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Interview with Jerry Bergonzi

 I don’t think jazz has enough other names. It is so much music lumped under one small word jazz.  The music nobody likes.

Last week I had a beautiful interview with Jerry Bergonzi.

bergonzi 1

[Jerry Bergonzi] first gained recognition as he became a frequent guest-artist on several Dave Brubeck- ensemble tours and recordings during the 1970s, and he held the saxophone chair in the Dave Brubeck quartet from 1979 – 1982. Bergonzi recorded nine albums with Brubeck, from 1973 to 1981.

Bergonzi teaches at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston

He is the author of the Inside Improvisation, a multi-volume series of instructional books with play- along CDs and videos, and another series of books about improvisation published by Advance Music. He is also the author of the book/CD set Sound Advice, published byJamey Aebersold Jazz. Bergonzi is also a professional level pianist and bass guitarist.he New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.

He has recorded on the Blue Note, Red, Not Fat, Concord, Atlantic, Label Bleu, Enja, Columbia, Deux Z, Denon, Canyon, Cadence, Musidisc, Ram, Ninety One, and Freelancerecording labels. (wikipedia.org).

Among the many other artists that Bergonzi has performed and recorded with are; John Abercrombie, Nando Michelin, Antonio Farao, Bill Evans (with the National Jazz Ensemble), Joe D’Orio, Eddie Gomez, Miroslav Vitous, George Mraz, Billy Hart, Andy Laverne, Steve Swallow, Hal Galper, Roy Haynes, Charlie Mariano, Bob Cranshaw, Ray Drummond, Billy Drummond, Danny Richmond, Danny Gottlieb, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, Paul Desmond, Bennie Wallace, Gerry Mulligan, Hal Crook, Herb Pomeroy, Mike Manieri, Mark Johnson, Michel Portal, Martial Solal, Pat Martino, Franco Ambrosetti, and many more. (read further: http://www.jerrybergonzi.com/bio/)
Mr.Bergonzi, you’re active in music for more than  4 decades. How has jazz music evolved since you started performing? Is jazz the right label for your music?

How has Jazz evolved in 4 decades.  4 decades ago Jazz Education was in it’s infancy. Now it is a huge business. Now everybody knows everything. The information boom has young people being more proficient on the intillectual plane but maybe lagging in others.

Your uncle took an active role in your jazzeducation. He wrote out jazz solos for you to play and he made you listen to Count Basie, Lester Young and Duke Ellington. Do you recognize his influence in the way you look at (your style of) jazzmusic today? 

 I don’t think jazz has enough other names. It is so much music lumped under one small word jazz.  The music nobody likes.
My uncle didn’t really have a conscious effect on me as much as he was just a musician who lived one flight up and he wrote out a few solo’s but my family was into jazz. Why?  I have no idea.

Your first album (as a leader) was Jerry On Red (1988). How do you look back at this album?

Jerry on Red was my first opportunity as a leader.  I was on the road in Italy and Sergio Veschi (the owner of Red) wanted to know if I wanted to record a record the next day. So we went into the studio and just put them down.bergonzi 2
You first gained recognition playing with Dave Brubeck from 1973 to 1981. He died last december. What have you learned from playing with Mr. Brubeck?
When I lived in New York City in the 70’s, no one wanted to put out Jazz records.  When I was with Dave Brubeck, I never met a producer, a festival manager, a record company consultant, a club owner or anyone as Dave existed in a bubble of only Brubeck. So I was very happy to make CD’s for Red.

Since 1996 you have recorded a lot with organist/pianist Dan Wall and drummer Adam Nussbaum. A trio without a bassist. What is it like to play without bassist?

It is challenging to play with organ and drums as sometimes it is difficult to hear a really defined bass. That being said, Playing with Dan Wall and Adam Nussbaum was total joy for me. We couldn’t get arrested with that group never mind a gig.

In 2008 you recorded your album Napoli connection. Last week I visited this beautiful city for the second time, so I’m interested…what is your connection with Napoli? 

My mother’s family is from Naples and my father’s from Parma.Naples is like no other place in the world. I can’t put it into words but it is a city of passion. (and great pizza)
You’re a full professor at NEC. “I’m the eternal student, myself; I think that’s what makes me a good teacher,” you said to jazztimes in an interview (2008). What do you learn nowadays?

I learn just as much from my students as they learn from me. They have their own way of doing things. In a way, they are a reflection of what is going on in today’s music as that is what inspires them. So I get to hear that reflection and learn a great deal. People ask me where is music going and I tell them to ask the youth.

Charlie Parker. This year it’s fifty-eight years ago he has died . Sheila Jordan said in jacnuary to me in an interview: “people don’t talk about him anymore,The younger generation of jazzmusicians say they are inspired by Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Parker is a forgotten part of jazzmusic. That’s a pity, because he is an important part of the jazztradition.” Do you regard yourself as a part of this jazztradition?

Do I consider myself part of Jazz Tradition? I do but only because I love that music. I don’t really care if someone else loves the tradition. There are enough who do. Go with what your passion and heart tell you. Students ask me who they should transcribe and I ask them “Who do you Like”  After a while you realize the lineage in the music.

Is there jazz in the future? Jazz is the most recorded musicstyle by now, but do you think jazz will reach our youth? According to saxophonist and flautist Dave Liebman the future of jazz lies with how it will be absorbed and transformed by parts of the world where it is new to the people. Do you agree with him?bergonzi 3

I never disagree and Lieb, as he is always right. In other parts of the world where everything isn’t just dollars and there is still an artistic value, I think jazz can be alive.

Next week I interview trumpetist Randy Brecker . Do you have a question for him?

My question to Randy is “What is his favorite Italian dish” .

Your musical activities span a wide range of styles and combinations. Which projects do you have in store for us?

I have a few records in the can.  One will be out on May 21st It is called “By Any Other Name” it is all tunes written on standard chord changes. Phil Grenadier on trumpet, Will Slater on bass and Karen Kocharian on drums. I have a CD with Dick Oatts coming out called a Granny Winner and another Quintet CD called Rigamaroll.
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