Noted educator and saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi put together an all-star cast for Vertical Reality, sharing the frontline with guitarist Mike Stern. The title of the album may refer to the nature of Bergonzi's playing and arranging in general; his emphasis is on the vertical, harmonic nature of each tune rather than singable lines and enduring melodies. The presence of Stern (five tracks), as well as the strong supporting cast including Andy LaVerne (piano, four tracks), George Mraz (bass), and Billy Hart (drums), all truly make an impact on this recording. Bergonzi is far subtler and more effective in his approach here, creating accessible post-bop while leaving considerable improvisational space for each of the players. Vertical Reality is split between Bergonzi originals and standards principally arranged by LaVerne. Highlights include a hard-edged, Stern-dominated version of Bergonzi's "Jones" and swinging interpretations of "On Green Dolphin Street" and "Lover Man." This is a recommended Bergonzi release.
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AllMusic Review by Brian Bartolini