Mellow Fellows

East Meets Midwest (JCurve)
Gene Bertoncini and Kenny Poole

By Tim Roberts

Part of the genius of many jazz performers is the ability to set up in a studio, with or without charts, name a tune, decide on a key, roll the tape machine (or boot up the computer) and record a fully unrehearsed session in one take. It preserves the immediacy of the live moment in performing. We get that from two guitarists Gene Bertoncini and Kenny Poole in East Meets Midwest, the debut recording for Cincinnati-based JCurve Records.

Bertoncini, a nylon-string guitarist who has performed with Tony Bennett and Lena Horne, teams with Poole on a mellow, 12-track selection of standards, joined on five of them by Bob Bodley on acoustic bass. Bodley plays so discreetly on those selections, though, you can hardly tell he's there.

Among the more outstanding moments on this recording are a spirited renditions of "Tangerine" and "The Shadow of Your Smile." Bear in mind, though, that these and the others are more than just different versions of standards. These are lively, masterful, technically flawless, and entertaining instrumentals.

Perhaps the most astounding selection is the duo's brief version of Claude Thornhill's "Snowfall." Bertoncini sets the tempo with a rhythm on his guitar, faster than the song normally takes. Poole plays a brief version of the theme on top of it, then launches right into a solo. At one point, they seem to jump into different keys and rhythms that it becomes a little difficult to tell that it they are playing "Snowfall." But Poole returns to the theme to finish the rest of the selection.

Guitarists from Louisville and around the country will benefit from Poole's expertise at the forthcoming Bellarmine Jazz Guitar Clinic, to be held June 8 and 9. So East Meets Midwest comes to us at just the right time. It is a testimony of the ingenuity of jazz artists who can create magic when they play in the moment.