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Gene Bertoncini: Concerti

Dan McClenaghan By

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Concerti is twenty-six strings vibrating: A string quartet—two violins, a viola and a cello—with a bass added on the bottom end, fronted by the nylon-string acoustic guitar of Gene Bertoncini.

A top notch guitarist who has taught for forty years at the Eastman School of Music, Bertoncini enlisted some of his colleagues from the school to arrange for the string section. The results are a buoyant and sweet mix of jazz sidling up to the classical side of sound.

Mark Feldman—a classically-trained violinist who has worked extensively in the jazz genre—conducts the strings, and bassist David Finck adds some beef to the ensemble. The set opens with a high energy take on the standard "East of the Sun," followed by a zingy take on Cole Porter's "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," featuring beautifully intricate interplay.

The Bertoncini original, "For Chet," is a tribute to Chet Baker, with whom the guitarist often played. The guitarist wrote the gorgeously melancholy tune just after the trumpeter's death.

The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby"—on which the Fab Four/George Martin used strings for the original version—has an especially lively feeling, with Bertoncini and the string section cooking with some zesty improvisation.

"Concierto de Aranjuez (adagio)/Spain," played most famously by Miles Davis on Sketches of Spain (Columbia Records, 1959), is a highlight here, thirteen-plus minutes of understated guitar/string section virtuosity that has the ensemble shifting into Chick Corea's "Spain" before it slips back to the Rodrigo concierto to close the set on an especially gorgeous note.

Track Listing:

East of the Sun; You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To; For Chet; Eleanor Rigby; Every Time We Say Goodbye; Prelude (excerpt-Opus 28#4)/How Insensitive; Invitation; Concerto de Aranjuez (adagio)/Spain.

Personnel: Gene Bertoncini: guitar; Mark Feldman: first violin; Rob Moose: second violin; Kelly Dylia; viola; Dana Leong: cello; David Frinck; bass; Michael Patterson: conductor.

Title: Concerti | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Ambient Records


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