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Guitar Double Bill - Bucky Pizzarelli, Howard Alden, Gene Bertoncini and Pat Martino Quartet with Jim Ridl, Piano; Ari Hoenig, Drums; Steve Varner, Bass at Iridium Jazz Club
- Jazz and Cabaret Corner

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Music Review By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 25, 2003
Originally Published on

For guitar lovers, this was a splendid evening. I often have fantasies about being serenaded, late at night, on romantic guitars. The first half of this double set, with Bucky Pizzarelli, Howard Alden, and Gene Bertoncini (who filled in for Frank Vignola), fulfilled my fantasy, as I traveled through ice and cold, from the Ballet, to be well warmed with Sherry and vibrant guitarists, who played tunefully, sometimes in the Django Reinhardt tradition, sometimes in the Tony Mottola tradition, and sometimes in the Flamenco and Spanish guitar tradition. Whatever the style, these three professionals were well received at the Iridium, with the combination of soulful steel, taped steel, and nylon strings.

For guitar enthusiasts, Howard provided me with the following musical details. Bucky and Howard play guitars custom made by Benedetto. Howard's is an arch-top, oval hole acoustic/electric with steel strings. Bucky's is an F-hole arch-top acoustic/electric, and he uses steel strings that are tape wound for a mellower sound. Gene's guitar is made by Buscarino and is a nylon string, classical style guitar, also with a pickup built in, so he was playing through an amplifier.

These were obviously seasoned professionals, as Bucky and Howard actually played background in Woody Allen's film, Sweet and Lowdown. Howard's steel strings sang, and Gene picked up the theme. Bucky played in his usual versatile manner, at once melancholy and mellifluous (perhaps a Foxtrot?), then energetic and electrifying (definitely Swing). The three musicians appeared to genuinely like each other and to find opportunities to blend with and to showcase each other. They would divide a standard tune, with each taking a few bars, and they would also suddenly switch the key and tempo, alerting the others to the nuances.

This trio satiated the Iridium audience's need for mood-enhancing tunes, as they played "Blue Serenade", "Please", and "It Must Be True". Pizzarelli's guitar often sounded like a harp and Alden's sounded like Flamenco. Gene was adept at backup, as well as at tuneful thematizations. This was true warmth on a cold, winter's night.

Pat Martino's Quartet injected a crisp, wild, percussive energy to the mellow ambiance. This is a Progressive Jazz Group, and I loved it, with the electrifying combination of Ari Hoenig's ferocious drums with Pat Martino's electric leaps across octaves and tempos. Steve Varner, on bass, fully blended and supported the group in the moody, melodic pieces, and then played a vibrant duet with Jim Ridl, on piano, after which Hoenig crashed, in warlike fashion, his drums and symbols, with versatility and daring aggression.

I did hear Swing rhythms, danceable and dashing. I also heard Bill Evans music, "Blue and Green", from Ridl, performed after a thunderous, earlier riff. Pat Martino also played music that had been recorded at the original Folk City in the 1970's. This was Jazz in its purest form.

Frank Vignola, Bucky Pizzarelli, and Howard Alden (Gene Bertoncini Filled In For Vignola)

Pat Martino

Pat Martino


For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at