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Bruce Gertz: Red Handed

Boston-based bassist Bruce Gertz is a writer-leader to reckon with. As annotator Bob Blumenthal reminds us, this is the fourth outing for the Gertz quintet. Since its debut disc in 1991, Gertz’s fivesome, save one change, has retained the same turbo-charged line-up of guitarist John Abercrombie, tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi and drummer Adam Nussbaum, with pianist Bruce Barth now in for Joey Calderazzo. Talk about musical ESP. These guys “see” as well as hear around corners. Lines fly “inside” and “out” and everywhere else. A large part of that has to do with Gertz’s tunes which, while appealing in their own right, also function to push the band into the ether of inspired weight-free improvisation.

On one hand, there’s the loping gait of “Are We There Yet?,” a deceptive little swinger graced with Monk-ian twists and Gertz’s alluring arco and pizzicato forays. Gertz, an accomplished double bassist, also displays impressive electric chops in the spirited run-down of “Giant Steps,” the one non-Gertz track. The mystic aura of “Celestial Light” is a perfect set-up for Abercrombie’s cloud-hopping peregrinations, as well as the more earthbound wanderings of Bergonzi and Barth. Bergonzi, by the way, is colossal, whether rhapsodizing with “In a Perfect World” or churning funkily in “J.B.” Nussbaum is a constant source of evocative colors, subtle punctuations and Swiss watch time keeping. And, when the fivesome strolls late at night, as they do on the street-smart title track, watch out-It’s serious attitude!

Originally Published