Jerry Bergonzi ‘By any other name’ (Savant) 2/5

Tenorist/pianist and leader Jerry Bergonzi has come up with a novel idea of all original compositions that are in turn based on well-known standards.

If the idea is a laudable one, the results are technically accomplished, but overall lacking somewhat in soulfulness and this does unfortunately come across as something of an academic exercise. Bergonzi in fact is both a musician and music teacher at the New England conservatory in Boston and this may be part of the problem the listener faces in that the two roles should be separate whereas on this recording the academic aspect of his career directly impinges upon the nature of the music. Taking that factor into account, there is still some interesting music on offer for the listener to appreciate. A reworking of Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’ into ‘PG 2013’ is a fascinating opener with some excellent accompaniment here and on the rest of the pieces by bassist Will Slate and drummer Karen Kocharyan. However, maybe the conception itself was ultimately just too clever for its own good and this is illustrated on ‘First lady’, ostensibly a tribute to Michelle Obama, but which has nothing of the potency of the original tune it is inspired by, namely ‘Lady bird’ by Tadd Dameron’.

Tim Stenhouse