North Adams, MA
February 23, 2007
by Jeff Waggoner
In yet another step toward the evolution of North Adams, MA, from a decaying mill town to a vibrant arts center, the master jazz guitarist Gene Bertoncini performed February 23 for a small, but deeply engaged, audience at the former Eclipse Mills.
Bertoncini played many of the tunes off of his most recent, 2004, CD, Quite Now, (Ambient Records) including Billy Strayhorns Lush Life/Isfahan, and Puccninis Nessun Dorma,
It was, indeed, quiet music. Bertoncini is one of a handful of American jazz guitarists who specialize in playing the classical guitar, a la Charlie Byrd.
While not the best known jazz musician, Bertoncini, who turns 70 in April, has had a solid and successful 50-year-career as a guitarist, which he turned back to (he played professionally as a teenager) after getting a degree in architecture from Notre Dame University. After graduation, he first played with Carmen McRae in Chicago and later joined with giants including, Buddy Rich, Wayne Shorter, Hubert Laws, Clark Terry and Paul Desmond.
His chops solidified through years of virtual non-stop studio gigs in New York City with clients ranging from the Metropolitan Opera to talk show hosts Merv Griffin and Johnny Carson. The work required him to master not just jazz guitar, but also classical, bossa nova and pop.
It was the second February concert in the past two years for Bertoncini at the Eclipse Mills, which have been turned into artists lofts. Bertoncini played in the intimate confines of f the G.J. Askins Booksellers shop.
Bookshop owner, Grover Askins, along with Williams College English professor Cassandara Cleghorn, hosted the event, as they will for the Eclipse Mills next concert on March 23, which features a solo appearance of Eugene Friesen, the southern Vermont resident and cellist for the Paul Winter Consort.
Frisen also plays in Trio Globo, which includes pianist and harmonica player Howard Levy (Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Paquito D'Rivera and others), and percussionist Glen Ve lez (Paul Winter Consort, Steve Reich, Lyle Mays).
Jeff Waggoner has written book, CD and concert reviews for publications such as Metroland, Jazz Times, Blues Access and The New York Times. He lives in Nassau, is a student of jazz saxophone and guitar and can be frequently found at jazz, blues and folk concerts.