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Gene Bertoncini: Quiet Now

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When this magazine polled its writers for a feature on underrated guitarists a couple of years ago, many of us forgot about Gene Bertoncini, probably because we were focused on great ensemble players, not soloists (this writer pleads guilty).

Bertoncini has worked in other contexts, and very well, but when it comes to arranging for the solo instrument he is in a class by himself. He approaches the guitar the way Paganini did when he called it his “little orchestra.” That composer, of course, saved his virtuosic showpieces for the violin, and Bertoncini doesn’t devote much time to high-end single-note improvisation here. But he more than makes up for it with his stunning arrangements, which rely on very full and often deliciously dissonant chord voicings. It’s all the ways he moves those voicings around that make Quiet Now such a pleasure. Beautiful tone, a subtle sense of humor and unfailing good taste don’t hurt the cause, either.

Strangely, while Bertoncini’s work is legend among guitarists, this is only his second solo record. Hopefully we won’t have long to wait for the third one.