Jun 1, 2015

When the pure, unadulterated real thing comes along it makes one's ears perk up. “Rigamaroll”, tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi's latest release, is a stimulating, straight-ahead session comprised of his original compositions that are framework for boundary-pushing improvisation from a stellar group. The leader's clean, confident tenor sound is embellished by Phil Grenadier's burnished trumpet playing, Bruce Barth's edgy piano work and solid support from bassist Dave Santoro and drummer Andrea Michelutti.

Bergonzi, a Boston, MA native, is a full-time professor at New England Conservatory and has toured the world – initially as a member of Dave Brubeck's group in the 1970s and 80s and subsequently as performer and clinician. He has an extensive discography that is comprised of over forty albums as leader or co-leader. Influenced by John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Hank Mobley, Bergonzi's smoothly articulated tenor voice gets inside a composition and its harmonic structure, offering challenging and attractive soloing.

“Rigamaroll” reaches out and lures the listener with creative and rewarding music. The opening track “Awake” broils with a dissonant head launching the soloists on spirited explorations while the brooding “An Internal Affair” is framework for more laid-back improvisation. “Rise Up” has Santoro's bass setting up an ethereal mood. In a sense, Bergonzi's compositions and his sound have a lot of similarity to those of Wayne Shorter in their intricate, probing, mysterioso qualities. “A Hankering” presumably has Hank Mobley in mind with its strong post-bop flavor and Grenadier recalling Freddie Hubbard's stylistic flights. Barth's angular contribution on this number is reminiscent of Bud Powell and Herbie Nicholls with its bop flair. The title track begins with a soft cascade of notes from Barth and then the horns. Bergonzi is always saying something while creating exhilarating sound textures and using the range of his horn. Barth's scintillating piano work and Grenadier's marvelously enunciated trumpet playing add further substance, as does the opportunity for Michelutti to enhance the percussive mood on this interesting number. “Do It To Do It” glides into a nice outing for Santoro at the bass with his crisp sound. Barth follows with another captivating solo, then it's Bergonzi locking into the beat and Grenadier displaying a punch and virtuosity that makes one wonder why we do not hear more from him. “Lunar Aspects” takes the album out with a plaintive melodic line and more substantive ensemble work from this superior group.

Albums such as “Rigamaroll” set a high standard. Bergonzi's music is like fine bourbon with complex musical flavors and well-aged depth.

Personnel: Jerry Bergonzi: tenor saxophone; Phil Grenadier: trumpet; Bruce Barth: piano; Dave Santoro: bass; Andrea Michelutti: drums

Tracks: Awake; An Internal Affair; Rise Up; A Hankering; Tidlig; Rigamaroll; Do It To Do It; Lunar Aspects