Jazz Guitar Workshop with Gene Bertoncini
Join Jazz Guitar Master Gene Bertoncini, for an all-day Jazz Guitar Workshop, exploring and discussing jazz guitar, chord development, improvisation and techniques! The workshop will be held at the Mahwah Museum, 201 Franklin Turnpike Mahwah, NJ 07430, on Saturday, September 15, 2018 and will run from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm.
The workshop will conclude with a private performance for the students by Bertoncini. The $85.00 cost includes take-home materials, lunch, and a two-year museum membership. Students are asked to bring a guitar (acoustic or archtop, preferably, as amplifiers will be limited) to the workshop. All levels are welcome. For further information, please contact email@example.com.
Advanced registration and payment is required. Space is limited to fifteen students, so please register early. To register, by mail please send a check payable (for the full amount, $85.00) to Mahwah Museum, to: Mahwah Museum, 201 Franklin Turnpike, Mahwah, NJ 07430.
To register online via PayPal, please click here.
Gene Bertoncini is one of the preeminent jazz guitarists’ active today. His fluid
technique and lyricism have won him international praise and accolades as the
“Segovia of jazz.” An eloquent and versatile improviser, Mr. Bertoncini has been heard with an extraordinary range of jazz greats, including performances and recordings with
Benny Goodman, Buddy Rich, Wayne Shorter, Hubert Laws, Paul Desmond among others, as well as such distinguished singers as Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, Nancy Wilson, Vic Damone, and Eydie Gorme.
The Washington Post proclaimed his solo appearance in New York City the best jazz concert of the year 1999. Mr. Bertoncini’s acclaim is hardly confined to this country. His CD, “Someone to Light Up My Life” which features his own arrangements of the compositions of the great bossa nova composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, won international raves. Brazilian critic’s and listener’s polls also named him the best acoustic jazz guitarist. Gene Bertoncini has just released a striking new solo CD, “Quiet Now” on the heels of his highly successful “Acoustic Romance,” which reached the top ten of the jazz playlists. Jazziz magazine’s March 2004 issue ranked it Number 1 in their list of the top 20 acoustic guitar CDs.
His newer cds: “Concerti” features Gene with a string quartet and bass; “Reunion” with Michael Mainieri, Michael Moore, Joe Corsello and “Joy” with Clay Jenkins and Ike Sturm.
A prolific and popular studio musician, Bertoncini honed his professional chops as a member of the Tonight Show band during Johnny Carson’s tenure, and he has worked with composers and arrangers such as Lalo Schifrin and Michael Legrand and has performed with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.
In addition to an active performing and recording schedule, Gene teaches at the Eastman School of Music and William Patterson University. A New York City native, he graduated from the University of Notre Dame ‘59 with a degree in architecture. According to the New Yorker magazine, “Bertoncini is an affecting, highly original guitarist that moves easily back and forth between classical and jazz guitar.”
Gene was just nominated as the best jazz guitarist of the year (09) by the New York Jazz Press Association.
On January 20th, 2017, Gene Bertoncini received a distinguished award from the University of Notre Dame honoring his achievements in the performing arts. The Rev. Arthur S. Harvey, C.S.C., Award recognizes Gene’s distinguished work
as a jazz musician.
These workshops are made possible by a grant from the Les Paul Foundation and are hosted by the Mahwah Museum Society Inc.
Les Paul with the Pulverizer
“I lived in Mahwah in the ’70s and my father was a metallurgical scientist at a research lab in nearby Sterling Forest, NY. One day, probably in 1976 or so, Les Paul showed up at the reception desk of the research lab asking if he could speak to a metals expert. This was rather unusual, but my dad was the metallurgist who eventually came out to help. Les and my dad started talking and my dad found that Les had a lot of interesting questions about a metal alloy that he wanted to use for a new guitar pickup he was designing — the alloy needed to have certain properties for the pickup to work as Les wanted, but he didn’t know which alloys could work. My dad listened and provided some advice, and Les went on his way. But Les came back to the research lab a few more times over the next few weeks to follow up, and my dad graciously continued to provide his expertise.
At some point, my dad mentioned this at the dinner table, and mentioned that the guy’s name was “Les Paul.” I should explain that my father knew nothing of contemporary music, unless it was contemporary in the 1700 or 1800’s. So when I heard at age 13 that it was the great Les Paul, I said, “Dad, do you have any idea who you’re talking to??” To which he replied, “Yeah, some guy who just wants to pick my brain.” I proceeded to explain who Les Paul was and why he was important, but it went completely past him.
Now here’s where the story gets interesting: A year or two later our next door neighbor, Mr. Morrison, had a health issue and found himself in the hospital in Ridgewood. He was in pre-surgery and was coincidentally sharing a room with Les Paul. For this part, I don’t fully know what happened and can only repeat what I was told, but the story goes that Les Paul and Mr. Morrison started talking and discovered that they both lived in Mahwah. That broke the ice, so they were able to go a bit past being just polite “roomies”. As they talked more and got to know each other, Les eventually told Mr. Morrison that the surgery he was about to undergo was extremely risky (I believe his condition was heart-related), and the doctors in Ridgewood were predicting only a 50% chance of success. Mr. Morrison apparently convinced Les to get a second opinion. As a result, Les called off the surgery, found an expert in Cleveland, and learned that he had been misdiagnosed. So Les was eventually fine, didn’t have risky surgery, and was forever grateful to my next door neighbor for his potentially life-saving advice.
After that, Les started coming by our neighborhood in Scotch Hills fairly often to visit Mr. Morrison. One day, he pulled up to the curb in his big white Cadillac, saw my father working in the yard, and recognized him from the research lab a couple years back. Until that moment, neither knew that the other also lived in Mahwah. Les was still playing with different metal alloys for his new pickup design, so he made the most of this rather unlikely coincidence — when he visited Mr. Morrison on weekend afternoons, often he would also stop by our driveway to “pick my dad’s brain” a little more. I would sometimes listen in on the conversations, although I can’t say I understood much of what they were saying most of the time. But Les would often acknowledge me and try to include me in the conversation. At one point, Les Paul invited my father and our family to his house — he wanted to show us his studio! But unfortunately I wasn’t listening in on that conversation, so I was not aware of the invitation — or my father’s “no thank you” — until several years later. To this day I bring this up with my father, but it’s water under the bridge, so all I can do is look at the floor and shake my head.
But I’m pleased to report that my father now fully appreciates the greatness of the man to whom he contributed his metallurgical expertise. I don’t know if any great guitar innovations resulted from their conversations, but at least I can say that I “knew” the great Les Paul, if only briefly.
It sure would have been awesome to have seen that studio, though….”
“In 1943 at the age of 14 I somehow got wind that my idol, Les Paul, would be appearing with the Andrews Sisters at New York City’s Paramount Theater. I had been playing guitar since age 8, studying with my father who was Middletown, New York’s first distributor/dealer of Gibson guitars. I had just begun playing gigs and was copying the gypsy jazz rhythm of Django Reinhardt and the hot licks of Les Paul and would be traveling alone from Middletown by train. Just to sit in the audience and see my idol on stage would be a thrill. But a supportive uncle with a “why-not” attitude threw caution to the wind, called backstage, and brazenly asked to speak with Les Paul. Les, being Les, came to the phone. And Les, being Les, told my uncle I was to come backstage at show’s end. That’s how I found myself at 14 in the great Les Paul’s dressing room talking music, guitars, and technique. He was down-to-earth, kind, encouraging, and, amazingly, invited me to accompany him as he walked back to his hotel. It has been nearly 70 years, and I no longer remember the name of the hotel, nor do I remember precisely what was said. It doesn’t matter. I walked the streets of New York City with Les Paul. It’s rare to meet one’s idol. It’s rarer still when he lives up to your expectations. Les, being Les, surpassed every one of mine.”
“The Guitar Mafia” from left to right, Lou Pallo, Les Paul, Al Caiola, Tony Mottola, Paul Nowinski, Vinny Bell and Bucky Pizzarelli at Les Paul’s 83rd birthday at the iridium, NYC. Photo by Christopher Lentz
“For years Les had been bugging my father to come to one of his shows at the Iridium. They were old friends, and mutually admiring guitarists since the 1950s. Jazz guitar players are like a brotherhood; maybe that’s because they all share a magical gift. So when Les’s 83rd birthday was coming up my dad phoned me and said, “Why don’t you come pick me up Monday and we’ll drive into the city, have dinner at Patsy’s and go see Les.” At the time, one of my nieces and one of my nephews were living in Manhattan. Another niece and nephew came in from Connecticut and they all joined us at the club. Les was very solicitous of my dad and they sat together at the front table chatting about old times while an amazing guitar quartet of Al Caiola, Bucky Pizzarelli, Vinnie Bell and, of course, Lou Pallo, opened the show — cutting each other up with smiling faces and hot solos — until Vinnie blew the house down.
After a while Les got on the stand and single-noted his way through a couple of tunes. His chops were pretty shot with arthritis by then, but he still played with deep feeling and his trademark distinctive tone. He was always a great melody man, something my father really admired in a player.
Now Les was what my dad would call “a salty guy.” So he went into his schtick, kibitzing with the audience, and at one point he launched into a pretty randy joke about oral sex.
Once he got started my father waved his hand and said, “Hey Les, give me a break. I’ve got my grandchildren here!”
Not missing a beat, Les looked down at him with a grin and said, “Don’t worry Tony, They’ll explain it to you later.””
— Tony Mottola, Jr.
Originally published in Jersey Jazz magazine, October 2009.