MP3 James Bongiorno - Prelude
Grand Piano Jazz
14 MP3 Songs
JAZZ: Smooth Jazz, EASY LISTENING: Lounge
THE BONGE — Bonge Records #BRCD 10001-2. Waltz for Debbie, When Lights Are Low, My Funny Valentine, Gone with the Wind, Here’s That Rainy Day, Have You Met Miss Jones, I Loved You So, On a Clear Day, Little Girl Blue, Since You Went Away, Young at Heart, In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning, It Might as Well Be Spring, Just Friends.
PERSONNEL: James Bongiorno, piano.
By Bill Donaldson
James Bongiorno was an audio circuit designer, who wanted to be an accordionist, who wanted to be a jazz piano player. Now that Bongiorno has released the fi rst CD of his work on piano, he has become all three, although he did play piano during select occasions in the past. As producer John Novello explains in the liner notes, Bongiorno (or the Bonge, for short) used to perform on piano in the 1960’s, when they were friends in Erie, Pennsylvania. A lot has happened since then. Events, however, have converged to bring the Bonge and Novello together in a project that both wish would have happened years ago. The important thing is, however, that it has happened now.
The Bonge, it turns out, has strong opinions about jazz piano heavyweights, and his influences range from Bill Evans to Oscar Peterson to Art Tatum. You can hear a little bit of all of those pianists in the Bonge’s playing. “Waltz for Debby” is performed in the manner of “Waltz-for-Debby”-if-Tatum-had-played-it. The Bonge adopts Evans’ rhythmic looseness, carrying phrases over the bar lines, as well as his broad, spare chords. However, he also glides into some stride as well, the resulting mixture a tribute to pianists with strength of style and originality of thought. Still, choosing to record a solo album reveals his own choices despite the obvious influences of his predecessors and peers. In doing so, he creates a musical amalgam that establishes his own signature. Not employing the light, scampering touch of an accordionist, who has only to press the keys to squeeze out notes, The Bonge plays piano with great force, as if he were unable to restrain his enthusiasm for the instrument while he performs. Like Erroll Garner, for instance, the Bonge shows delicacy by interrupting swing with fluttering arpeggios and hesitant pauses, though the dynamics of his sound remain within a narrow range.
Still, as a single performer, The Bonge knows how to command a listener’s attention as a glides from metrically free sections of rumination to the irrepressibility of his swing. On “Have You Met Miss Jones,” The Bonge obviously has borrowed some ideas from Peterson as he descends in waterfalls from the top of the keyboard to its very bottom as an embellishment to its introduction be fore moving into the stride section. “Young at Heart” could be interesting in the hands of The Bonge, for one wouldn’t know what means of interpretation he would select, the tune itself being eminently adaptable. Restraining his affinity for stomping bass, The Bonge goes for Evans-like re-harmonizations as he unhurriedly defies expectations. “Just Friends” becomes the track powered by The Bonge’s strong left hand, as he accelerates and then decelerates in an elastic display of technical ferocity.
Recorded in a single session of first takes, James Bongiorno’s premier album represents a long delayed project that was recorded so efficiently and so quickly that one wonders why he and his friend Novello didn’t do it years ago. But now it’s done, and the Bonge no longer remains unheard by listeners interested in traditional jazz piano playing assertively stated.
Review from JAZZ IMPROV MAGAZINE summer 2006 reproduced with permission.
Writing this bio of my friend James (TheBonge) Bongiorno presents me with a sort of conundrum. Firstly, we''re both from my home town area of Erie, Pa. However, we''ve been out of touch for almost 35 years. I''m a bit younger than James and I used to go and listen to him when he was still playing back in Erie.
This last summer when we hooked up again, he came over to my house and studio and played for me. Astonishing. I "goaded" him into making this CD recording in my state of the art studio on my Yamaha Grand piano. At first he was somewhat reluctant having been out of the business for almost 35 years.
He stated that his idols were Peterson, Tatum, Evans, and his late teacher Russ Messina but admitted that "I''m not in their league, but I play pretty". That is an understatement for sure. He said he would have to bone up and practice for a few months to get his "chops" back. Indeed, when you listen to this CD, you will not hear any lack of "chops". In addition, you wil also hear harmony a voicings rarely played in such a grand fashion. All the songs on this album are standards excepting 2 of his originals which are quite spectacular and unusually different in their musical structure.
I am extremely proud to have produced this exceptionally fine grand jazz piano recording and welcome James back into the music world which is his first love.
P.S. When the session was finished, I asked James to play a song for me namely-Waltz For Debbie. This was not planned or rehearsed and caught James by surprise as he said he hadn''t played it in years. So, he proceeds to rattle off the most mind boggling version you''ve ever heard-IN ONE TAKE. Awesome.