November 2006

Gene Bertoncini Trio
November 8, 2006 The Rex Hotel & Jazz BarToronto
Concerto in “G”
by Paul J. Youngman with photos by Roger Humbert
Gene Bertoncini made a rare appearance in Toronto, his last visit in January 2006 was sponsored by the Toronto Guitar Society. This time, he would play with top rated Toronto based musicians Dave Young, acoustic bass and Terry Clarke, drums. The trio featuring the master guitarist were scheduled to play two sets, one night only, at the famed Toronto jazz club, The Rex Hotel & Jazz Bar.
The show was a joy. Bertoncini was a gracious and humorous host, and the club patrons were for the most part attentive and appreciative. Opening with Jobim’s “Insensatez, (How Insensitive)” you had the feeling that a very deep and sensitive communication was taking place on stage. Clarke was swinging gently in the background while Young and Bertoncini discussed the intricacies of melodic interpretation. The interaction between Dave Young and Gene Bertoncini was awe-inspiring. The playing of Dave Young was incredibly passionate.
Gene Bertoncini
Flowing from one song to the next with little mention of song titles, a guitarist friend in the audience mentioned, “Love Letters” followed by “My One And Only Love” as part of the medley of tunes that were performed. Each song opened with an exquisite guitar solo, a nod to the accompanists, and the song would develop from that point. A melange of classical and jazz styling that had Young becoming more inspired with awesome pizzicato playing at a very fast tempo, vivace.

Bertoncini plays at a medium tempo, producing lush tones from his acoustic guitar. He plays in a classical style, never using a pick, but his thumb and the fingers of his right hand to strum and pick individual or groups of strings. The single note runs he placed in between the chords were excellent sounding as they blended into full rich chords. The arpeggios he pulled off were quite impressive. Ascending and descending elegant chords placed in groups of twelve followed by a run of single notes and leading back to the bridge. This concert should have been recorded to capture Bertoncini’s originality in composing these incredible fills, spectacular. Especially so when combined with the equally impressive Dave Young who composed a masterful tribute to the maestro.

The second set was even better than the first. The trio was warmed up and the mood of the room was energetic anticipation of more masterful playing by these three individuals who were blending as one in musical virtuosity. Bertoncini opened the set with a beautiful solo, the band came in and each accompanist took breaks that were cooking. The trio would perform seven songs, a couple of tunes had a Brazilian flavour, there was a Spanish tune, possibly “Hola Maria” a song Bertoncini mentioned was composed by Toots, and a Dizzy Gillespie song “Con Alma” to end the show in a soothing and satisfying fashion.

Bertoncini’s musical roots go back to the Bronx. Born in 1937, he grew up in a house filled with music. He began playing the guitar when he was seven, and by the time he was sixteen, he was appearing on New York television. He decided to fulfill another long-standing interest, and took a degree in architecture at Notre Dame. The first thing he did after picking up his degree was to work opposite Carmen McRae in Chicago. He returned to New York to work with vibraphonist Mike Manieri, followed by a quintet led by drummer Buddy Rich.

Gene Bertoncini has worked with the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, the Benny Goodman Sextet; singers Tony Bennett, Morgana King, Lena Horne, Vic Damone and Edye Gorme; jazzmen Buddy Rich, Wayne Shorter, Hubert Laws, Clark Terry, Paul Desmond, and Paul Winter; and arranger/composers Burt Bacharach, Lalo Schifrin and Michel LeGrand, among others. He performed regularly with the television bands of Merv Griffin and Skitch Henderson.

Bertoncini performed with bassist Michael Moore in a duo setting, which The New York Times describes as " of the finest pairings of jazz strings..." The duo performed regularly at Zinno’s in Greenwich Village for seven years, 1982–1989.

Dave Young

Terry Clarke
When in New York you can catch Gene Bertoncini at the club Le Madeleine 403 West 43rd Street (between 9th and 10th Avenue) where he performs every Sunday and Monday night. Highly recommended.
We welcome your comments and feedback
Paul J. Youngman
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Roger Humbert
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