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On the Bass Line

MUSIC | SOUNDS

'Walking is like the heartbeat of the rhythm section.'

October 09, 1997|ZAN STEWART | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Bassist Chuck Berghofer was born to walk--on a string bass, that is.

The Denver native and Arcadia resident relishes that role of fitting deftly into the slot between a pianist or guitarist and a drummer, delivering, in his case, huge, pliant tones with an elastic rhythmic feel that center his cohorts while prodding them on. He discovered the art form as a teenager, listening to a recording of the great bassist Leroy Vinnegar; he became immediately enthralled and still is.

"Walking is like the heartbeat of the rhythm section. It sets the feeling, the groove. It sets the foundation for everything," said Berghofer, who has worked or recorded with such greats as Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles and Shelly Manne. "But it's getting to be a lost art, and when I do seminars in schools, I push the idea of walking."

Berghofer displays his considerable musical wares Friday at Monteleone's in Tarzana, where he plays with pianist Pete Jolly's trio. There is simply no other situation in which the bassist is more relaxed: Jolly's brand of jazz is his favorite, and he and the pianist have been performing together, along with drummer Nick Martinis, off and on since 1959.

"It's the most fun I have playing now," said Berghofer. "We've been together so long, we read each other's minds, we feel the time together.

The bassist moved to Arcadia at age 8, took up trumpet at 9 and bass at 17. He learned from several teachers, including when he played in the early 1960s with Shelly Manne and his man, drum master Philly Joe Jones. "He told me to lay back and kinda cool it," Berghofer said.

Hooking into the film, TV and recording studios, Berghofer made the big time. He's been on many million sellers, from Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night" to Merle Haggard's "Okie From Muskogee," and has performed on more than 400 film and TV scores. Still, jazz is where he's at home.

* Chuck Berghofer plays with pianist Pete Jolly's trio on Friday, 8:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., at Monteleone's West, 19337 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana. No cover; without dinner, $9.95 food/drink minimum. (818) 996-0662.

*

Quick Hits: It's official--the Money Tree (10149 Riverside Drive, North Hollywood, no cover or minimum, (818) 769-8800) is remodeled and open. In jazz, you can hear pianist Karen Hernandez and singer Jimmy Spencer on Thursdays, 8:30 p.m., and a jam with Harold Bennett's trio, again with Hernandez, Sundays, 7-11 p.m. . . .

Vocalist Susan Krebs investigates standards tonight, 7-11 p.m., at Ca' del Sole (4100 N. Cahuenga Blvd., North Hollywood; no cover, no minimum; [818] 985-4669). . . .

Expect hard swinging and bluesy singing from Bruce Eskovitz and David Basse tonight, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., at Chadney's (3000 W. Olive St., Burbank; no cover, one drink minimum per show; [818] 843-5333).

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