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Gene Bertoncini/Jack Wilkins: Just the Two of Us

This album, recorded live in 1998, pairs not only two masters of the guitar, but also two distinctly different instruments and approaches. Bertoncini employs a nylon-string with fingerstyle technique akin to that of a classical player, while Wilkins uses a traditional archtop electric and essentially is a pick specialist. The net outcome is intricate, spontaneous music that is frequently brilliant in both conception and execution.

While virtuoso displays on the part of both participants are common, Wilkins-who possesses the ability to play lightning fast, pick-style runs-is responsible for the lion’s share, which can be heard on the adventurous rendition of “Lover Man,” his silken solo reading of “Spring Is Here” and elsewhere. As for Bertoncini, he especially shines on “Cry Me a River” and Jobim’s “Manha de Carnival,” where he provides expert, inventive support and demonstrates his gifts for melody and chords during his own improvisation. But as great as these guys are individually, together they produce some magic moments that include tandem soloing rife with counterpoint, ostinatos and other devices that mesh well.

Exceptional work from start to finish, but then you’d expect no less from these two.

Originally Published