Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Jerry Bergonzi - Spotlight on Standards (Savant, 2016)

Saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi can be depended upon to release a quality mainstream jazz album every year and this one is no different. The change is in the accompaniment, in which he employs Renato Chicco on organ and Andrea Michelutti on drums. This gives the well-known standard songs a new polish and allows the musicians leverage to interpret them in their own way. “Witchcraft” opens the album with a melodic medium tempo of slinky saxophone over subtle organ and percussion. The spacious and well-articulated organ and percussion get room to move, bubbling through their paces. The leader comes back with pithy interjections of sound weaving a competent and thoughtful solo. There is a slightly more urgent pace to “Bi-Solar,” but the music remains rather quiet, simmering rather than shouting. There’s a very nice swinging interlude for organ and drums and then a portion where the musicians trade small solos with one another, especially giving the drummer a share of the spotlight and creating and “one for all and all for one” sensibility. “First Lady” has some thick organ and nimble percussion setting the stage for Bergonzi’s agile saxophone. The tunes on this album are all over six minutes long, which gives plenty of space for the musicians to stretch out. Copious amounts of organ fill in for any missing bass or guitar and Chicco makes the most of the freedom. The leader’s saxophone develops a wounded cry that ups the emotional ante of the performance. “Dancing in the Dark” is light and swinging, with subtle bubbling organ and percussion supporting a lilting melody. The group improvises variations on the music displaying keyboard virtuosity and refined rearranging of the song. There’s a strident feel to “Out of Nowhere” with tight interplay and a strong saxophone solo that develops a raw dynamic. There is a solid section of organ and percussion interplay before the lean cry of the saxophone re-emerges and engages well with the other two musicians. “Come Rain Or Come Shine” has a spritely spark to the melody, moving to a very good improvised section where there is ample opportunity for the musicians to weave in and out without getting in anyone’s hair. Bergonzi is at his best spooling out polished, husky lines of saxophone backed by tactful organ and drums. This album works quite well with the organist and drummer mixing their support role with some fine solo spots and the leader playing with agility and a sense of relaxed swinging confidence. Spotlight On Standards -

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