Ted Rosenthal Trio: 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.