Acclaimed Boston-based bassist Bruce Gertz highlights his original compositions on Open Mind Featuring Saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi and Trumpeter Phil Grenadier
“It’s worth moving to Boston just to play Bruce’s music”– Bill Mays, jazz pianist extraordinaire
“All of the numerous musicians that have worked with Bruce will tell you he’s a monster” –?Bob Blumenthal, Boston Globe
“His modal, post bop and swing derived harmonies and melodies prove he’s equally versed as a player and as a writer” – New England Performer
Sometimes a picture actually does speak a thousand words. On the cover of his latest album, Open Mind, the bassist, composer and bandleader Bruce Gertz is cradling his instrument, his eyes closed, a look of bliss covering his face. This is clearly a man who finds contentment in music, a passion exemplified by a recording that captures equally the virtuosic talents and organizational focus of the leader and the full-on commitment of his band mates: tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi, trumpeter Phil Grenadier, pianist Gabriel Guerrero and drummer Austin McMahon. Open Mind is 21-century post-bop informed by the wisdom of inquisitive and striving veteran musicians.
Open Mind, released on Gertz’s own Open Mind label, is also the summation, thus far, of a musical journey that finds inspiration on the bandstand and in the classroom. An active Boston-based player who has shared the stage with Gary Burton, Billy Eckstine, Gil Evans, Maynard Ferguson, Bill Frisell, Tom Harrell, Joe Lovano, and Mike Stern, and recorded with such notable artists as John Abercrombie, Jerry Bergonzi, Joey Calderazzo, Mick Goodrick and Kenny Werner, Gertz is also a respected academician who has taught at the Berklee College of Music since 1976 and whose students have included Esperanza Spalding, Victor Bailey and Matt Garrison.
Collaborating again with Jerry Bergonzi, the man Gertz calls his “musical soul brother,” and with whom he has maintained a fruitful three-decade association, Gertz unites the well-admired saxophonist with three other top notch players with whom the bassist has strong ties. Although Gertz is a fluent electric bassist, he determined that the ten original tunes on Open Mind called for the acoustic double bass, the instrument on which he has built his reputation as a masterly player. Possessing a warm tone and a lyrical sensibility, Gertz blends these virtues with an enviable technical command. His acutely supportive work is evident on each performance; superlative bass solos can be heard on “Glad You’re Hear,” “Facing It,” “Lapso,” “E.J.” (on which Gertz displays his outstanding facility on arco bass) and the title track.
Yet Open Mind is anything but a spotlighted showcase for its leader. The ensemble operates with a cohesion that speaks of familiarity –- the quintet has maintained a weekly gig for the past three years at the Acton Jazz Café in Massachusetts — while each player remains committed to authentic self-expression on their respective instrument. Gertz’s memorably melodic tunes are also fashioned to feature his band mate’s abilities as razor-sharp improvisers. On such compelling performances as “Just a Flesh Wound,” “Gwen,” and “Open Mind,” Bergonzi, Grenadier, Guerrero and McMahon exhibit swinging instrumental prowess that begs to extend their reputations beyond that of local jazz legends. Gertz also has a special gift for pensive mid-tempo pieces and ballads, exhibited here on “E.J.” “Gabriella,” and the lovely “Facing It” which elicit heartfelt and lyrical solo statements amid sensitive ensemble interplay.
The triumph of Open Mind is how adroitly it highlights the compositional gifts of its leader; the serious chops of all involved; and the unity that only the best working bands achieve. “It’s the best recording I’ve made,” Gertz states with pride, “Life is a growth process, and my music reflects that. Open Mind is the perfect example of what I’ve become.”
The album shares its title with Gertz’s aptly named record label, Open Mind, which, to date, has released the acclaimed albums: It Wasn’t Me; Reptilian Fantasies, Thank You Charlie, and Open Mind. The next Open Mind album to be released will be The Heart Of a Champion, credited to Trio-Now, which includes Gertz, pianist Steve Hunt and drummer Jack Diefendorf.
A Recipient of National Endowment for the Arts jazz performance grant,
Gertz is also author of “22 Contemporary Melodic Studies for Bass”, “Walkin’ “, and “Mastering the Bass“ (Mel Bay Publications). Of Gertz’s instructional book/CD “Let’s Play Rhythm” (Advance Music of Germany) the master bassist Rufus Reid states, “A must for all players who wish to get to the core and a deeper functional use of the jazz vocabulary,” while saxophonist Dave Liebman has said, “What I like about this book … is that a student can get right to the point and get immediate results.