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, hundredth, or thousandth person to essay a specific topic. Good art is good art, and Rhapsody In Gerswhin
certainly qualifies under this measure.
For his fifteenth album as a leader, pianist Ted Rosenthal
decided to dive into the Gershwin songbook, visiting oft-covered favorites with his trio matessensitive-and-swinging drummer Tim Horner
and beautifully balanced bassist Martin Wind
. Together, they reimagine what this music can be. This trio works at the balance point between expectations and possibilities. It gives Gershwin's melodies, harmonies and rhythms their due, but applies transformative touches to all of them. The seventeen-minute "Rhapsody In Blue" is the perfect example. All of the sweeping sections and elegant melodic strains are there, but transitory nature surrounds this interpretation as the trio swiftly cuts from idea to idea. Shifting roles, styles and ideas enliven this performance of an oh-so-familiar classic.
The seven other songs on the album speak to sophistication and wit. "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off" finds Rosenthal playing against and around the rhythm section, brilliantly avoiding the too-cute-by-half trap that so many versions of this song fall into. "Fascinatin' Rhythm" lives up to its name for a change, with quizzical call and response between Rosenthal and Horner, flowing streams of piano beneath Wind's arco melodies, and driving swing episodes. "I Loves You Porgy" is a mellow Bill Evans
-ish beauty, "They Can't Take That Away From Me" finds Rosenthal and Wind in fine form, gliding atop the gilded swing of Horner, and Rosenthal's "Strike Up The Band" rewrite is rhythmically striking, moving from understated strolls to fast-and-furious sprints. The album then closes with a slowly drifting "Someone To Watch Over Me" and a lively "Love Walked In."
With Rhapsody In Gerswhin
, Rosenthal reminds that single-mindedness in programming does not equate to one dimensional performances. Everything here might bear the trademark of George Gerswhin, but the multi-faceted nature of these performances is all about Rosenthal.