Gene Bertoncini played in a small club near my house about 4 years ago. Before I picked up his solo album, Quiet Now, I thought I knew what he was about: incredible talent and a good sense of humor. He normally played his guitar in a weeping position, bent over the strings with a borderline kitschy emotional fervor.
Surprisingly, the record didn’t correspond with my built-up expectations. The album seemed mediocre during its first minutes, probably because I expected something challenging and bold. I have to stress the careful consideration that should accompany listening to a solo guitar album. The guitar is a jazz instrument like no other. The guitarist is more minstrel than any other player. He is the musician most likely to be able to play requests at the whim of an audience.
With characters today like Metheny and Scofield, Bertoncini plays the role of your father’s guitarist. He isn’t going to break a lot of conventions or try to change the world.
This album works when the listener is in a pensive, reflective mood and can focus on Bertoncini’s interpretations of standards, later jazz tunes and two classical pieces, beautiful in their simplicity. “Lush Life/Isfahan” and the title track are particularly intriguing. If this album doesn’t charm you, enjoy the irony of an aural means of communication titled Quiet Now.