Barry Bergstrom
saxophonist, flutist, vocalist, composer, educator

Veteran jazz musician Barry Bergstrom has a new lease on life. After over 20 years on and off the road as a band leader, sideman, educator, and tour manager, in 2004 Barry returned home to Finley, Washington, to address some health problems that had been plaguing him. The shift from managing the 50th anniversary tour of the venerable Newport Jazz Festival to the bucolic charms of the outskirts of the Tri-Cities, Washington, was re-orienting enough. But then, under surgical anesthesia to remove a massive kidney stone in May of 2006, Barry literally died on the operating table, and was revived three minutes later. After a six-month recovery, during which he could not practice his saxophone at all, Barry returned to music with a vengeance, and with new musical insights. “Something happened -- it seems that music makes more sense to me now than it did before,” Barry contends. “I kept saying after the surgery that I felt like a different person, and then when I started playing again, my band-mates noticed a difference as well. After an initial gig, Kurt Gustafson (Barry’s long-time bassist) told me how much my playing had improved, but the irony was that I hadn't been able to practice for 6 months!”

Reviving his long-dormant Tri-Cities based quartet, this go-round with long-time foil Gustafson on bass, twenty-something Central Washington University music student Matt Larsen on drums, and music educator, computer scientist, and long-time friend Doug Rice on guitar, Bergstrom found renewed passion in performing his long-time repertoire: a mix of old and new jazz standards, originals, and dear to his heart, the music of Jim Pepper, the late Portland, Oregon raised Native American saxophonist. Being a Northwest saxophonist with 25% Native American blood (Abenaki), the attraction of Bergstrom to the music of Pepper was probably inevitable. “I first heard Jim's music in a kind of roundabout way,” Barry says. “In 1976 I heard Tom Grant (the Portland based pianist and vocalist) perform ‘Witchi Tai To,’ (Pepper’s most well known song) and was overwhelmed by the beauty and simplicity of the song. Barry continues: “I immediately wanted to start playing these songs and tunes, and I felt validated in some of the things that I was hearing in my head and attempting to play on my horn, but which I didn't hear anybody else doing, except for the avant-garde players, like Eric Dolphy, Pharoah Sanders, and Albert Ayler. Yet Jim seemed to have a way of both playing beautifully and playing these avant-garde ideas that seemed to make perfect sense. Because of that I've always felt a kind of spiritual connection with Jim and his music.”

Building on the experience that he gained managing the Newport Tour, which featured musicians that had long influenced his own playing (James Moody, James Carter, Randy Brecker), Barry relishes the chance to tour again, this time as a bandleader, with his new quartet, “Eagle Wing.” “I’m so thrilled with these guys’ playing,” Barry says. “Kurt had been a friend and collaborator for a long time, and I had known Doug for years, but when the three of us finally got to play together for the first time, we found that we had great simpatico interaction. And Matt is a very impressive young man….he plays like he’s twenty years older than he his, and he has a sweet soul. I love these guys as friends and colleagues, and always look forward to our interactions, which are always fresh and filled with great ‘in-the-moment’ improvisations.”

“Barry is a fine saxophonist with a style all his own, and a lot of integrity to go with it.”
– trumpeter Randy Brecker

"Barry has a great sound, swings with authority, and has big ears. He's a seasoned improviser who always brings a positive attitude to the bandstand."
– guitarist John Stowell

“…Able and imaginative…….”
– Peter Monaghan, Earshot Jazz

 

design by scott wilburn graphic design ©2005 photography by Dianna Clark