Gene Bertoncini


When it was suggested by Andy that I should check out guitarist Gene Bertoncini (who he studied with at the New England Conservatory) at the Rex this week I made sure not to miss it. He's got great taste and I trust his judgment completely when it comes to these things. When I got there I realized that just about every other jazz fan in Toronto proper had shown up. It was Wednesday night and the place was so crowded at the top of the first set, you couldn't have squeezed another listener through the doors if you wanted to.

Despite some tuning issues, which frankly you would need to have much better ears than mine to be bothered by, I was initially struck by the warmth of Bertoncini's tone. It brought to mind two legendary guitarists I've been lucky enough to catch live this year, Bucky Pizzarelli and Jim Hall. Bertoncini, who plays an acoustic, classical guitar, has played with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, Wayne Shorter and oddly enough, Luciano Pavarotti.

Gene Bertoncini reacts to the crowd's reception of his closing number "Con Alma".

Bertoncini plays standards. I could have identified every tune he played that night, and probably have parrotted all the lyrics for you if you asked me to. He's the kind of musician who's also one part entertainer, making sure to play the familiar, well loved tunes and telling jokes to the audience during the set. The one about the rooster? The one about the monks? The one about the nymphomaniac? I heard them all Wednesday night. Now, that's not to say that just because he plays the familiar tunes he doesn't stretch as an improviser. The harmonic sophistication that you would expect from a man with his pedigree and reputation was there. The lines were elegant - sometimes breezy, sometimes delicate, always swinging.

Joining Bertoncini on the bandstand were two of the genre's best players Terry Clarke on drums and Dave Young on bass. You cannot go wrong with these guys. Every time I get the opportunity to see them play in a small venue like this, knowing that they've played concert halls and festival stages the world over with the likes of Oscar Peterson I remember how lucky I am to live in such a great jazz city.

Bertoncini with two of Canada's greatest musicians Terry Clarke on drums and Dave Young on bass.

It was a lovely evening of sublime, soothing, swinging guitar jazz of the first order, from an entertaining, fun guy.


  1. This sounds like a great show. That guitar is simply beautiful. I checked out the post about your friend, Andy. What a great concept for a record, playing Johnny Mercer songs.

    I like when you write about music. I did know who Bucky Pizzarelli was, but not everyone else. So, now I do. Cool.

  2. Tracer ... where can I hear some of his stuff? The curious in me wants to know.

  3. Anonymous10:38 PM

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    Liked this post. I wish I could have been there, too.

  5. Hey Guys,

    If you want to hear some of his stuff you can get sound clips on Amazon:

    T xo


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