Just the Two of Us (Chiaroscuro) is a live set from guitarists Wilkins and Gene Bertoncini recorded aboard the S.S. Norway somewhere in the Caribbean - during the 1998 "Floating Jazz Festival." (I guess these ocean cruises are all a grueling part of paying your dues!) The first recorded pairing of Wilkins and Bertoncini is a study in guitar simpatico.
The versatility of the duo guitar format - especially one as formidable as this - allows the music to flow in many directions. The interplay they achieve on "Gone with the Wind" is a splendid case in point. The two guitarists prove that they can turn on an improvisational dime, resulting in telepathic changes in dynamics and tempos.
Following a spacey intro, "Lover Man" unfolds as a funky waltz, rocking back and forth like the pitch of the waves beneath. They then move on to an entirely appropriate "How Deep is the Ocean," translating the minor melody into deep shades of oceanic blue, and continue the aquatic theme with "Cry Me a River," replete with a glistening Johnny Smith-influenced chord solo.
Wilkins is given the solo spotlight for "Spring is Here," and proves himself a master of the genre. Unfortunately, Bertoncini - also a brilliant solo guitarist - does not have the same opportunity. But not to grouse, with 70+ minutes of music on this release, you won't feel cheated!
Brazilian rhythms abound throughout, and though expected on the extended workout accorded the Luis Bonfa classic "Manha de Carnival," they are a pleasant surprise on both "You Stepped Out of a Dream" and "Here's That Rainy Day." The arrangement of the later - which sandwiches a duet between a Wilkins' intro and Bertoncini outro - is particularly effective.
The set concludes with a swinging "Embraceable You" and one of Gene's signature numbers, "The Shadow of Your Smile." For those of you who may not have the time of coinage to enjoy an ocean cruise with their jazz, this CD is the next best thing to being there!
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Review "Just the Two of Us"