Out of This World
Pianist Ted Rosenthal devotes his 13th recording exclusively to staples of the Great American Songbook, with the expressed intention of “presenting (or deranging)” them in a way that will engage listeners. Mission accomplished: Rosenthal’s harmonic and rhythmic re-imaginings demonstrate how familiar standards can (still) be treated with verve and vibrancy. His bandmates—Noriko Ueda on bass and Quincy Davis on drums—boast their own newness and creativity.
The 10 canonical pieces Rosenthal has selected, such as “Embraceable You” (performed in 5/4 time) and “Have You Met Miss Jones?” (played uptempo in three different keys), are infused with a strong sense of tradition but also exploration. The Arlen-Mercer title track opens with Ueda’s driving bassline and features Davis’ propulsive drumming, its 9/8 meter reminiscent of Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo à la Turk,” which is referenced by Rosenthal toward the end of the track. Cole Porter’s “So in Love” alternates a relaxed Latin vibe and breakneck swing.
Ueda’s bluesy solo on Gershwin’s “Prelude #2” complements the leader’s take on the tune, whereas Billy Strayhorn’s poignant “Lotus Blossom” is treated with affecting yet playful lyricism. A swinging adaptation of “Cry Me a River” is followed by a hushed, tender performance of “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” highlighting the ballad’s romanticism and a sense of longing, and evoking the promise of what could be.