I started by reading Charlie Banacos’ liner notes to The Line Between, which probably make perfect sense to musicians but are far too abstruse for my untrained mind. I can pass on the observation that Jerry Bergonzi’s compositions — he wrote everything except “Fourth Ray,” which is a group effort — are “based on a technique called ‘intervallics’,” which I must confess isn’t too clear to me but has something to do with the fact that, as Banacos writes, “in [the] purest sense, melodies and harmonies are derived from a limited set (or sets) of intervals.” Bergonzi, drummer Bob Kaufman and bassist Bruce Gertz, he affirms, have adapted those intervals “to fit chords, scales, modes and standard progressions [whatever they are].” Banacos goes on to describe what is happening on each individual tune, but after wrestling with his largely impenetrable narrative I reasoned that listening to the music might be more instructive. So that is what I did. It wasn’t long before I began to wonder what I’d done with those liner notes, as they’d suddenly become far more interesting and attractive. Banacos was right; this is music for musicians, or at least for those whose musical knowledge is more inclusive than ours — which admittedly covers most of the Jazz–loving populace. To my ears, Bergonzi, a forceful improviser who has earned our praise on other occasions, sounds a lot like Sonny Rollins, which is about as far as I’m prepared to go in depicting his technique or temperament. Kaufman and Gertz are solid professionals who provide unpretentious but no less durable support, and Gertz reveals exceptional chops when soloing, which he does often. The main problem I have is with the songs themselves, most of which are less than riveting (I’d much prefer to hear the melodies on which they are based, which include “There Is No Greater Love,” restructured here as “Without a Trace,” “The Days of Wine and Roses” (“Small Pleasures”) and Bird’s “Confirmation” (“Confrontation”). Kaufman, Gertz and Bergonzi know how to swing but intervallics apparently curbs such pleasures except when one or another of them is able to loosen the shackles, which does happen from time to time. The outcome in those instances is quite pleasurable, but there aren’t enough of them to warrant an unqualified endorsement. On the other hand, these are three accomplished musicians who believe in what they are doing and are uncompromising in their approach. Well–informed listeners may find the enterprise far more rewarding than we.
Contact:Whaling City Sound, 560 Pleasant Street, PMB #01, New Bedford, MA 02740–6236. Web site, www.whalingcitysound.com
Seventh Ray Overture; It
Bob Kaufman, drums; Bruce Gertz, bass; Jerry Bergonzi, tenor saxophone.