10.01.11New York City Jazz Record by Terrell Holmes
Throughout their album Rock, Paper, Scissors, Michel Gentile and Tony Romano, on flute and acoustic guitar, illustrate how the key to a successful duo - with any instrumental pairing - lies in the variety of songs, tempos and sound textures. Gentile and Romano play a roster of originals with a technique, humor and imagination that unfailingly keeps the listener involved. Romano punctuates the languid metronome of “Ronde pour Rota" with winking, single-note plucking as Gentile sings through his flute. Romano’s excellent percussive manipulation of the guitar enhances the Middle Eastern feeling of “Truth Serum". The duo plays “Tango" as a slow, sensual seduction, not a breathless dash to the boudoir, and Romano puts a soft flamenco touch on the lovely “Matter of Perception". The best moments, though, are the ones that trump predictability. Romano’s guitar sounds like a piano on “Reassess". Gentile and Romano scamper along the scales on the comedic “Make Practice Perfect". The sounds of tearing paper and Gentile’s manipulation of the flute announce the adventurous title cut, with Romano answering deftly on guitar with muted plucking. If this song was actually written, then it certainly has an improvisatory urgency, with brilliant telepathic interplay building to a fever pitch. These arresting improvisatory elements are what make Rock, Paper, Scissors truly memorable.
03.10.09Jazz Improv NY Magazine March 2009 By Cathy Gruenfelder
Michel Gentile and Tony Romano
FLESH AND STEEL—Deep Tone Records. Web: www.deeptonerecords.com. A Felicidade; Chorinho pra Ele; Flesh and Steel; Triste; Chega de Suadade; Estate; Tristeza; Moon and Sand; How Deep The Ocean; Displicente
PERSONNEL: Michel Gentile, flute; Tony Romano, nylon string guitar
By Cathy Gruenfelder
Guitarist Tony Romano and flutist Michel Gentile are one of the most exciting tag teams on the scene today. Their style of playing, although informed by Brazilian music, and making use of that repertoire, seems to defy genre. They play with the always universal and timeless approach of communicating in the moment with big ears and a sense of adventure. I have managed to see them live a few times around New York since this album was released, and their set is always different, because the day is different and the moment is different. This of course is true to an extent, for all jazz groups, but they truly make each tune and each performance a new exploration. Nevertheless, there are some very unique and definite arrangements that the two take into account during a performance, but the line between what is composed and improvised is often blurred.
The album begins in a dramatic fashion with Romano laying down some spacious but powerful forte guitar lines in a minor key at the bottom register of his guitar that summoned my attention immediately. Suddenly, Gentile comes in with some fluttering and flowering over-blowing reminiscent of Jethro Tull as the two settle into Jobim’s “A Felicidade." The power of the opening moment turns into a melancholy beauty as the two navigate the tune with a restrained intensity. Gentile’s flute lines are aching with feeling, while remaining simple and beautiful—letting the tune and his gorgeous tone do the work. Romano lays a harmonic and rhythmic bed that leaves nothing lacking. The two are acutely attuned to each other’s momentous creations.
“Chorinho pra Ele" is a quirky Brazilian tune by the man that many have referred to as the Thelonious Monk of Brazilian music—Hermeto Pascoal. The pretty yet funky melody consists of straight eighth notes, without much variation or breaks, and then a second section in double time. The two players navigate the tune with humor and a playful spontaneity, yet they remain telepathically tight.
Gentile’s cadenza on his original tune, “Flesh and Steel" is stunning. He blows with such intensity, and he hums while blowing, giving us two voices instead of one, and you can hear the exaltation in his voice. Romano answers him with a free spirited improvisation of his own that is both poignant and beautiful while coming off extremely relaxed and contemplative. You can almost hear one of them whisper “yea" at one of those discovery moments—one of those ‘it’ moments, where the muses are dancing freely, and there are many of those moments on this cut which is surely one of the highlights of the disc, and an apt track to choose for the title.
The intimacy and meditative quality of this disc makes it all the more intense—instead of blowing you over, they suck you into the moods they create. You can imagine this music being played at either a street corner in a favela in Rio, or a concert hall. There is so much virtuosity here, but it’s infused into often childlike and egoless explorations.
Jobim’s “Triste" starts as the most stoic of the tracks—very straight, with not much reworking and improvisation, and it offers a chance for Romano to show his bossa chord chops, but then it turns into a sort of minimalist modal exploration with Romano playing a single note repeatedly with other syncopated notes thrown in as he plays with the time feel and meter while Gentile improvises above him.
Jobim’s “Chega de Saudade" given a gorgeous treatment. The arrangement is completely in service to the tune. Romano arpeggiates the rich melancholy chord progression, but then when the solo section starts, he and Gentile go back and forth with a sort of call and response before intertwining into each other.
Romano has a way of letting chords, or musical ideas speak for themselves—of showing you things without forcing you to see them—allowing you to come to your own conclusions. Such is the case on the opening of “Tristeza" as he lays down a series of potent and unsettling chords that act a tension building prelude to this fast and short Bossa Nova.
Gentile is a very spontaneous player who is a free explorer—not in the sense of playing free, but exploring a song and a melody like it is an inviting jungle that is full of strange and beautiful sights. You can hear his youthful enthusiasm and the magic of the moment that he is enraptured by. Such is the case on “Moon and Sand."
Irvin Berlin’s “How Deep is the Ocean" is a nice change of pace, but it is not given the treatment that one might expect. Again, the two approach it with a universal, un-affected musical sense that defies genre. Approached in a somewhat rubato way, the two players are completely attuned to each others sense of time, even when it is not so defined. Gentile is able to fluctuate on top of Romano when he is being consistent, and vice versa, yet it comes off smooth as butter.
The melody of “Displicente" is taken by Romano in a single note fashion, and then Gentile replies as Romano goes into a bossa feel. But throughout the tune, Romano re-enters as a melodic voice. He fluctuates between playing chords, arpeggios, bass lines, and melody, which makes for a very exciting arrangement.
These two players are kindred spirits, completely in tune to each other’s musical spirits. They are like a good dance team, but not in the sense of being well choreographed. I guess it would be like they were dancing the tango—a sort of dance that is improvised yet extremely detailed, and that requires trust, empathy, risk, focus and lots of skill to pull off with beauty.
02.15.09Jazz Improv NY Magazine February 2009 Heckscher Museum of Art By Cathy Gruenfelder
The Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington, NY (one of the best towns in Long
Island for live music) has recently undergone a complete renovation, and it’s more active
now than it has ever been. The museum is dedicated to interacting with the Long Island
community by presenting world class music and art, and by giving young up and coming
artists and musicians of the area an opportunity to showcase their talents and attend
workshops. The museum features musical acts of various genres but as the musical
director of the evening pointed out to me, “the acoustics of the room seem to compliment
guitars very well," and the upcoming schedule reflects that.
The performance room, about forty five feet by thirty feet, is lined with beautiful
and haunting realist paintings of various artists and subject matter, and directly behind the
performers is another room of more abstract, colorful and angular paintings. The music of
flutist Michel Gentile and nylon string guitarist Tony Romano seemed to encapsulate or
incorporate the moods of each and every one of these paintings at some point in the
program, and often all within the evolution of one tune. Their sound defies genre and
classification, yet includes so many elements that are easily identifiable—Brazilian,
swing, classical, and modern jazz. As Romano said after the gig, “We’ve reached a point
as a duo where we can really take these tunes to a completely different place every time."
As someone who owns their recent CD, Flesh and Steel, I can say that this is an
understatement—some of the tunes I didn’t even recognize.
Gentile and Romano’s improvisational spirit, sense of adventure, mutual empathy
and creativity were relentless. What is also amazing is that as far as they went, the music
always remained accessible, and often retained the illusion of being entirely composed.
Romano’s accompaniment to Gentile’s spectacular bird like flute lines was never
arbitrary, and was always in direct response to Gentile. And when it was Romano out it
front, Gentile would offer melodic counterpoint, or pedal tones for the guitarist to make
use of. Listening is the entire basis of what they do.
One tune started completely free, with no meter, tempo, or key. Gentile began
with what sounded like a backwards recording, while Romano offered strange atonal
responses and percussive effects. The always humorous and entertaining Gentile then
said, “I’m going to go back here," as he wandered to the room behind him, while wailing
on his flute with no regard to anything but his whims. Suddenly the two were in perfect
unison as they went into a beautiful upbeat Brazilian feel, revealing what turned out to be
Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Favela." I had the chance to speak with Romano after the gig,
“That stuff is completely unplanned," he explained, “Sometimes I don’t even know what
song he is starting, and suddenly, I’ll hear just a single note that lets me know."
Along with many originals, they included two more Brazilian classics—Hermeto
Pascoal’s “Chorinho pra Ele," and Jobim’s “Triste." The Acoustics of the room fit the
flute/nylon string guitar format perfectly—the two musician’s instruments were very well
balanced, with plenty of clarity. Keep your eyes out for these two players. Often in
today’s music world, working relationships don’t last very long, but the greatest bands
and musical pairings were known for the empathy and intimacy that only time can create.
The longer these two play together, the better they get.
02.01.09Just Jazz Guitar no.58 February 2009
FLESH & STEEL
Michel Gentile and Tony Romano
Deep Tone Records (DT003)
When asked to review this album, I thought “what kind of interesting music can
you make for a full CD with ‘ just’ a flute and an acoustic nylon string guitar? More
dinner music?" Well, I was in for a very pleasant awakening as both musicians play with
an inner strength and fire that I find lacking in many of today’s recordings. Make no
mistake about it, this music is imbued with power, authenticity and “duende," soul from
the soil of the earth.
Tony Romano plays an Amalio Burguet 1F, nylon string guitar, recorded live and
played acoustically – no overdubbing or punching in. His tone is beautiful and soulful –
obtaining so many different colors, sounds, and timbres that I kept wondering, “ how
does he do that, what is he going to do next?" And what wondrous things do happen
next! Tony’s remarkable technique is a servant to his rich musical imagination and broad
harmonic palette. This is a jazz duo record containing tonal improvisations brought to
very exciting levels. The duet soloing and chases are devastating as they are 100 %
improvised, but are perfect musical gems!
Each track is so filled with musical interest that I am at a loss to pick a favorite
cut. Michel plays beautifully throughout this entire album with a wide range of ideas. A
highlight: Flesh and Steel is an original theme with improvised cadenzas in which Tony
wisks the listener into a mysterious harmonic valley and Michel sounds like a seductive
banshee. This music is not tyrannized by technique, but man these guys have some to
spare! Jobim’s Triste will knock you out, as well as Estate, which has never sounded
more haunting than here. On Displicente, by Pixinguinha, both Tony and Michel are so
tight and hot that it is mind boggling – all without percussion.
Got ears? I don’t see how anyone can do this without extraordinary
album, which I have listened to endless times and have not tired for one minute. I am
sure it will provide many hours of wonderment and listening pleasure to you. Highly
Reviewed by Peter Rogine