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Jerry Bergonzi: Rigamaroll

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For someone who’s always been reluctant to tout his skills as a composer, Boston-based saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi certainly knows how to write to his strengths.Hard-charging, riff-based tunes prove that time and again here, providing bracing impetus for a veteran reedman known for his harmonic acumen, commanding improvisations and aggressive attack. In fact, after listening to just a few compelling performances from Rigamaroll-the aptly titled “Awake” will do for starters-fellow saxophonists shouldn’t be surprised if they suddenly find themselves feeling a bit winded, and awestruck.

If the title track makes one thing clear, it’s that Bergonzi thrives in the company of musicians of a similar caliber and postbop inclination. The frontline he forges with trumpeter Phil Grenadier is formidable in its power and fluidity, and the contributions made by pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Dave Santoro and drummer Andrea Michelutti further elevate the level of play. The title cut is also a prime example of how Barth’s atmospheric chromaticism adds color and texture to arrangements that prominently feature restive horns and rhythmic prodding. Bassist Santoro also shines, both as a mood-setting soloist-check out the resonating prelude he fashions for “Rise Up”-and as a member of a rhythm section fully capable of complementing the frontline’s fire and finesse. One suspects that Bergonzi himself was surprised and delighted by how his writing inspired the kind of chemistry captured here. The album closes out with the otherworldly “Lunar Aspects,” a ballad that haunts long after the music fades away.

Originally Published