Ted Rosenthal Trio – Rhapsody In Gershwin – Playscape

Ted Rosenthal Trio – Rhapsody In Gershwin – Playscape Recordings PSR 071613, 58:59 ****:

(Ted Rosenthal – piano; Martin Wind – bass; Tim Horner – drums)

The idea of a concept album devoted to the music of George Gershwin is not exactly a novel one. Nevertheless, pianist Ted Rosenthal and his buddies have put together an elegant and perceptive tribute to one of America’s premier songwriters.

Given the body of work produced by Gershwin, one of the main challenges was to decide what to include in the session, and thus by necessity what had to be excluded. Probably Gershwin’s most important composition was “Rhapsody In Blue” and that leads off the album with a full concert-length rendition of the piece minus the orchestra. As structured by Rosenthal and his band mates, the piece is offered as written by the composer, but with sufficient solo space and changing time signatures provided to each member without deviating excessively from Gershwin’s musical intentions. It is in effect a musical tour de force.

The fact that most of Gershwin’s composition were widely known, therefore quite naturally  there are no “unknown unknowns”  that unexpectedly pop-up, and thus the track list for the balance of this session were readily recognizable pieces from Gershwin’s repertoire. That is not to say that Rosenthal and colleagues did not endeavor to make them as fresh and interesting as possible. They did starting with “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” which has a relaxed familiarity but crisply-delivered. “Fascinatin’ Rhythm “ is a multi-tempo extravaganza in which the trio bobs and weaves through the melody with bassist Wind taking an arco turn playing the theme and Tim Horner giving his drum kit a workout.

Ted Rosenthal is a polished  pianist with eloquent flexibility.Thus when he tackles “ I Loves You, Porgy “ and “ Someone To Watch Over Me” where there are hints of Bill Evans sprinkled throughout their interpretation, there are complex improvisational forms that swirl in a controlled fashion. So whether Rosenthal rattles off “Strike UpThe Band” or “Love Walked In” what emerges is a resolute inquisitiveness about substance, harmonics, and vigorous effect that make this outing very appealing.

TrackList: Rhapsody In Blue; Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off; Fascinatin’ Rhythm; I Loves You, Porgy; They Can’t Take That Away From Me; Strike Up The Band; Someone To Watch Over Me; Love Walked In

—Pierre Giroux

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