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Jerry Bergonzi: Tenor Talk

Jack Bowers By

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Jerry Bergonzi, a Bostonian who has been plying his trade for more than four decades, often slips through the cracks when the names of accomplished post-bop tenor saxophonists are bandied about. Rather strange, as Bergonzi has had a notable career as a player/educator that has included quality time with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, among others, and Tenor Talk is the twenty-fifth recording he has made as leader of his own groups. In spite of this, Bergonzi is better known in Europe than in the States, perhaps because he prefers to hang out in his home town (where he teaches at the New England Conservatory) instead of New York City, Los Angeles or other better known jazz/media centers.

Several things should be noted about Bergonzi's tenor style: first, he is fluent without being immoderately derivative; second, he knows how to swing freely, and does so often; third, there's more than a touch of the great Sonny Rollins in his tone and phrasing. This is immediately apparent on the opening number, George Gershwin's "Who Cares?," but maintains throughout, as does Bergonzi's admiration for his other seminal influences, Hank Mobley (to whom the easygoing theme "Hank" is dedicated) and John Coltrane.

After "Hank," the first of Bergonzi's six original compositions, comes "Girl Idlig," a nickname for Bergonzi's daughter, Gabriella; the gently rocking "Soul Mission," Latin-tinged "Splurge" and dark-hued "Wippin' and Waulpin.'" The edgy finale, "Left of Memory," says Bergonzi, is based on the standard "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," but one must take his word for that, as the song's lovely melody is buried deep beneath Bergonzi's panoramic revision.

Bergonzi receives steady support from his working European rhythm section (which includes one American, bassist Dave Santoro). For those who dig tenor saxophone (this writer is one), this is Tenor Talk of a high order. While Bergonzi breaks no new ground, he is a sharp and resourceful improviser who always brings his "A" game to the session.

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

Personnel: Jerry Bergonzi: tenor sax; Renato Chico: piano; Dave Santoro: bass; Andrea Michelutti drums.

Title: Tenor Talk | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Savant Records

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