Despite its unassuming characterization, the coupling of Gene Bertoncini and Jack Wilkins (each armed with one guitar) on an oceanic pleasure cruise or anywhere else is just about perfect. The music they shape in tandem is as breathtakingly lovely as it is beyond reproach. Having said that, a mandatory caveat must be conveyed. As noted before, every guitar, no matter how extraordinarily individualistic, sounds, essentially analogous to these undisciplined ears, and any attempt to separate one from another is explicitly beyond his capacity - and on this occasion wholly unnecessary, as Bertoncini and Wilkins make their demanding musical artistry appear so naturally effortless that less seasoned performers may see it in that same light before striving to arrogate to themselves such unrivaled mastery. What must be underlined here is one imperfect reviewer’s sentiment that there aren’t many craftsmen on this most eloquently luminous and supple of instruments who are able to resourcefully entice and tenderly caress a series of well-know melodies, most from the Great American Songbook, with more genuine warmth and sincerity that the duo Bertoncini and Wilkins. So enchanting is their singular interplay and so rapt their favored audience aboard the SS Norway that one may candidly hear a pin drop or, more accurately, a pick scrape, and so faithful its actualization that no nuance, however slender, lingers undigested. The largely familiar but no less tantalizing menu opens with the sensuous “Lover Man,” which has made its way from Tin Pan Alley into many a Jazz musician’s repertoire, and continues with Irving Berlin’s paean to the profundity of love, “How Deep Is the Ocean,” Julie London’s breakthrough song from the 50s, “Cry Me a River,” and lost love, “Gone with the Wind.” Bertoncini briefly steps aside as Wilkins tenderly deepens Rodgers and Hart’s plaintively ironic “Spring Is Here” before the duo return to consummate the all-too--transitory session with “You Stepped Out of a Dream,” Jobim’s “Manha de Carnaval,” “Here’s That Rainy Day,” “Embraceable You” and The Sandpiper’s Oscar-winning theme, “The Shadow of Your Smile.” Yes, you've tasted them before, perhaps more times than you’d wish to remember, but seldom, we’d venture, seasoned more deliciously than this.
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