The Buenos Aires-based Gonzalo Bergara may best be known for his gypsy jazz quartet, Charlie Baty notes that when he first met the Argentinian, Bergara was developing as a blues guitarist. Then he changed gears and immersed himself in the gypsy jazz tradition (something Baty himself has done). Now Bergara has made a 'blues' recording, which also includes his vocals. Baty calls him "one of the most talented guitarists in the universe" and he certainly displays his chops and appealing vocals on an album of originals with the exception of a Jimmy Reed cover, backed in 2015 by his trio of Mariano D'Andrea on bass and Maximiliano Bergara (except for one track with Vince Bilbro on bass and Michael Partlow on drums that was recorded in 2003).
While Baty calls this Bergara's 1st 'Blues' album, it transcends the genre with a fair dose of blues-rock and country in the songs along with a focus on his guitar playing which incorporates doses of surf-guitar and country-billy that evoke a Danny Gatton or Tom Principato. The opening "Drawback" certainly dazzles, followed by some very credible singing on "Drinking," a nice rock-flavored song crisply played with more guitar fireworks that doesn't obscure how how inventive and logically he plays. "Singing My Song" is more of a classic rock styled song, but again one is impressed by his guitar playing, especially in his use of space and tone. Covering Jimmy Reed's "You Don't Have To Go," he opens sampling Reed's original but tearing into the performing with his vocal very much reflecting Reed's influence, even if his performance is a bit more emphatically done than the lazy Reed original.
"Dirty Socks" is another sampling of his blistering fretwork set against a funk groove, followed by "Gotta Go," a country-rockabilly romp followed by a driving shuffle groove on the original blues "No More." "Whoosh" is another brisk instrumental with some jazzy accents that was based on Charlie Baty's "Percolatin'", and which Baty not only felt Bergara captured his sound, but had a more interesting theme. Starting off as a lament, "Been Runnin'" is a dose of blues-rock and his playing explodes here (although likely my least favorite track). "Levi" is a nice medium tempoed-blues instrumental with a mix of restraint and explosive guitar followed by a lovely tone poem "Ines," another display of technique, taste and dynamics. The closing "Won't Stay With You" contrasts with understated accompaniment supporting his vigorous singing.
Listening to "Zalo's Blues," one is most impressed by the superb guitar work from Gonzalo Bergara and if not a great singer, he does deliver his vocals with a definite appeal. With his trio, he has provided a recording that will certainly have many take notice of his talent.
I received a review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in September-October 2016 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 368). Here is a sample of him playing.