Jerry Bergonzi Quartet – Tenorist – Savant

by | Jul 24, 2007 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Jerry Bergonzi Quartet – Tenorist – Savant SCD 2085, 57:24 (2007) ****1/2 :

(Jerry Bergonzi, tenor sax; John Abercrombie, guitar; Dave Santoro, bass; Adam Nussbaum, drums)

Boston tenor saxist Jerry Bergonzi is reminiscent of a present day Clifford Jordan.  Two superlative technicians never truly gaining the recognition so richly deserved.  At least Bergonzi still has the opportunity to change this situation and perhaps his signing with the audiophile-conscious Savant label under Joe Fields might propel things. Bergonzi’s recording career began the in the late 1970s with Dave Brubeck and he followed that up with a number of releases over the years on various labels.  Much of his time has been spent teaching, but lucky Bostonians could always catch his weekly Wednesday gig at the suburban Acton Jazz Cafe.

The inclusion of Abercrombie on guitar definitely results in Bergonzi going a little further left/out than usual, which is clearly shown in the program.  Four reworkings of Bergonzi’s tunes from the past, three new originals and two standards.  The first track, “Gecko Plex”, sets the tone for much of the session.  Bergonzi gets the first solo, followed by Abercrombie.  The guitarist’s statement seems to inspire Bergonzi to reach further out during his second solo – a nice development.  This pattern remains during many of the tracks. 

In general, drummer Nussbaum begins with brushes and then goes to a stick for the cymbals later in the tracks. His work throughout is outstanding with nice variance and shadings through his mastery of combo brushes and sticks.  Bassist Santoro is very, very solid with a nice assortment of solos.  The other star of the session, as is the case with so many jazz discs nowadays, is the magnificent engineering job.  The soundstage and capturing of dynamics is worthy of five stars – state of the art, even on redbook.

But back to the songs.  Monk’s “Pannonica” is stately, with a fine bass solo and Bergonzi’s second solo after Abercrombie being mighty.  (And oh, the brushes and stick on cymbals is beautiful!).  “Simultaneous Looks” is a blues driven number that defines post-bop jazz.  This one actually contains a head to start things off.  It also includes perhaps Bergonzi’s best playing on the album.  I do wish they hadn’t faded it out as it seemed Bergonzi still had much more to say.

This pretty much sets the tone for the rest of this superbly recorded disc.  However, the quartet does offer up a wonderfully played slow ballad on Kenny Dorham’s “La Mesha”.  Also, Bergonzi overdubs his tenor on track 7, a very cool change-up which gives the tune a feel of a reed section for a nice change of pace.  This is a basic masterpiece all around.  To show just how good this release is, I would pay full price for this one if I had to – and snap up some of Bergonzi’s other discs used.  Yeah, I suspect this is the tenorman’s best recorded work, enhanced by stupendous sonics.  Seek it out!

TrackList:  Gecko Plex/ Pannonica/ Simultaneous Looks/ Table Steaks/ La Mesha/ Czarology/ With Reference/ Creature Feature/ On Again, Off Again

–  Birney K. Brown

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