Pianist Ted Rosenthal's latest releases reveal an expert craftsman and an inventive artist who is most capable when expanding and interweaving circumscribed genres and styles. Witness the 3 B's , a solo endeavor that reprises Bill Evans, Bud Powell, and Beethoven. Rosenthal makes use of the piano's full scope adding inspired innovations to well-known pieces. The sustained openings of "I Loves you Porgy" and "Turn Out the Stars" create a perfect introspective air for new touches to these Evans classics. Cutting in on Evans' signature "Waltz for Debby" could be an ill-advised move, but taking a cue from another "B", Rosenthal's version in 5/4 comes across as the more sophisticated for it. "Tempus Fugit" and "Parisian Thoroughfare" both evidence a mature understanding of Powell's melodies, presenting them on the same plane as their oft-highlighted percussive aspects. Playing from within himself, pre-conceived notions are effectively dismissed by establishing a personal connection with the listener through the music. Ludwig may initially strike as the odd man out, but as the second and third movements of the "Pathetique Sonata" emerge, Beethoven's inclusion begins to make perfect sense. Credited with taking the music world from Classical to Romantic, he might be considered the initial champion of stylistic exploration and interpretation. Rosenthal seeks out the artfully subtle folds in both the "Pathetique" and the 3rd movement of "Sonata op. 109" and uses them to his improvisational advantage.
On Expressions , original compositions are showcased with new interpretations of jazz standards. "True Blue" opens, and is as its name suggests, with trumpeter Brian Lynch and Dick Oatts on sax demonstrating nice improvisational work and tight harmonies. The Expressions are varied and Rosenthal, in this extended format, again shows his ability to slip through disparate genres. Bassist Johannes Weidenmüller does much to synthesize a session that without him could have lacked a unifying structure. Several piano trio ballads are also included. Alec Wilder's "While we're Young" features smooth bass note transitions while Rosenthal captures the piece's melancholy intent. Likewise, Harold Arlen's "Come Rain or Shine" has a dark piano intro that opens out into an almost eastern sounding melody rendition, made so by drummer John Riley's cymbal and tom work. Riley also brings his mellow tom to "Bambi" that evinces special times with bass complementing a lovely muted soprano sax line while "Bar Hopping" is a well-planned out bopish excursion that has each band member buying a drink at his favorite watering hole. As on the 3 B's , Rosenthal's playing is precise and rings true.