Of the many projects the great guitarist Gene Bertoncini has been involved in, the centerpiece of his style has always been focused on thoughtful discourse and romance. And nobody -- nobody -- plays the acoustic six-string nylon instrument better than Bertoncini within a jazz context. What brings Concerti into a different light is not just the addition of a string quartet with the very fine bassist David Finck and conductor Michael Patterson. The bonds these players enjoy are the wonderful charts by various arrangers from the Eastman School of Music, where Bertoncini is an instructor. Far from mere accompanists, the strings and their carefully crafted scores are interactive, channel elegantly between the lines of the guitarist and bassist, and produce an organic whole that charmingly blend and sing together. "East of the Sun" kicks off the program in typical fashion with Bertoncini and Finck up front and the strings laying back, but then the roles change on "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" as the strings play counterpointed lines encompassed by guitar solos, then they merge. A bossa nova version of "Eleanor Rigby" with strings playing insistent sharp bowed or plucked phrases under Bertoncini's energetic quick lines verifies a really good idea in changing up this stoic Beatles tune. A strident take of "Every Time We Say Goodbye" has the violins, viola, and cello burst blooming, then clamped down ritarded, and a great take of the well-worn "Invitation" has new life from the bouncy string intro, leading to the calmed, familiar melody with Bertoncini in the background. There are two combo tunes; the solo guitar to bossa excerpt from Fryderyk Chopin's "Prelude-Opus 28, #4" into Antonio Carlos Jobim's "How Inensitive" with the strings as an afterthought, and the similarly rendered intro of Rodrigo's "Conceirto De Aranjuez" melting into Chick Corea's bright and happy "Spain." At 13 minutes "Conceirto/Spain" encompasses the most ambitious and conservative selection, easily recognizable and populist, cool and flowing, slow then sped up, interactive and stretched so the musicians can let some improvisation come to the forefront. There's also a waltz of regret "For Chet," an original of Bertoncini assumedly in tribute to Chet Baker, with the strings wafting alongside Finck's bowed bass. A truly exquisite, professionally executed, and solid musical effort, this CD should not be dismissed on any level as simply old hat. Instead it should be embraced for the simple and true organ of beauty it is proud to be.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos
|Invitation, film score|