Gene Bertoncini: Acoustic Romance (2003)
Guitarist extraordinare Gene Bertoncini wows, soothes and swings his way through eleven gorgeous jazz classics on Acoustic Romance, strumming, picking, running up and down the neck of his nylon-string acoustic guitar with the intricate multi-layered stylings true to his architectural training.
While it can be said that the world doesn’t need another guitar trio record, this one is an exception for many reasons: from the elaborate reharmonizing of "Edelweiss" to the snappy "Invitation," Bertoncini, along with the masterful bassist Rufus Reid and the equally inventive drummer Akira Tana, succeeds in making all of these standards sound like his own.
Some examples: "The Shadow of Your Smile," normally a medium tempo swinger, begins with a rubato solo guitar intro; Reid’s arco bowing, along with shimmering cymbals from Tana, leads into the melody. Bertoncini’s style blends seamlessly from blurring chord riffs to simple yet elegant single note lines, ending with groups of intricate block chords. On Henry Mancini’s "Two For the Road," Bertoncini’s introduction begins with the melody in the lower register of the guitar, chord voicings placed lovingly above it, and, seamlessly switching into the upper register and, with a nod to "I’m in the Mood for Love" (at least that’s what it sounds like), the trio enters with a beautiful vamp, leading into Reid’s thoughtful, gentle treatment of the melody, then trading back to Bertoncini’s embellishment.
It is said that studying with Bertoncini enables you to see the neck of the guitar in the most organized way possible. A perfect example of this: "’Round Midnight" begins with a pensive, steady chord sequence, followed by an intricate chord melody that grows every eight bars, from spare, contrapuntal lines weaving around the original to dense harmonic substitutions, back to simple counterpoint, into lighter chords with basslines added in.
Ending with "Cavatina" (the theme from the 1978 movie The Deer Hunter ), the trio evokes a pensive mood, an appropriate way to quietly, peacefully end a truly lovely hour-long journey.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York .
Track Listing: Edelweiss; The Shadow of Your Smile; Girl Talk; Two for the Road; Gone With the Wind; 'Round Midnight; Theme From the Summer of '42; Stella by Starlight; Emily; Invitation; Cavatina.
Personnel: Rufus Reid: bass; Gene Bertoncini: guitar; Akira Tana: drums.