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Jerry Bergonzi: Convergence

Greg Simmons By

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Saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi has become one of the most reliable recording artists in jazz. In between his day job as a Berklee College of Music professor, and performing, he turns out a great album or two every year. Featuring mostly tenor horn, Convergence follows dutifully in that pattern. The album splits between a classic piano-based quartet and the more risky piano-less trio with equally good results. Bergonzi, who also overdubs soprano sax for a few tracks, has no problem carrying the trio, revealing no weaknesses in an unforgiving, nowhere-to-hide lineup.

The lone cover on the album, George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin's, "I've Got A Crush On You," starts with a straight-through reading of the melody, before becoming a platform for the kind of first-rate improvisation expected from Bergonzi, his horn warm and forceful, as he expands over the rhythm section, reaching out but never breaking too far away. It's a beautiful rendering of a classic.

"Stoffy," another trio track, opens with a film-noir-ish bass vamp that supports a more unconventional melody and improvisational statement. The result is equally fine, hanging together as a fully realized statement. Bergonzi's writing, throughout the album, is organized, logical and tight, making Convergence as notable for its composition as for its improvisation.

The rest of the album plays out on this pattern, with a just a couple of exceptions. This is Bergonzi's date, and he does not cede the leadership duties often. Pianist Bruce Barth joins the proceedings for three tracks, adding some lovely background comps and taking a really solid solo on "Convergence." The rhythm section—bassist David Santoro and drummer Andrea Michelutti—supports the entire disc without flaw.

As a musician, Bergonzi is as competent on soprano as he is his main instrument. Overdubbing the straight horn on "Osiris," the saxophonist uses it to emphasize the melody, and to add some harmony that would be impossible in a trio, for a musically compelling result. His workout on soprano is as skilled as anything else on the album, and the overdubbing is seamless. Bergonzi manages to harmonize and interact with himself in a manner that—were it a recording of two horn players—might recall the psychically intertwined interplays of the Gerry Mulligan/Chet Baker quartets, dipping and diving over each other, completely in sync. There is no fault with the music here—it's excellent across the board—but it would be interesting to hear what this might have sounded like with two musicians actually interacting with each other, rather than one player playing along with something previously recorded.

Convergence showcases Bergonzi's considerable talents as a writer and improviser, and is worthy of his already impressive recording legacy. This effort enhances his position as one of the most important artists in jazz today, and is truly one of the first great jazz albums of 2011.

Track Listing: Lend Me A Dream; I've Got A Crush On You; Squid Ink; Stoffy; Silent Flying; Osiris; Mr. Higgins; DDODD; Convergence; Seventh Ray.

Personnel: Jerry Bergonzi: tenor and soprano saxophones; Bruce Barth; piano (1,3 9); David Santoro: bass; Andrea Michelutti: drums.

Title: Convergence | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Savant Records

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