Wayne Bergeron – Plays Well with Others

Plays Well with Others
Wayne Bergeron
(Heads Up – 2007)
by Donald Eichelberger

“Endless Torture” is the name of the first composition on this CD, but what you’re about to hear – not only on this cut, but on this entire CD – is an offering from Wayne Bergeron that could hardly be described as torture. As the song begins, it’s obvious that this is a horn player’s gig. The horn arrangements are tight, zippy, and creatively contoured. On this first cut, we are introduced to soloists from each section: Bergeron on trumpet; then there’s a sax solo; then there’s a snappy little percussion break; then a silky trombone caresses your ears. Each of these solos is separated by some great, punchy section work.

“Maynard & Waynard” is a clean, smooth, swinging number. Swinging light, like Fred Astaire danced. Bergeron similarly dances his way through a very nifty solo. Following choruses feature a playful trumpet duet: Bergeron’s the more playful of the two. (On this song he sounds like he’s having so much fun that he’d probably be grinning if he didn’t have trumpet to his lips.) On “Scheherazade”, Bergeron gets personal. His performance is tender, without being too soft; sweet, but not sugary.

Bergeron plays the Flugelhorn with great intonation and spins cleverly improvised lines. This is a soft and haunting arrangement of “You Go to My Head”, displaying yet another facet of his fine craftsmanship. Shifting tempos, changing moods, textured instrumentation. Great section work! It got me intoxicated!

Like a magician, Bergeron presents an arrangement of “Georgia” that’s a new approach to something familiar. There’s just enough familiarity to recognize the song, but just enough novelty to keep your interest.

Just when you think you’ve figured out where the arrangement is going to go, he surprises you with something delightful and delightfully worthwhile. The pastoral quality of this composition is reflected in its title: “High Clouds and a Chance of Wayne”. For me this piece evokes a series of mental pictures, pleasurable scenes: It’s a sunny day. You’re driving along your favorite stretch of the Coast Highway. You’ve got the top down, and you’re just about the only car on the road. The rhythm section soothes, yet excites you with languid Latin rhythms. The piano player tickles the ivories like the waves tickling the shore. You float along on the breezes of melodies and solos that take you up and out over the ocean, just like a puffy cloud on high.

“Requiems” shifts from sunny California to sultry (or maybe sullen) Manhattan. The mood has changed from an open-air, drop-top coupe to the dark interior of a swank sedan. This song thickly saunters-in with big band, big town, big doings; it’s a smoky set. Then most of the band fades almost completely out of sight, and we hear Bergeron emerge in a combo-like setting. He slickly slides into and out of phrases, just like a glib hawker, only he’s hawking notes that roll around as smoothly as ball bearings on a metal plate. When the rest of the band returns, they’re like phantoms appearing out of a fog. This tune is so peaceful, it’s like a lullaby, but it certainly won’t put your to sleep because it’s too pretty to miss, and you’ll know if from the very first notes.

“You Hid What In The Sousaphone?”: Whatever else this cut is, it is most certainly a platform for one of the fines trombones solos I’ve heard in a long time. (I refuse to believe that the solo was performed on a sousaphone!) The horn section work is, once again, outstanding. On “The Hipster”, you will be beneficiary of the unexpected pleasure of a clarinet solo – nicely phrased and wonderfully supported by the rest of the band, with appropriately light and deft background harmonies. Similar dulcet support is provided when Bergeron comes in on muted trumpet. Woodwinds are prominently featured.

This CD is fun to listen to because it sounds like everyone who’s on it is having fun, too! These players have obviously rehearsed these numbers quite a bit, but they play the arrangements like they’re still having fun with them, and still closely listening to each other. You know how you listen to some musicians, and you get the feeling like you’re admiring them from afar, like you’re sitting in the passenger section, an observer? Well, Wayne Bergeron and friends sound like they sincerely want you to come along for the ride: Hell, pull up a chair; right here on the bandstand. It’s like they want you to feel, almost, like a participant – interactive listening. I’m telling you, these guys might feel just a little guilty for having accepted money for doing this gig. They sound like they’re enjoying these sessions just that much.

These are the performances of skillful musician “at play”. I have the feeling that I’ll be listening to this CD more often than I’d originally thought.