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Ted Rosenthal Trio: Impromptu

Greg Simmons By

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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 to Mozart and Beethoven, has been almost banished from modern classical recital. Those who don't recognize the original versions won't be at any loss to enjoy the record; those familiar, on the other hand, should find an extra delight. Rosenthal's inventions are wonderful to hear, as they unfold longstanding performance standards.

Most scholars will agree that Franz Schubert did not employ a ride cymbal in his original chart for "Impromptu in G Flat," but maybe he should have. Drummer Quincy Davis taps over the top of the melody, giving it a little urge, even as he beats out a circular pattern on the toms with his left hand. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was a dramatic composer, but as far as anyone knows, even he never played the blues at the Carlyle Lounge (Richard Rodgers was the first one to have that gig), but on this disc, , "June" sounds like it could provide a bit of excitement to an evening of society doyennes on the Upper East Side. What about Johann Sebastian Bach opening a variation with a big fat bass line for an intro? Double-bassist Noriko Ueda plucks with a mighty thwack, pushing the pace hard through "Presto."

But maybe this kind of comparison is a trap. Over-thinking the classical music on which this album is based might lead to missing the musical forest for the trees. Regardless of the ultimate source of the music, Impromptu is a really fine jazz album. It swings, it's beautifully recorded, and the performances are top notch from everyone involved.

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