Ted Rosenthal and Thelonious Monk

Nick Catalano BY

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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 trumpet.

Rosenthal's virtuosity and versatility are by now well known to Gotham audiences. Having distinguished himself as a musician, composer/arranger, producer, accompanist (he's presently appearing as the pianist/conductor for Ann Hampton Callaway at Dizzy's), as well as an important innovator, his appearance at this Monk tribute offered audiences an opportunity to hone in on some of the subtleties of his prodigious talent.

The show opened with Monk's "Let's Cool One" and immediately showcased the composer's crisp articulations which are often difficult to interpret improvisationally. It also revealed Joel Frahm's lyrical tenor, leaving this listener wishing he could hear more from this Wisconsinite who was recently selected in Downbeat Magazine's Critics Poll as a rising star in the category of tenor saxophone. But in the following selection "Eye On Monk," it was Rosenthal's creativity that truly gleamed. Rosenthal's own composition, it successfully captured the essence of Monk's harmonic and rhythmic persona while providing delightful parodies and delicious musical commentary. In one flashing performance, it provided a glimpse of Rosenthal's singular vision—his ability to distill the musical idiosyncracies of other writers while injecting his own ideas into an entirely new piece. He introduced "Eye On Monk" by telling the audience that he felt Monk's music conspicuously lent itself to "rearrangement." It may do that for him, but there aren't too many others in jazz who would attempt such a task.

The first half of the concert included Monk's "Ask Me Now," "'Round Midnight" and "Well You Needn't," with interesting solos from Rodriguez, Wind and Davis. Also, Rosenthal unveiled Trilogy—a work in progress that echoed the cornucopia of ideas heard in "Eye On Monk."

The next concert in Rosenthal's Jazz at DaCapo is scheduled for March 29th, under the rubric Jazzing Up The Classics.

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