Jerry Bergonzi: Reptilian Fantasies & Tenor Talk

Tom Greenland By

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Bruce Gertz Quintet
Reptilian Fantasies
Open Mind Jazz

Jerry Bergonzi
Tenor Talk
Savant Records

Jerry Bergonzi, a turbo-charged tenorist in the tradition of Coltrane, Rollins and Hank Mobley, has been flying just under the radar of heavyweight acclaim for many years; two releases show why this Boston-based journeyman deserves wider recognition.

Featured prominently on tenor and drums on bassist Bruce Gertz' Reptilian Fantasies, Bergonzi's tunes "Cadiz," "Freedom from Religion" and "An Internal Affair" are valuable additions to the quintet's all-original set list, which also includes contributions from the leader and pianist Gabriel Guerrero. The tracks are relatively short, with succinct solos that serve the tunes. Bergonzi's statements are suitably reserved—his wistful but nicely shaped narrative on "Tango Reflexivo," his quirky 'calypsoloing' on "Snake Shot and his unhurried, Saturday afternoon vibe on "Cadiz". Elsewhere, however, he waxes fiery, as on "To Boldly Go Where Everyone Has Gone Before" (alluding to the fact that the song uses well-known chord changes), where his initial stop-and-go phraseology leaps dramatically into husky altissimo; on "You Too? Or...," with its aggressive outré doubletiming and especially on the title track, featuring a scorching melodic ascent, fast filigrees peppered with exotic flavor-notes, ending with a mellow taper-down.

Tenor Talk is Bergonzi's date, his 25th outing as a leader, showcasing his own compositions and featuring his frequent European touring unit (Renato Chicco: piano; Dave Santoro: bass; Andrea Michelutti: drums). The tracks are longer, with more exploratory and extensive soloing—the leader even takes a second solo on several cuts—made possible by the swinging simpatico amongst the group. Bergonzi is chock full o' chops, but his playing never feels forced or showy, rather exuding an easy confidence and flow. Gershwin's "Who Cares?" contains a typically ripping opening salvo, followed by an even more explosive follow-up solo (after Chicco has taken a turn) and the improvisation over "Hank" (dedicated to Mobley) creates a mood of purposeful meandering and relaxed intensity, followed by ecstatic pentatonics in the outro section. But Bergonzi's finest moments are on "Girl Idlig," with its hard-swinging solo that taxis, accelerates and eventually takes off, even including a fractured quote of "Mexican Hat Dance". Throughout, Chicco's arpeggiated motifs and mercurial textures provide an apposite foil to the leader's robust tenor.

Tracks & Personnel

Reptilian Fantasies

Tracks: Bell Ringers; Tango Reflexivo; Snake Shot, alt. take; Cadiz, alt. take; To Boldly Go Where Everyone Has Gone Before; You Too? Or...; Freedom From Religion; You're Invited; Reptilian Fantasies; The Lizard of Odds; An Internal Affair; Cryptic Current; You're Invited, alt. take.

Personnel: Jerry Bergonzi: tenor saxophone, drums; Ken Cervenka: trumpet, Flugel Horn; Gabriel Guerrero: piano; Tim Horner: drums; Bruce Gertz: bass.

Tenor Talk

Tracks: Who Cares?; Hank; Girl Idlig; Soul Mission; Splurge; Wippin' and Waulpin'; Left of Memory.

Personnel: Jerry Bergonzi: tenor saxophone; Renato Chicco: piano; Dave Santoro: bass; Andrea Michelutti: drums.

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