Smile, the inaugural CD from Motema's Jazz Therapy series, comes from guitarists Gene Bertoncini and Roni Ben-Hur and benefits a very worthy cause. The proceeds from the album, the first recorded collaboration between the pair, go to the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund at Englewood Hospital, providing free medical care to jazz musicians in need.
The music is beautiful and, dare one say, therapeutic. The guitarists work well together, with Bertoncini's lyrical nylon string work complementing Ben-Hur's more bop-oriented electric lines.
Some of the standout tracks include the gently swinging Bertoncini composition "You Are A Story," its graceful, singing lines highlighting the musicians' melodic sensibilities. The take on the Charles Fox composition and Roberta Flack hit "Killing Me Softly" showcases Bertoncini's skill as an arranger. Ben-Hur contributes two tunes to the CD: "Anna's Dance," a melancholy piece with a Latin feel, succeeds at being both rhythmic and pensive, while "Sophia's Butterfly" swings as a fun blues. The disc is rounded out by choice classics including Cole Porter's "I Concentrate on You" and the Charlie Chaplin-penned title track.
If there is a criticism to be leveled towards Smile it is its lack of tonal variety. Only nylon string and electric, while lovely, can be monotonous over the length of an entire CD. However, this is a very small complaint. Overall, this recording is a wonderful effort from two of New York's best jazz guitarists coming together for a great cause.