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Ted Rosenthal Trio: Rhapsody In Gershwin

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Whether or not you endorse the finished product, it is hard to argue against Ted Rosenthal being at the helm of a piano-trio rendition of George Gershwin’s opus, “Rhapsody in Blue.” Rosenthal has played the piece solo and with symphonies. As a former Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition winner with a slew of fine Great American Songbook interpretations on his résumé, he boasts both the tempestuous

chops and judicious taste to do a trio “Rhapsody” justice. Together with drummer Tim Horner and bassist Martin Wind, Rosenthal safeguards his liberties, pouring most of the improvisations into the many segues of Gershwin’s suite-like piece, so that it clocks in at just over 17 minutes. Fans of Gershwin and jazz alike should be pleased by the balanced performance.

The remaining two-thirds of Rhapsody in Gershwin is more checkered and inevitably anti-climatic. The ostentatiously uptempo surges at the heart of both “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” and “Strike Up the Band” make the latter feel redundant, and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” is florid in spots. The ballad treatments of “I Loves You, Porgy” and “Someone to Watch Over Me” owe enough to Bill Evans for Rosenthal to mention it in the liner notes-although the debt certainly doesn’t detract from the graceful elegance invested in each contemplative note.

Besides, as with “Rhapsody in Blue,” there are more than enough successful flourishes and moments of fastidious interplay to justify the enterprise. Rosenthal uses droll trills to wring the humor out of “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” and the trio swings with subtle panache. Wind plays the melody on arco for “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” and delivers strong, memorable solos on “Someone to Watch Over Me” and the spirited closer, “Love Walked In”-he’s a splendid foil for Rosenthal throughout. Rhapsody in Gershwin isn’t all swoon-worthy, but tilts in favor of being sharp, natty, sophisticated and heartfelt.

Originally Published