of You.”
Podcast 824 is my conversation with Jerry, as we talk about how the pandemic affected his students at NEC, his extensive backlog of tunes, and how he just got in under the wire to record the new CD before Europe locked down. Musical selections from Straight Gonz include "Xtra Xtra" and "Don't Look Back."