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Gene Bertoncini: With Bill Charlap and Sean Smith

With his instrument of choice-the nylon-string acoustic guitar-Bertoncini creates a broad range of textures and colors. On this particular journey, which focuses on the music of several great American songsmiths, he’s joined by two like-minded colleagues, pianist Bill Charlap and bassist Sean Smith.

Bertoncini’s impressionistic introduction to Smith’s “Japanese Maple” sets the stage for things to come, and his perceptive compatriots only heighten the overall meditative mood. The disc’s Ellington medley embraces three of Duke’s more reflective creations (“Lush Life,” “Chelsea Bridge,” “In a Sentimental Mood”), while livelier numbers like “Lullaby of the Leaves” provide contrast and demonstrate the ensemble’s ability to dynamically interact and swing at the same time. The program closes with a medley of “Sophisticated Lady” and “All the Things You Are,” which receives an adventurous samba treatment that not only shows off the leader’s refined single-note chops, but also illustrates how his active mind is always looking for new challenges. Exquisite from start to finish.

Originally Published