Long considered to be one of the most lyrical jazz guitarists, this solo studio recital by Gene Bertoncini showcases his love of many different forms of music. He initially arranged Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life" and "Isfahan" as a medley while working with bassist Michael Moore, returning to it for this date. His minimalist interpretation of "Lush Life" (which has an open ending) contrasts with his lively approach to "Isfahan." John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" and Tadd Dameron's "On a Misty Night" prove to be a logical medley. Bertoncini's reworks "Giant Steps" with a ballad-like tempo, fading it in mid-phrase, then segueing into a brisk rendition of "On a Misty Night." His inventiveness is also apparent in the medley of two Bill Evans compositions, "Waltz for Debbie" and "Very Early." Within a single chorus of the former, the guitarist conveys the innocence and happiness of childhood. His arrangement of the challenging "Very Early" incorporates open strings inside the chords, though played at a relaxed tempo, a different approach than its composer typically chose. Bertoncini only slightly modified Denny Zeitlin's original piano part for his ballad "Quiet Now," a signature piece recorded frequently by its composer and Evans, producing a brilliant rendition worthy of comparison to the recordings by each of the pianists. The veteran guitarist also works his magic with standards, a bossa nova, and also classical music, including Robert Schumann's "Träumerei," and "Nessun Dorma," a powerful aria from Puccini's opera "Turnadot." Bertoncini's surprising finale is "Theme from Bang the Drum Slowly," which incorporates the country song "Cowboy Lament (Streets of Laredo)" and provides a touching conclusion to one of Gene Bertoncini's greatest releases of his career.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden