When Bergara served as guitarist on Hicks’ 2004 release, “Selected Shorts,” the Argentinian was relatively unknown to the American public. The following year he began extensive touring as rhythm guitarist in John Jorgenson’s Gypsy jazz quintet, a gig that would last through 2008. After that he began recording a string of releases under his own name or as the Gonzalo Bergara Quartet.
Bergara told Good New Music via email how he met Hicks:
“A friend of my roommate was at the time using his studio for a project with Dan Hicks. The producer was Tim Hauser from Manhattan Transfer. This friend had heard through my roommate that I also could play not only blues but Gypsy jazz as well, and everybody at that time was not happy with the guitar player they had in the studio.
“So one day the studio owner dialed my number and had me play (Gus Kahn’s 1924 classic) ‘I’ll See You in My Dreams’ through the phone. Sounds crazy, but that’s how it went. I guess (Hicks) liked it OK, because the next day I was in the studio redoing all of the guitar parts. … He was a very special man; I loved working with him.”
Although his roots are in blues, unbelievably this is Bergara’s first blues recording.
“My first gigs as a musician were at the age of 16,” he told GNM in explaining his blues beginnings. “I first joined a group when I was 12, and after four years and lots of practice, we started sounding pretty good. We were invited to national television, and played shows weekly in Buenos Aires and Argentina.
“I have always loved the format of a trio,” he said, “the freedom and space it gives me. Mariano (D’Andrea) and my brother Maximiliano (who both play on ‘Zalo’s Blues’) joined me when I was 16, and we did lots of things together, but I also played with other trios in town when I needed to.”
“Zalo’s Blues” is roughly half vocal numbers, half instrumental. The vocal tunes — Bergara’s first on record — are as good as any upper-echelon blues-rocker’s, and his singing voice carries not even a trace of an accent.
The instrumental cuts range in influence from Charlie Christian to T-Bone Walker to Stevie Ray Vaughan to the Hellecasters, and draw attention to the fact that this platter is nothing if not a tone fest.
Perhaps he was waiting until he felt his singing/songwriting skills were fully developed before “going electric,” but if Bergara’s first crack at it is this good, the listener’s imagination runs wild thinking about what lies ahead.
3. Singing My Song
4. You Don’t Have To Go (Jimmy Reed)
5. Dirty Socks
6. Gonna Go
7. No More
9. Been Runnin’
12. Won`t Stay With You
Total time: 37:30