What could possibly be better than hearing guitarist extraordinaire Gene Bertoncini on Concerti
? Simply, being ten feet away from the bandstand and viewing his quicksilver style of playing, astounding an appreciative audience.
Bertoncini, over the course of several decades, has become an elder statesman plectrist, working in a number of settingssolo, duet, trio or larger ensembles. On Concierti
, Bertoncini works with members of The Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where he has been a teacher for many years. With the exception of "Invitation," all of the arrangements were written by Bertoncini's colleagues at Eastman.
For purposes of presentation, the guitarist is working here with a string quartet that consists of Mark Feldman (first violin), Rob Morse (second violin), Kelly Dylia (viola) and Dana Leong (cello). In addition, ubiquitous New York jazz bassist David Finck is also a member of the ensemble.
The classical influence and jazz tendencies of Mark Feldman's work with guitarist John Abercrombie's quartet and his own ECM (2006's What Exit
) can also be heard here.
The tunes selected for this album consist of six compositions that loosely fit under the heading of the Great American Songbook, including Bronislaw Kaper's "Invitation," Brooks Bowman's "East of the Sun," and even the Lennon/McCartney Beatles tune, "Eleanor Rigby." The remaining tracks include Bertoncini's "For Chet," with the late trumpeter Chet Baker in mind (and a frequent Bertoncini employer), and a 13-minute version of Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez," segueing into piano icon Chick Corea's "Spain."
A most interesting aspect of the album is the way that Bertoncini and colleagues take turns emphasizing his acoustic nylon-string guitar, while keeping the strings tamped down on "East of the Sun" or quite the opposite for "Eleanor Rigby," where the melody's sharp edges are undertaken by the strings thus giving it a keener presentation than usual.
Likewise, a medley of Frederic Chopin's "Prelude (excerpt Opus 28 #4)," which melds into Jobim's ballad "How Insensitive," is played with the strings far in the background, while Cole Porter's "Every Time We Say Goodbye" provides an unusual take with the viola, cello and violins all ablaze.
This is an album that is full of surprises and one that is worthy of the Bertoncini's unmistakable musicianship.