Thursday, December 15, 2011

Saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi's Strong New CD - Convergence

Professor at the New England Conservatory of Music, an alumnus of Two Generations of Brubeck and the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Jerry Bergonzi is an unheralded master of the saxophone. He has a new Savant CD, Convergence with bassist Dave Santoro and the Paris-based Italian drummer, Andrea Michelutti and on a couple numbers, pianist Bill Barth. About his last Savant album, Simply Put, this writer wondered “why Jerry Bergonzi is not a household name in the jazz world. He is a superior, passionate and thoughtful musician and composer, with a terrific band and he deserves to have a wider audience commensurate with the high level of the music he produces.”

Convergence contains eight originals and one interpretation of a Gershwin song. With the exception of two tracks with pianist Barth, he is only supported by Santoro and Michelutti although he has overdubbed on several tracks to play both tenor and soprano, although most of the solo focus is with the tenor. The opening Lend Me a Dream, has a boppish flavor with twin horns for the head. It sounds like piano chords sparely played in the background as the leader sounds robust on tenor, as Santoro takes a terrific solo and then Bergonzi trades fours with Michelutti. The Gershwin’s I Got a Crush on You has nice thematic improvisation over a simple repeated rhythmic figure.

Squid Ink, one of the two numbers with pianist Bath, starts off as a quintet with an engaging twisting line. Pianist Barth takes the first solo and Michelutti’s imaginative playing adds to the interest with the leader sounding vigorous over the driving groove. Stoffy is a bouncy, free-sounding trio number followed by the moody Silent Flying. Osiris opens with overdubbed horns stating the theme before Bergonzi focuses on soprano sax (with a snake charmer’s tone) here on this entrancing performance.

Pianist Barth returns for the loping, engaging title track. On the closing Seventh Ray overdubbing is used throughout the performance, not simply for the opening and coda, making for an intriguing dialogue by Bergonzi with himself. It concludes another album of dynamic and thoughtful performances by a highly underrated composer and saxophonist.

This review was originally drafted for Jazz & Blues Report and my review copy was sent to me by them. I previously reviewed Bergonzi’s Simply Put. Here is a short video clip of him performing from you tube.

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