It’s a rare treat to hear Chris Bergson and Ellis Hooks play the Delta blues in an intimate setting like The Myrna Loy in Helena. The duo performs their first and only concert in Montana at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21.
They’re often performing in arenas, festivals and stadiums, says Bergson, “but we cut our teeth playing in small clubs. We enjoy both.”
Expect to hear tunes from their new album, Live in Normandy, plus a few select covers, music from their past CDs and some fresh, new songs.
“I grew up in a house where music was on all the time” from jazz to blues, and from classical to folk and rock, says Bergson.
So it’s no accident he wound up becoming a musician who likes to blend blazing rock with soul and funk.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that it’s just the duo playing The Myrna Loy with Bergson on electric guitar and Hooks on acoustic.
“People think it’s going to be super, super mellow,” Bergson says.
But at the end of the night, they tell him, “We weren’t really expecting it to be so rockin’.”
Together, the duo generates “a lot of energy,” says Bergson, and he credits a lot of that to Hooks.
“I’m continually blown away by him,” Bergson says. He notes that Hooks has played with several soul and blues greats, but has his own distinctive sound.
“He needs to be seen to be believed.”
“It’s the first time for both of us visiting Montana,” Bergson says. “We’re excited for that and excited to play in Montana. We’re really looking forward to it.”
“One of the most talented bands playing today … From blazing rock to funk to soul to Delta blues and all that’s in between,” says Elmore Magazine.
About Chris Bergson
Born in New York City but raised in Somerville, MA, Chris Bergson returned to Manhattan in 1995 to study with jazz guitar master Jim Hall. While backing jazz singers Annie Ross, Dena DeRose, Sasha Dobson and Norah Jones, he released Blues for Some Friends of Mine and Wait for Spring.
In 2002, Bergson was appointed a Jazz Ambassador of the USA by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and he toured Africa with his trio. Evolving to further embrace the blues while also adding pop influences, he followed up with two more recordings before his triumphant artistic breakthrough, the widely acclaimed Fall Changes (2007), named MOJO’s #1 Blues Album of 2008.
Inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame in February 2015, he’s praised by The Blues Magazine as ” one of the most interesting blues-inspired songwriters. Bergson doesn’t do predictable, but there’s a visible thread of blues awareness running through the fabric of everything he writes, sings and plays: he is a concise and subtle guitarist and tough, grainy singer.”
About Ellis Hooks
Ellis Hooks was born in Bayminette, Alabama, between Birmingham and Montgomery. He is the 13th of 16 children born to sharecroppers. According to legend, he didn’t own a pair of shoes until he was eight.
Like so many soul and blues singers Hooks began singing in the church choir, leaving home at 15 to make a life for himself as a musician. Diana Ross heard him play in Central Park and invited him to a recording session, but Hooks was a no show.
Instead he paid for a one-way ticket to Europe where he played street corners. Eventually, he met record producer Jon Tiven who produced his debut, Undeniable. His most recent, “Needle In A Haystack” was released by Blues Blvd in 2015.
“The music of Chris Bergson and Ellis Hooks is genuine Delta soul blues,” writes Jos Verhagen, Blues Magazine (Holland). “The soulful voice of Hooks is reminiscent of the great soul men like Sam Cooke and Otis [Redding], and together with Chris he turns it into a true party.”
Tickets are $22 adult and $18 for students and are available at the box office, 15 N. Ewing St., by calling 406-443-0287 or at themyrnaloy.com.