The glories of George Gershwin have been well-documented in jazz settings. In fact, many would argue that Gershwin's music has been done to death. So does the world really need another tribute to this iconic tunesmith? In theory, it does not. Supply and demand, and the very nature of saturation, would say that a more-than-sufficient dose of Gershwin has been given to the world, so it's time to move on. However, these principles have never applied to this type of art. When somebody has something valuable to add to the jazz canon, it doesn't matter if they're the first, tenth, ...read more
It's clear that the holidays are coming when the mercury dips and the cheery tidings of the season are balanced out by shopping-fueled malaise. When it comes to music, said shopping is often centered on a series of new holiday-themed releases that seem to arrive like clockwork in the weeks and months prior to Christmas; this year--surprise, surprise--is no different than any other year in that respect. In some ways, it's hard to understand the ever-continuing fascination that the world has with this same music done up over and over by different artists, but in some ways ...read more
Lots of Christmas Albums" come out every year. Many of them are nice for an easy holiday listen, but let's face it, expectations are low in terms of endurance, and they can often be rightfully seen as quickly done, quick buck affairs. Then there are the ones that have endured: the Vince Guaraldi Trio's A Charlie Brown Christmas (Fantasy, 1965); Elvis Presley's A Christmas Album (RCA, 1957); and Frank Sinatra's A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra (Capitol, 1957). And aside from the Guarldi Trio's set, the jazz genre--for whatever reason--hasn't contributed more than a handful of lastingly memorable Holiday discs, ...read more
2011 has been productive year in the recording realm for pianist Ted Rosenthal. His contribution to The Westchester Jazz Orchestra's superb Maiden Voyage Suite (WJO Records) helped elevate the re-imaging of pianist Herbie Hancock's classic Maiden Voyage (Blue Note, 1965) to the highest level of big band artistry. With Out of this World, Rosenthal slips back to the more minimal piano trio, for his exquisite interpretations of some of The Great American Songbook's most beloved compositions.Covering classic tunes by some of the Songbook's best-known composers with a high sheen and Rosenthal's distinctive style and refined touch, the trio ...read more
Borrowing from The Great American Songbook is a standard practice for many jazz artists, who include one or more pieces when rounding out a repertoire of primarily new material. Not so for pianist Ted Rosenthal, whose affinity for music from the Songbook is reflected on at least two previous recordings, Rosenthology (Concord Jazz, 1994) and One Night in Vermont (Planet Arts, 2003), focusing on music from Irving Berlin, Jimmy Van Heusen, Tadd Dameron and Matt Dennis. On Out of This World, Rosenthal takes his featured trio of bassist Noriko Ueda and drummer Quincy Davis on another musical journey, revisiting the ...read more
Standards, when presented in their original form, speak of the time and place of their creation, but part of their longevity is due to the fact that they aren't encased in an early twentieth century amber that fossilizes and dates the material. The music of George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Billy Strayhorn, and Richard Rodgers is timeless, but it can all be refashioned, refitted and recast to serve any musician's vision and taste. The songs are bodies and the artists are musical clothiers waiting to drape them in their designs. On Out Of This World, pianist Ted Rosenthal ...read more
On Impromptu, pianist Ted Rosenthal modestly credits every track to the original classical composer on which the song is based. It's a nice, self-effacing touch, but probably unnecessary. No one will misconstrue this album as anything but a modern jazz recording--and a good one at that--even if Rosenthal is performing adaptations. For the most part, the classical music themes are relatively easy to pick out against the jazz trio format, but they've been heavily adjusted for tempo and pacing, and include a lot of improvisation that classical devotees aren't necessarily used to hearing--especially since improvisation, a common thing ...read more
As legend has it, the term third stream" was invented by Gunther Schuller in 1957, to prevent jazz and classical fans from resenting incursions onto their turf by the other side. This new musical entity would be neither classical nor jazz, and not just a simple merging of the two: it would be more than jazz with strings, or classical pieces played by jazz artists. The challenge was to take compositions that are centuries old and infuse them with a jazz sensibility, without losing the essence of the original.To pull this off successfully, the artist needs great technique ...read more
This is the year for numerous Monk retrospectives. There are many themes. One show celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Town Hall concert when Hall Overton arranged Monk's compositions for a large band. Another show focuses on Monk's pianism at Minton's Playhouse. And on and on. The concert that I found most intriguing was held in a series dubbed Jazz at DaCapo, with Ted Rosenthal as artistic director. Entitled Images of Monk the performance at the delightful uptown concert hall featured Rosenthal as leader/pianist, Martin Wind on bass, Quincy Davis on drums, Joel Frahm on saxophones and Mike Rodriguez on ...read more
Ted Rosenthal's My Funny Valentine finds the pianist joined by bassist George Mraz and drummer Al Foster in a tribute to singer Helen Merrill. Rosenthal and Mraz have toured extensively with Merrill in Japan and this CD serves up songs from her repertoire. The subtleties of the arrangements combined with intriguing juxtapositions and perfect lyricism make this a stellar session. The tunes are from the Great American Songbook and, Merrill connection aside, this continues Rosenthal's exploration of the standards. The musicianship does not disappointment and songs that have been recorded literally thousands of times are cleverly reworked ...read more
In a skittish music industry where labels increasingly blur their identities and grab at gimmicks just to stay alive, it's reassuring to know that Venus Records continues to produce high-quality, straight-ahead jazz. Based in Japan but recording mostly in New York, Venus has a longstanding, signature focus on documenting the world's best piano trios, and My Funny Valentine is no exception.
This project was conceived by leader Ted Rosenthal as an instrumental tribute to singer Helen Merrill, who has long been a huge star in Japan; together they have performed many of the tunes on this ...read more
There was a trend back in the '50s and '60s for jazz artists including Andre Previn, Oscar Peterson, Stan Kenton and Dave Brubeck to record albums based on Broadway musicals. But apart from an obscure 1958 album by Wilbur Harden, The King and I, one of the era's most acclaimed musicals, was overlooked. Pianist Ted Rosenthal corrects that oversight on his new CD on the Japanese Venus label, a beautifully realized treatment of nine tunes from the 1951 Rodgers and Hammerstein show. Rosenthal, a talented mainstream pianist, best known perhaps for playing in saxophonist Gerry Mulligan's last ...read more
While the Rogers and Hammerstein musical The King and I has long been a rich melodic source for improvisers, it's unusual for its songs to be gathered together on one CD. Here, the Ted Rosenthal Trio gives new life to that ageless material.
Although based in Japan, Venus Records is known for assembling crack US jazz trios, and this is one of the best. For this outing Rosenthal, a reliably elegant and expressive pianist, is joined by the always lyrical bassist George Mraz and first-call drummer Lewis Nash. Their approach to these classics is both respectful and creative. ...read more
One of the many advantages of indie CDs is that they don't have a sell-by date: you can miss their debut and still write about them. This one stayed in its shrink wrap for over two years, overlooked in the ever-growing pile in my office, but when I finally freed it, just recently, I knew I had to send up a flare.
Ted Rosenthal is a wonderfully elegant pianist: strong, flowing, lyrical and clean, he's one of the best we've got, despite his comparatively low public profile (although musicians universally respect him). On this solo CD, he swims ...read more
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