Wayne Bergeron may be the most-heard trumpet player you’ve never heard of. He is a prolific lead trumpet player and soloist in the Los Angeles music scene and his trumpet voice has been a part of hundreds of CDs (with artists ranging from Barry Manilow to INXS, Joe Cocker to Beyoncé); more than 300 TV and motion picture soundtracks (major film credits include Mission Impossible 3, The Incredibles, Spiderman 2, Drumline, Friday Night Lights -- to name just a few); and hundreds of TV and radio jingles.
But it is Bergeron’s passion for big band jazz that is in focus on this CD, Plays Well With Others. His big band credentials are stellar, having recorded with the bands of such luminaries as Quincy Jones, Pat Williams, Sammy Nestico, Tom Kubis, John LaBarbara, Phil Capp, Bill Watrous, and a host of others.
His flight time with these bands clearly qualify him for leadership of his own big band, and he does so with panache on Plays Well With Others, his second release as a leader (You Call This a Living? On Wag records, 2002 was his first). From the opening lead trumpet screams on "Endless Torture" you’ll know Bergeron has chops; He even throws in the wide, slow vibrato on a high note in a tribute to the signature sound of one of his trumpet heroes (and one-time employer), Maynard Ferguson.
The ensemble playing on this record is incredibly tight; no doubt this is because each tune was laid down by a collection of the finest L.A. studio players. What you are going to hear is a very polished sound -- crystal clear like a finely cut white diamond. My only complaint is it is also a little on the dry side; it has that studio-perfection quality that sounds great but lacks some warmth. Each tune effectively has its own band as the personnel rotate a bit, perhaps based on the four different recording locations. Every cut features excellent playing no matter the personnel mix, and of course Bergeron’s sound is threaded throughout the entire disc.
And his sound is simply amazing. He cuts the upper atmosphere of the trumpet range cleanly, crisply, and in tune. Up-and-coming lead trumpet players take note: this is how it is supposed to sound. But Bergeron is more versatile--much more--than just delivering stellar lead trumpet. He’s a strong improviser too, with an easy swinging style. I was especially impressed that he doesn’t rely on the high stuff all the time to make his solos interesting. And then just to show you one more way that he’s in a league of his own, he can play a nice buttery melody line on ballads, whether he’s on flugelhorn or trumpet.
The song choices on Plays Well With Others are a wonderful, eclectic mix. "Endless Torture" and "Samba Brassiliero" cover the Latin front while "You Go to My Head" and "Requiems" will satisfy the ballad lovers. Tunes like "Maynard & Waynard," "High Clouds and a Good Chance of Wayne," "You Hid What in the Sousaphone?," and "The Hipster" are all great swingers with creative arranging. "Georgia" is probably the only real burner on the disc, warming slowly until the trumpet section turns up the heat with a nice bop soli section. And then there is the real surprise: you’re not going to find too many jazz records with a Rimsky-Korsakov tune, but Bergeron serves up a delightful version of "Scheherazade" (based, I believe, on the theme from the Third Movement).
Another wonderful feature of this CD is that Bergeron generously shares the solo space with other stellar musicians. You’ll enjoy great improv work by sax players Dan Higgins, Pete Christlieb, Bob Sheppard, and Bill Liston as well as ‘bone players Andy Martin and Bill Reichenbach (actually soloing on bass trombone for one cut and tuba for another -- ever hear bebop on a tuba?!). Christian Jacob provides some nice piano improvisation on two cuts, as does Michito Sanchez on Latin percussion. As for trumpet solos, well there is Maynard Ferguson of course on the eponymous "Maynard & Waynard," along with Warren Luening on one tune.
If you love the modern big-band jazz genre, Plays Well With Others needs to be in your collection; you might as well buy two copies right away because you’re going to wear one out. Not a single cut disappoints. You’re going to hear literally some of the best commercial musicians on the planet collaborating to delight you with their musical artwork.