Alan Rosenthal: Just Sayin' (2012)
There is an over abundance of piano trio albums in the annals of jazz, so recording one that stands head and shoulders above the rest is a challenge in and of itself. Alan Rosenthal and his colleagues, however, have met the challenge effortlessly, resulting in the stimulating Just Sayin'.
Though classically trained, Rosenthal is also well at home in the bop vernacular, especially Bud Powell's linear explorations. He pays homage to Powell directly and indirectly. The former is evident when Rosenthal quotes "Un Poco Loco" on "Loco Motion," a tune that features harmonically complex improvisations flowing in and out of the composition and Steve Jones' propulsive drumming. The indirect tribute is heard on his breathtaking, chromatic arpeggios on the deliciously dissonant "Three Wheeler (For Mal Waldron)" and the fast-tempo, harmonic explorations of "Gimme Some."
The influence of the pianist's early education is heard best on the solo piano pieces, "Nocturne" and "Little Spring," the latter of which threads the musical border between jazz and 20th-century classical music.
Rosenthal's unique style also bears the mark of another jazz master, the under-appreciated Herbie Nichols. This is especially apparent on "Sun Aft," an angular ballad with exact, militaristic percussion backing Rosenthal's contemplative keys and Cameron Brown's deep, darkly hued bass.
On the whimsical "Red, Red Robin," Brown's intricate explorations of rhythm and harmony result in a melodic bass sound that complements Rosenthal's edgy flow of notes. Brown switches to a more melancholic and looser tone on "Time the Traitor," while Rosenthal's extemporizations seem to appear out of the most unexpected points in the melody but end in the most logical of conclusions.
The disc closes with "Somewhere In The Middle," a Rosenthal original that best exemplifies the profound camaraderie and deep rapport that the trio's members have with each other.
Just Sayin' is a smart, stimulating, and highly enjoyable effort by a trio that definitely deserves better recognition.
Track Listing: Gimme Some; Sun Aft; Three Wheeler (for Mal Waldron); Nocturne; Loco Motion; Red, Red Robin; Little Spring; Time the Traitor; Somewhere in the Middle.
Personnel: Alan Rosenthal: piano; Cameron Brown: bass; Steve Johns: drums.
Record Label: Self Produced