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Jerry Bergonzi: Spotlight on Standards

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The beams of this particular spotlight have the power to reharmonize, a favorite tactic for Jerry Bergonzi when it comes to playing selections from the Great American Songbook. Messing with changes is one thing, though; doing so in an organ-trio format-marking the first time the tart-toned tenor saxophonist has recorded with an organist in 25 years-opens the door to all kinds of freakiness, a decent percentage of which is achieved here. Check out the opening take on Cy Coleman’s “Witchcraft”: Although the tune is recognizable right away, the chords sure aren’t, and the way organist Renato Chicco voices them, coupled with the broad vibrato he dials up on his B-3, creates an effect that’s aptly eerie, and furthered by drummer Andrea Michelutti’s restless pulse.

Bergonzi clearly relishes residing in zones where the harmony is uncertain, taking pleasure in the fact that nudging a single pitch one way or another can alter the whole tonal landscape. During a typically abstract rendering of “Stella by Starlight,” he tosses off one uncommon arpeggio after another at a rapid clip, then slows them down so that they seem to stagger into each other. For “Out of Nowhere,” he extracts a few notes from the main melody and transposes them into several other keys, bringing out intriguing clashes with Chicco’s Larry Young-esque comping.

Despite the album title, four of these nine tracks are originals. Or at least they claim to be; “Bi-Solar,” for example, is basically Miles Davis’ “Solar” after some minor interior remodeling. You can’t question the originality of the improvising, though, and Chicco’s playing stands out on that tune, graduating from biting single-note lines to a kind of gleefully lopsided counterpoint.

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