As a Philadelphia sports fan, I am sick and tired of Boston (unfortunately justifiably) deeming itself the "City of Champions”. New England, though, is the home of at least one champion who has not shamelessly self-promoted himself. As I've said before, Jerry Bergonzi is the modern day equivalent of Clifford Jordan and George Coleman. A tenor sax titan who better get his due recognition pretty soon or I'm gonna to stop listening to music. He should be mentioned in the same breath as Sonny Rollins, Joe Lovano, Joshua Redman, Chris Potter or other modern day tenor kings. Sometimes you just have to wonder what it takes for the word to get out. This 20th or so release is another example of a player who should be elevated to the pantheon where he should reside along with the very few. His body of work and abilities just demands it. The fact that this slam-dunk top ten status hasn't yet arrived is simply one of life's great mysteries.
This release falls into the category of a prime Blue Note-type blowing session. The kind of thing that you can listen to in a different room and aren't sure whether you're hearing Hank Mobley, Joe Henderson, John Coltrane, Dewey Redman or any other number of top horn men. This is high praise indeed - since players like that established the cornerstone of hard bop tenor sax. (As did Messrs Jordan and Coleman for that matter). Yes, this is high class jazz - timeless mastery from a surprisingly little known group of accompanists. Renato Chicco is a nicely reliable and ambitious pianist, Dave Santoro is solidly formidable on bass and Andrea Michelutti is completely supportive and inspiring on drums. Taken together, they don't sound unlike, say, Kenny Drew, Paul Chambers and Philly Jo Jones. But if you actually venture into the listening room you'll pick up on the nuances that the passage of time has brought to supplement the Blue Note or Riverside production standards.
All compositions but Gershwin's lead off "Who Cares?" were written by Bergonzi. Generally, "Gonz" has two to three solos sandwiching stellar piano statements by Renatto Chicco. The five-star tenoring is found on tracks 2,5 and 6. (I disagree with the liner notes citing track four). I'm fond of tenor sax "speaking", with clipped phrases and playing all over the horn. These cuts deliver this in aces (particularly his second solo on "Slurge"). They range from fleet to mid-tempo, with the final track giving a calypso dance groove feel. Throughout, jazz once again upholds its "best genre" engineering reputation.
So, you have much better than nice piano, a strong bass drive (with two solo spots) and a very propulsive drummer supporting an absolute master of the tenor saxophone. This results in Bergonzi's second straight ****1/2 outing. When you add that to the already existing number of **** efforts in his discography, the man should be getting his due recognition right now. Alarmingly, I've heard that his reputation in Europe exceeds that in the States. - Birney K. Brown