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Floating On The Silence by Gene Bertoncini and Tom Wolfe

Known as the "Segovia of Jazz," Gene Bertoncini has lent his acutely sensitive, often acoustic guitar to work with a wide range of jazz artists, from Benny Goodman and Buddy Rich to Wayne Shorter and Hubert Laws, and such singers as Tonny Bennett, Lena Horne and Nancy Wilson, over a career spanning four decades. He has been a hero of mine since I heard him on recordings with Paul Desmond in the 1970s. Currently a faculty member at the Eastman School of Music, Bertoncini moves effortlessly between jazz and classical forms with all that implies in terms of both knowledge and technique. He is the guitarist's guitarist par excellence, devoted to music of subtlety and taste, without ever losing touch with the essence of jazz. And, a big deal for me, Bertoncini's work represents a refreshing antidote to the excessive volume levels that continue to plague many jazz performances.

Here Bertoncini is heard in duet with a former student, Tom Wolfe, who has since emerged as an artist and educator in his own right. Currently Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Alabama, and President of the Alabama Chapter of the International Association of Jazz Educators, Wolfe has performed or recorded with Lou Marini, Lew Soloff, Ken Watters, Bill Goodwin, and Mundell Lowe among others. Lowe, himself something of a legend among guitarists, has high praise for both Wolfe and Bertoncini. "This is the way to play a melody," he writes in the liner notes of this album, "and a great example of how to accompany -- singers or instrumentalists. I have known both Gene and Tom for some time now, and I am always amazed at the musicianship they both show when they are doing what they do best. . . playing music."

I can only concur. The two guitarists work together with remarkable sensitivity and inventiveness, each of them alternating seamlessly between lead and accompaniment roles. There is no indication in the liner notes who is heard on which channel, and Mr. Wolfe will probably take it as a compliment that I have difficulty distinguishing between the two guitarists. Following a number of duo performances together, it is evident that they had developed a virtually telepathic understanding by the time they took advantage of a free day to record this session. The title of Floating on the Silence comes from Gene Lees' lyrics for Antonio Carlos Jobim's tune "Corcovado," which is heard here on track three. Lees speaks of ". . . quiet chords from my guitar . . . floating on the silence that surrounds us," which would be a good description of this session, except that Bertoncini and Wolfe also do some hard swinging, especially on "Con Alma," "Like Someone In Love," and even on Jobim's "How Insensitive."

Other than some amplified work on "Like Someone in Love," this is acoustic music, and within that context it is some of the best guitar work to appear during 2007. All jazz guitarists will want to check this out, and other jazz lovers should be right behind them.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Gene Bertoncini and Tom Wolfe
  • CD Title: Floating On The Silence
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: Summit Records
  • Tracks: On A Misty Night; Ill Remember April; Corcovado; For My Lady; For Chet; Con Alma; The Nearness of You; A Moment Alone; How Insensitive; Like Someone In Love.'
  • Musicians: Gene Bertoncini and Tom Wolfe - guitars
  • Rating: Four Stars
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