Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Ted Rosenthal Trio - Out of This World (Playscape, 2011)

Pianist Ted Rosenthal came to prominence as an early winner of the Thelonious Monk competition for piano, and then moved on to an impressive career as a bandleader, sideman and educator. On this particular album, he has chosen to re-interpret a program of jazz and popular standards, molding and shaping them into new forms and dimensions, like an artist working with clay. In this endeavor, he is joined by Noriko Ueda on bass and Quincy Davis on drums. The goal of the recording is not to dwell on past interpretations of these familiar songs, but to be mindful and improvise in the moment spontaneously, creating in real time. Opening with the title track "Out of This World," the music develops rapidly with thick sounding bass and agile drumming, that push and probe throughout, allowing the music to build to a fast and strong conclusion. "So in Love" matures as a subtle, open spaced ballad. Lush piano and supple bass build in the romanticism before a push-pull dynamic between the musicians begins to create friction, heating things up to a finish featuring rippling piano and throbbing bass. The pace builds back to a fast simmer on "Have You Met Miss Jones" developing gracefully where he piano and percussion trade off phrases along with loping bass. "Prelude No. 2" slows things back down with fluttering drums that envelop the slow ballad in an uncrushed pace that allow the musicians to probe at will. I really enjoyed the sound of Udea's bass here (and throughout the album as a whole) and she is given some fine solo space in this track. Ballad playing is also the order of the day on Billy Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom," opening with unaccompanied piano, the music seems unmoored, floating and drifting which ever way their muses will take it. Davis is impressive here, developing a light swirl of brushes that well suits the mood of the performance. "Cry me a River" is given a makeover that begins ominously with chattering drums moving into a fast swinging section that alternates with dark stormy chords. Things ramp up with a lightning fast piano solo followed by a rapid drum response. This was a fine, well rounded album that achieved its goal of making well known music sound fresh while not sacrificing the melodic content that made it memorable in the first place. Out Of This World -

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